Fat Kee at Haiphong Market Food Bazaar

To the not-knowing who are just meandering on Haiphong Road, the Food Bazaar tucked away inside Hong Kong's Haiphong Market is almost non-existent except for the dull and grimy sign that gives any indication to its presence. Located directly the bridge, Haiphong Market itself is not that difficult to miss given the several flower and fruit vendors at the entrance. We walked into the market only knowing that we should head straight on to get to the Food Bazaar hidden inside Haiphong Market but beyond that, we were not sure where or how to stay on the right track. In front of us were several people in business casual attire as well as suits, and we figured they must be headed to the Food Bazaar for their lunch (otherwise, what would they be doing at Haiphong Market at that hour with that type of attire?). We followed behind them and found ourselves in a busy no-frills food market.


The minute we stepped into the Food Bazaar, the first vendor was there to wave us over and say in Cantonese, "Come, have a seat. What would you like to eat?" I looked at this stall but that wasn't what we there to eat. Every food stall's signage was in Chinese without a single trace of English. We kept walking through the food bazaar only to have other vendors welcome us to take a sit at a table near their stall. All we knew was that we were there for Fat Kee, the most famous stall at the Food Bazaar, which serves beef balls. The bazaar wasn't huge by all means but not knowing where to get our anticipated beef balls proved to be a tad bit tricky until when suddenly, a lady from one of the stalls piped up and said to us, "Would you like to eat beef balls?" I lit up and just to be sure I heard her right in my conversational level of Cantonese fluency, I asked her in my half-accented Cantonese, "You serve beef balls?", and to which she replied, "Yes, beef balls. Come, have a seat."

The beef balls were extremely smooth and free from any traces of tendon that sometimes make meat balls not as smooth as they could potentially be. Having just arrived in Hong Kong that afternoon, we were tremendously happy campers. Fat Kee clearly knew how to make their beef balls right. The hor fun (flat rice noodles) was slippery and smooth. The first spoonful of broth was equally impressive in taste, as if some Chinese preserved vegetables were used in simmering the broth.

Halfway through being in beef ball heaven, we overheard a solo customer ordering beef brisket from Fat Kee. I looked at T, who does not speak Cantonese, and told him that someone just ordered beef brisket. Fat Kee has beef brisket too! At that time, my confidence in conversing Cantonese was beginning to rise a little and I put in an order of beef brisket for us to share. Served with broth, the brisket was served in bite size pieces. It was extremely tasty but the beef balls will always have a special place in our stomachs.

Each bowl only costs HK$24 (~US$3) which is extremely affordable for such delicious and comforting food. Yes, the Chinese are stereotyped for being Math whiz but sometimes they like to have it the easy as well, as seen from this sign stuck on the wall which helps them figure out the total for the bill based on the number of bowls ordered.

One of the employees shared a table with us (also another part of Hong Kong culture) while having his meal and proceeded to have a long chat with us. Fat Kee has been in business for the past 45 years, and it is always wonderful to see long established business continuing to thrive as modern eateries are coming into play. Seeing that everyone at the Food Bazaar was local, I asked about the usual customer base and apparently there is a fair share of Europeans who visit as well. We also learnt that the Food Bazaar is a popular choice for people traveling to Hong Kong as part of India's filming industry. In the part of our conversation, the employee at Fat Kee encouraged us to visit Hong Kong often and contribute to its economy.

If there was a rating scale for trendiness, Haiphong Market's Food Bazaar ranks at the extreme opposite end of the trendiest restaurant you will find in Hong Kong. But as what the bazaar is set up for, go for the food and absorb the local experience around you.

Fat Kee
Haiphong Market Food Bazaar
Haiphong Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Hong Kong

Hing Kee Claypot Rice

Temple Street is synonymously known as Hong Kong's busiest night market. That said, we also did not have to delve much deeper into Temple Street to learn that besides the night market, this street is also very popular for its claypot rice and oyster omelet. In attempts to find the location of the popular claypot rice restaurant, Hing Kee, search results were as vague as you won't miss it on Temple Street, or you will know it when you see it on Temple Street. Like many local eateries in Hong Kong, Hing Kee's signage only bears Chinese characters which could be a little tricky for those who do not read the language. However, with faith that we wouldn't miss it since that was what everyone else said, we headed to Temple Street ready for some claypot rice and oyster omelet.

We had to stand in line waiting for a table on a Monday night, which in itself showed the popularity of Hing Kee. It does have several locations on Temple Street and while standing in line we saw an employee transporting claypot dishes on a trolley to the other nearby Hing Kee locations. The line moved along quickly and we were seated within 10 minutes. Anyone expecting a little bit of Hing Kee fanciness will be disappointed. This place is a hole-in-the wall with tables crammed together, Hong Kong-style, where people come to just for the claypot pilgrimage. The employees have a straightforward and no nonsense aura so as to be as quick and efficient as possible to get the orders put in and have the food served to the hungry customers.

