Friday, January 13, 2012

Ngong Ping, Tian Tan Buddha, Dai Pai Dong

Warning: Your computer might implode from all of these photos. Continue at your own risk.

It was our second last day in Hong Kong before leaving to Taiwan. We had a few more things we wanted to do before departing. One of them included going to see the Tian Tan Buddha.

We luckily bought our cable car tickets ahead of time, because there was a very long line up that snaked from the parking lot to the counter. We were able to bypass the other tourists and ride the cable car in under ten minutes.


Lots of floating bubbles greeted us as we got off and walked through a gift shop.

As we walked through the Ngong Ping 360 area, we found a wishing tree hiding behind a sign. I had to take a picture of a few of the wishes.


This was probably written by someone who was Chinese (and not because of the writing on the sides of the paper).


This by someone who was probably North American.


And whoever wrote this was probably a hippie. Just kidding.


As we walked towards to Tian Tan Buddha, there were a few restaurants along the road. There were plenty of stores too. Not only were there a lot of tourists, but also stray dogs.

Just as the road opens up, I spotted a small stand that was selling the Hong Kong style egg waffles. There was one on the cooling rack, but I didn’t know when it was made. So I just asked the lady if she could make me a fresh one. She gave me a smile and a nod.


She turned on the gas and the small pink fan to warm up the charcoals. Next, she heated the metal waffle iron.



The batter was poured on the hot waffle iron and then it was flipped over.


No, no, no… Don’t even think about eyeing my waffle.

The sweet fragrant smell of vanilla filled the air as the waffle continued to cook. It definitely reminded me of Toronto’s Chinatown.


My waffle was set down on the cooling rack for a bit. The lady fanned it while chatting on her cell phone and then tossed my waffle in a paper bag.

I retreated to sit down nearby to enjoy my waffle. Some dogs tried to follow me, but I gave them an evil glare and they backed off. That’s right. Back off, get your own waffle!


As I enjoyed my freshly made Hong Kong style waffle, I watched a stray dog stalking two ladies. One lady stupidly threw some jerky away from them to try and get the dog off their trail. Genius. The stray dog just followed them even closer.

The two ladies tried to take touristy shots of one another, but the dog didn’t care. It just wanted more food. Then an older Chinese lady walked up to the dog and fed it crackers. She muttered something about how it was sad that the dogs were neglected and had to resort to begging and scavenging for food. Really lady? There’s a reason they’re roaming around freely. It has something to do with people feeding the dogs.

Anyway, I began to get irritated so I turned my attention to a gardener. I curiously watched the gardener worked on the bushes that lined the road. He just randomly picked off the leaves in no particular pattern. He walked to the back of the bushes, trimmed some leaves, and then came back to the edge of the road. Watching the indecisive gardener was amusing. I guess the bushes that lined the road needed a bit of trimming.

Check out what the gardener left behind.



Pretty fail, eh? Silly gardener.

There wasn’t anything special about the waffle. I was in need of a snack and it hit the spot. I felt compelled to share a bit of my waffle, as I sat there nibbling on each individual nubbin.


I offered some to the Tian Tan Buddha…


… But the Buddha respectfully declined.


It looked like it was naptime for some of the dogs.


Aunty mentioned that we needed to try the tofu dessert. It so happened that the restaurant was right beside the waffle stand. They supposedly made it with the mountain water. Mmmkay…



We sat down at a small table toward the back of the restaurant. Each table had a container of bright orange sugar, along with the standard vinegar, soy sauce, and hot sauce. Everyone got their own bowl and added their own amount of sugar.


Our bowls were emptied in a flash. The tofu was quite soft, but I can't tell if it was made with mountain water or not. Meh.

While we sat there chatting, I spied a gentleman who was enjoying a plate of rice noodles with beef (the dry version). It smelled mighty fine from our table. I remember hearing the roar of the wok and smelling the wok hei smokiness. Instead of having our late lunch/snack at the restaurant, we went back down the cable car for food.


Located near the cable car area is the huge CityGate Outlet mall. We grabbed our snack inside its food court, the Food Republic.

I love Hong Kong. Have I mentioned that yet? Huhuhuu! There were so many different kinds of cuisines to choose from; Shanghainese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Macanese (Macau), Vietnamese, Thai, etc. That was the selection in the shopping mall's food court.



Sure, there was a McDonalds but why eat McDonalds in Hong Kong when I could have soup dumplings? They weren't the best, but considering where I eating, it was pretty impressive. I'm just too used to our North American food courts, where you rarely find quality food.


Or what about some rice noodles with beef – made right in front of your eyes?


How about Singaporean curry bee hoon?

Think about the choices in this mall compared to your local food courts. When I think about Rideau’s food court, A&W, Tim Hortons, Subway, KFC, and some Canadian-Chinese place. Although I do enjoy occasionally eating at those places, it just doesn’t compare. Thai Express is the only thing that comes close, but even then, it’s not even in the same league.



Our afternoon snack was one of the things I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve read so many food blogs that eat so well when they travelled.

Although the soup dumplings, noodles, and bee hoon were really simple and pretty standard fare, it tasted amazing. Honey green tea helped wash everything down. No problem.

I don’t know how we got out of the mall. There were so many things to look at, try on, and buy. That evening, we met up with my uncle for dinner. Aunty wanted to take us to another fancy restaurant, but since it was 11/11/11, most of the restaurants were booked for weddings. I suggested that we try eating at a dai pai dong instead. Aunty really liked that idea and got a bit giddy.

To my understanding, dai pai dongs are street vendors who were forced move their business off the side of the roads. I’m not entirely sure how it worked, but there was a large kitchen where a bunch of chefs/cooks shared the space. The dining areas were also shared.


This is Aunty’s go to place.



There was some super light beer.


Two large pigeons.


Snow pea shoots.







Scallops with noodles, garlic and soy sauce.



And lastly, we had an order of suckling pig.

The only thing I’ll remember from this meal is the quality of the suckling pig. The meat was lightly seasoned and quite juicy, but the main event is the skin. Look at how thin the skin was. It was the crispiest crackling I’ve ever had. The most enjoyable too! The super thin crackling shattered when I bit into it. Anyone who loves crackling and/or pork (Tony Bourdain, I’m talking to you) would have their mind blown if they tried this.



After dinner, we walked by the dai pai dong’s work stations and kitchen. There were two work stations, both of which were in an alley between the dining room and kitchen.


The chefs greeted us with warm smiles as we watched their masterful hands work the wok through the window.

What a great way to end an exhausting day.

Hong Kong Harbour Front and Korean BBQ

Sportful Garden Restaurant and The Peak Tower

More links from the Tea in Asia 2011 trip:


    1. Love the photos and narrative Christine! Thanks for sharing.

    2. Thanks for reading and thanks for the compliments Kirk. I've been trying to improve my writing.


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