The claypot rice was brought to the table, steaming hot, with the lid on the pot. The way to eat it is to take the bottle of black sauce, already on the table, and drizzle as much as you would like over the rice before stirring it up. You can put the lid over the rice again for a few more minutes but we decidedly dug right in after we stirred in the black sauce wth the rice.

The claypot rice with chicken meat and Chinese sausage was a pleaser. The chicken was soft and tender; the sausage flavorful. We also ordered the claypot rice with frog legs which was very delicious as well. Served with strips of ginger and scallions, it added a nice fragrance to the rice. Given that the rice was cooked in a claypot, the sides of the pot will have rice stuck to it. This part of crispy-and-slightly-burnt rice makes a nice bite and crunch if the meal did not already fill you up.

The oyster omelet was a tad bit greasy but fried to a perfect crisp. Hing Kee's housemade chilli sauce added a wonderful tangy touch to the omelet but even without the chilli sauce, I found the oyster omelet to be as great eaten on its own.

We were in an out of Hing Kee in less than an hour, with satisfied bellies. The Temple Street Night Market was a fantastic way for us to walk it all off.

Hing Kee
Temple Street
Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
Hong Kong


Tim Ho Wan

Tucked along Kwong Wah Street in Hong Kong's busy district of Mongkok is the most unsuspecting Tim Ho Wan restaurant. This place is a hole-in-the-wall with no English signage on the outside except for the huge green Chinese characters on the outside that lets customers know that this is the place. What makes this place special is the pretty darn amazing dim sum served here. But what makes it even more special is that this hole-in-the-wall restaurant garnered a Michelin Star which makes it the cheapest 1 Michelin Star restaurant in the world. This rarely happens but yes, you do not have to burn a hole in your wallet to dine at a restaurant that is Michelin rated, at least not at Tim Ho Wan.

We promptly arrived at their opening time at 10am and joined the line of people from all over the world, Asians and Europeans, who were hungry for Tim Ho Wan's dim sum. This place has got its system worked out to be the most efficient as it could in dealing with the expected crowd everyday. The place is small and only accommodates a few small tables a time, pushed together close as possible, Hong-Kong style. We took our waiting number (#17) was given an approximate wait time of 1.5 hours, but we fret not. Nearby was Dundas Street, well known for street food in Mong Kok, where we got a bite or two while placating our stomachs. Off Fa Yuen Street was a local produce market which we busied ourselves with. We were also given the list of dim sum items to take with us so that while waiting we could mark the items we wanted. We returned to Tim Ho Wan to more people standing in line. Our number had already been called but Tim Ho Wan's system is such that if a customer misses his or her number, the next available table will be given to that customer. We were seated within 3 minutes when we returned to the restaurant.

Once seated the staff was quick to take from us the list of items we had chosen and marked earlier on the piece of paper. Our table was set in no time with paper placemats, chopsticks, bowls, and tea cups. Our mouths watered only for a very short amount of time before the food was promptly brought to our table. The staff have very limited English proficiency but patrons will be able to get by with a little friendly courage. Everyone, Asians and Europeans alike, come for the food.


Every item we ordered was extremely well prepared but the star of our meal goes to the special and unique char siew bao (barbeque pork buns). Arguably the best we ever had, the bun was very special, Tim Ho Wan-style. A cross between steamed and baked, the bun was spongy and delicately chewy while maintaining its soft texture. The bun was topped with a thin crisp layer of pastry which added to the resulting excellent texture and natural sweetness. The barbeque pork was an added winner with the meat filling still so incredibly moist from the sauce that was threatening to ooze out.

Unwrapping the steaming hot lo mai kao (sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf) was a great anticipation in itself. The rice was perfectly moist and flavorful at every bite.

The steamed beef balls were outstanding and one of the most tender we ever had. The braised chicken feet and pig knuckles were delicious in their own right.


Our first bite into the cheung fun (rice noodle roll), we knew we were in for a delicate dish. Filled with barbeque and beef, the noodles were drizzled with a light soy sauce.

A great added touch to the dim sum meal was the congee with pork ribs and mui choy (preserved vegetables). The bowl of rice porridge was light but not without flavor, and a fantastic way to finish off the incredibly tasty meal.

We stepped out of Tim Ho Wan with satisfied bellies, surrounded by people still waiting for their tables. We wanted to tell them, it was worth the wait. Best dim sum we ever had.

Note: Chef Mak was formerly with Lung King Heen (at the Four Seasons Hotel) which has been awarded 3 Michelin Stars. Word has it that Chef Mak left Lung King Heen during the recession to open Tim Ho Wan so that people could still enjoy excellent dim sum with affordable prices.

Tim Ho Wan
2-20 Kwong Wah Street
Mongkok, Kowloon

2011 1-Michelin Star
2009 CNN Top 25 Most Influential Asians, Chef Mak Kwai Pui


San Francisco Chinatown Gems

With San Francisco's Chinatown being the oldest and largest the U.S., the plethora of dining options can be overwhelming. Where should one eat and how does the food at one restaurant compare to the one next door? We have a few favorite no-frills and hole-in-the wall places that offer one of the better foods.

Sam Wo
*thanks to the tip from pigouttravels, Sam Wo has closed its doors after 90+ years of business*

Besides being one of the older establishments in Chinatown, Sam Wo has a special place in our hearts. Back in college when T and I spent a summer at the University of California-Bekerley, we also spent a lot of time in San Francisco then. Trips to Chinatown would always involve a meal at Sam Wo. There is nothing fancy about Sam Wo. It is after all a true hole-in-the-wall but even until today what appeals to us is the old school and nostalgic feeling in that place.

The kitchen is on the first floor and the dining area is on the second floor, which means guests will get a peek into the kitchen before taking the narrow stairs up to get seated. The dining area is small and tables are close to one another.

The food comprises of comforting items such as noodle soup, congee, and rice plates all at extremely affordable prices that go as low as about $5 for a hearty bowl of noodle soup. The wontons are always good and the beef brisket is tender with a generous portion of beef tendons included.

Sam Wo
813 Washington Street
San Francisco, CA 94108


Kam Po Kitchen

Famous for its barbeque meats, Kam Po Kitchen is a hectic place so be prepared to share the table with other customers. This is all part of the experience after all. A short wait for a table is not uncommon either. The servers were busy while trying to keep everything under control. The chef at the front was kept busy the entire time with orders for the barbeque meats. Kam Po Kitchen is not by all means the cleanest restaurant in Chinatown but if you are in for a true authentic experience and good roast meats, this is the place to be at.

We were impressed with the way roast pork was served here. Generally one of the highlights of roast pork is the crispy and perfectly crackled skin, but many times the layer of fat stuck underneath the crispy skin is a deterrent to eat up all the perfect crackling. At Kam Po Kitchen, the meat and skin are both separated from one another and the chef completely removes the layer of fat from the crackling before serving.

Kam Po Kitchen
801 Broadway Street
San Francisco, CA 94133


Hing Lung

Well known for its congee, Hing Lung is a fantastic place for a hot and breakfast. The kitchen is at the entrance of the restaurant and customers get a glimpse of the chef preparing the Chinese fried dough sticks, congee, and noodles with the steaming pots on large stoves. The seating is huge and accommodates a lot of people though if all the smaller tables are taken, one might need to share a big table with another small party.

The breakfast specials are affordable and so delicious, Hing Lung warranted two visits on our last trip. With $4.75 (before tax), the breakfast comes with a large bowl of congee and a side plate of Chinese fried dough sticks and dried shrimp rice noodle roll. The fried dough sticks were one of the better ones I have had anywhere. They were crispy and yet soft. One clear favorite congee option was the salt pork bone served with peanuts and shredded ginger. The pork and preserved egg congee was very good as well and prepared a little differently from other restaurants, the meat in the congee was in the form of pulled pork which was very well marinated and helped to add taste to the congee.

Hing Lung
674 Broadway Street
San Francisco, CA 94133


Gold Mountain

When it comes to dim sum, clearly everyone has their favorite and we really enjoyed our morning at Gold Mountain. This place gets very crowded during dim sum hours but if you get there early enough, having to wait for a table is not necessary. We beat the crowd by arriving at about 10:00am when the place was still calm and the servers constantly brought the dim sum items over to our table until we had to politely refuse. The sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf was excellent. For the brave souls, their braised chicken feet with a hint of spiciness was also a winner.

The sesame balls with red bean filling were perfectly deep fried and the sweet tofu dessert was so delicious and soft that T ordered seconds of it.

Gold Mountain
644 Broadway Street
San Francisco, CA 94133


Tartine Bakery

No bakery fans can ever leave San Francisco without a visit to the esteemed Tartine Bakery. We arrived at 5:15pm and though that wasn't considered prime time for a visit to a bakery, people were standing in line to purchase Tartine Bakery's freshly baked goods. Surely there was a reason why this place won the coveted James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Any pastry chef today who owns their own other bakery take pride in having previously worked at Tartine Bakery.


Tartine Bakery specializes in freshly baked bread ranging from rye, sesame, sourdoug, etc. Since it was the weekend of Halloween, pumpkin bread was also available. These breads were sold in big loaves and people were buying them whole to bring home. Surely this would be our go-to place for fresh loaves of bread if we lived in San Francisco.

Tartine Bakery also offers a great selection of tarts, pies, scones, cookies, and croissants. As we stood in line and were inching closer to the counter to place our order, we no doubt got a little excited and couldn't decide what we should order. The friendliest gentleman, Thomas, in front of us most probably heard our discussion and proceeded to ask if we had been to Tartine Bakery (it was our first time), and then proceeded to recommend us the bread pudding. When he told us that he and his wife drive all the way from Oakland every weekend just to get the bread pudding, we were sold on getting that. After we paid and stepped out of the bakery, we had a long chat with Thomas and his wife and instantly got a long list of dining recommendations from them. It did not take us long to realize that they were foodies like us, as well. T and I had just flew in to San Francisco that day and meeting locals like them on our first day was the perfect way to set off the tone of our trip.

As much we would have love to dive into the bread pudding right away, we saved it for breakfast the next morning as we promptly headed to our dinner reservation at Saison that evening. It did not matter that we ate the bread pudding the next morning. It was absolutely perfect and really the best bread pudding I have ever eaten. I am generally not a fan of bread pudding and it would not be my top choice in ordering it but I trusted Thomas' recommendation when I realized he was a foodie himself. He was right. Topped with raspberries, the bread pudding was soft and fluffy, unlike any of the dense and heavy ones I have had before. Tartine Bakery changed my impression on bread pudding.

The brioche bread with orange liqueur and frangipane cream and topped with almonds was another of our favorite.

Tartine Bakery made us a little jealous that Chicago does not have a stronger bakery culture. The next time we are flying out to San Francisco, Tartine Bakery will find us there again.

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

2008 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef
2007 James Beard Nominee for Outstanding Pastry Chef
2006 James Beard Nominee for Outstanding Pastry Chef


Neighborhoods of San Francisco

There is a place for everyone in San Francisco. The diverse ethnic enclaves, fashionable neighborhoods, and areas unique to its own characteristics where people come from afar just to experience.

Golden Gate District

Within the fashionable Golden Gate district is the neighborhood of Pacific Heights. The main commercial area is situated along Fillmore Street which has a good variety of local boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.


Venturing off Fillmore Street, we walked along Broadway Street and were greeted with more steep hills (but this is San Francisco, after all) and beautiful homes of the upper class.



One of the notable homes at Pacific Heights include the Spreckles Mansion, home of novelist Danielle Steel.

The area is peaceful and once atop the hill, we had beautiful views of the bay and the Palace of Fine Arts.


Cow Hollow

Another neighborhood located within the Golden Gate District is Cow Hollow where most of the action take place along Union Street where we could find art galleries, more boutiques, antique stores, cafes, bakeries, and restaurants.

The area is known for its Victorian and Edwardian architecture that are visibly noted in homes and commercial establishments.


One famous building with an impressive architectural influence is the Vedanta Temple, which was designed with just not one design type but combined with a mixture of architectural influences including Oriental, Edwardian, Queen Anne, etc. The combination of various architectural influences was said to reflect the architect's philosophy that all roads lead to one God.


Castro, the gay mecca of the world, authentically represents what San Francisco values are all about: liberal and progressive. We were there on a rainy day and managed to duck for cover at some of the stores. Mainly centered on Market and 19th Streets, Castro is visibly noticed by the unmistakable rainbow flags.


Conversations about the 1960s hippie movement often evoke the famous intersection of Haight-Ashbury. As the main stage of the hippie revolution, about a hundred thousand people came from around the world and gathered at this intersection looking for creative expression and free love, while also giving birth to the counterculture phenomenon and alternative lifestyles among the people. Today The Haight is a stark reminder of its past with the strong bohemian culture still reflected in the area.

Alamo Square

Considered the most photographed site of San Francisco, a visit to Alamo Square with these Victorian homes against the skyline backdrop is enough to remind me of my childhood days of watching Full House where this exact location was filmed for the TV show's opening credits. This picturesque view is tremendously unique with the combination of both classic Victorian architecture and the modern buildings in downtown that make up the skyline in the background.

Union Square

Not a exactly a neighborhood, this area in Union Square is worth the time even for those who are not into chain stores and departmental stores. The colonial architecture buildings are gorgeous and deserve any photographer's attention.

San Francisco really is a great playground for photographers.