13 Dec2007


We all have incredible personal food biases. We are partial to that which is familiar or have previously experienced. We are partial to flavors, textures and combinations of foods we know or think we know. We mostly tend to order from a menu as though we were familiar with it, usually choosing things we know how they should taste. So I am always THRILLED when “locals” or at least long time “local residents” offer to take us out to dinner when we are in a foreign city, and I always try to let them do the ordering. Our friends know we love food, so they do go out of their way to try and find interesting places for us to dine in… On our second night in Hong Kong recently, friends decided to take us to a Shanghainese style restaurant in Wanchai. When one thinks of Chinese food as a foreigner, we tend to lump it all together, or at least into mild and spicy… but actually, the cuisines of each major Chinese city or area or province varies dramatically, and in many ways, needs to be treated as different cuisines… We were told that for Shanghainese cooking, there is a strong influence from the region’s vinegars, and while some dishes strike one’s palate as being blander, the vinegar never fails to perk things up… The restaurant, Old Shanghainese, is located in the basement of The Novotel Century Hotel at 283 Jaffe Road, HK. I believe that is in Wanchai, a few minutes walk from that massive electronics/computer mall, from where we had just spent hours… We arrived for dinner at 7:30 and were greeted by a stunning selection of hairy crabs, in the photo up top. Hairy crab season is a BIG DEAL in Hong Kong, but surprisingly our hosts opted not to order any, saying the chili crabs and garlic crabs that we do in Batangas or Manila taste better and are meatier and more succulent so we passed on the hairy crabs… besides, they seemed to be WICKED pricey for very small specimens…


First up was an appetizer type dish of cold green bean sheets or noodles, with garlic and cucumbers and served with a hot mustard on the side. This was superb. Cold, elastic, clean, bracing, with a hint of soy possibly, or just good vinegar. Yum. It could have been that we were hungry, but I think I could have eated a whole order of this dish by myself.


Next, a plate of jellyfish. Great texture, but I have always found them relatively tasteless unless one adds soy or other seasonings. I must say, these were plump, pliable and as good as jellyfish gets for me.


A steaming bowl of hot and sour soup was a very welcome course. Utterly delicious. And in this case, served without pork since one of the guests preferred not to have it. Yet the soup was flavorful, lighter, less corn-starchy…


Next up, pritong isda. Or so I thought with some amusement when it arrived. It looked like a fried lapu-lapu or something. But it wasn’t… I think the fish is called a “yellow croaker” in Chinese and I am not sure if it is freshwater or saltwater, but the flesh was incredibly white, light and delicious! And yes, the deep frying treatment was perfect. This fish and a side dish of vinegar and rice alone would also have made me a very happy camper, indeed.


The Kid is a huge duck fan, so we had a platter of roasted duck (saving Peking Duck for the last night) that was well executed and flavorful.


Some tiny, sweet and succulent freshwater shrimp were delicious, also good with a hint of vinegar…


Several varieties of dumplings followed including these vegetable dumplings of which I had just one, nearing the “full tank” danger zone…


Some “Dow Mui” or the tops of pea shoots quickly sauteed. These were gentle on the tongue with a mild flavor that was yummy.


And a final dish of sliced noodles with veggies. It was a very nice and seriously filling meal. The restaurant is in the basement of the building, not fancy at all, but with delicious food. Total bill for this meal that could have fed 8 people, but we were only 5, was roughly USD150, a great deal by HK standards. We could barely walk out of the restaurant to hail a cab back to our hotel!



  1. Mila says:

    Pea shoots are a gorgeous vegetable, quickly sauteed with garlic and eaten with a perfectly steamed bowl of rice is one of my favorite winter meals in China.

    Pity you didn’t get to try the crabs, they are less meaty, but it’s the season, some folks even reserve their share months ahead. I like them cooked simply, then dipped into the black vinegar and ginger.

    You’re the second person/pov that mentioned being surprised about the variety of flavors in chinese food. I think all the years of bad chinese takeout have destroyed a mother cuisine’s reputation.

    Dec 13, 2007 | 8:43 am


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  3. Ebba Myra says:

    Everything look so delish..homey type of dishes, yet really sought after. Speaking of the yellow croaker, funny, but its one of the cheaper fish here in Texas, and yet one of the best tasty, and good meat fish. It is fresh water fish. A lot of not so professional fisherman in fact always get a catch of those in nearby dikes and streams. Sometimes even in man-made lake from big residential subdivision. Smaller variety of this fish is used as a bait to catch salt-water fish. I love them fried with atchara. I also loved the green bean sheets noodles, pan-fried with chinese brocolli and hoisin sauce.. yummy.

    Dec 13, 2007 | 8:53 am

  4. wysgal says:

    when you get to “full tank” danger zone I just say … eat faster! I’ll be heading over to Hong Kong after the New Year to do a bit of job scouting, have some fun (I love the lifestyle for young expats), and hopefully try some good local cuisine.

    Dec 13, 2007 | 8:59 am

  5. Duday says:

    Wow, I can not wait to be there next year to taste the food.

    Dec 13, 2007 | 9:24 am

  6. kyang2x says:

    I’m working in Shenzhen, and have some friends who’ve lived in Shanghai. Everytime they cook, I find the food too sweet for my taste, they like to add sugar…

    Dec 13, 2007 | 9:46 am

  7. dee bee says:

    as i eat my ‘baon’ of pork adobo and rice, i’m looking at your absolutely beautiful photos, and i can almost taste those dishes , especially that soup… mmm yummo!

    quite agree with you with regards to the different cuisines of China. Chinese regional cuisines are so unique and different from each other. The contrast in flavours and textures, and the different ways the ingredients are approached and used, translates to endless possibilities and simply food heaven.

    Dec 13, 2007 | 9:47 am

  8. jafores says:

    I too am a fan of food from that region, when in HK my family goes to Wu Kong Alpha House Basement Peking Rd. cor Nathan rd. TST in the kowloon side. I also agree that food biases are as varied as snowflakes, But I must say, Hairy Crabs are probably my most favorite crustacean. food wise, this is what I look forward to the most during the ber months. For me the meat is not what its about, I agree with your hosts that our local crab’s meat has better flavor and texture BUT OH THE FAT! The richness of the experience is someting else. The sauce, a vinegar ginger and brown sugar concoction hightens and brings out the flavor even more. Its a little messy to eat but for me well worth the trouble. I would even recommend just buying some and having it at home. I belive some restaurants in manila serve it during the season. unfortunately the season os almost gone.

    Dec 13, 2007 | 9:50 am

  9. Booey says:

    Hi Marketman! Thanks for the posts on HK restos, going there for Christmas so appreciate really appreciate the posts… Did you eat in Nobu? How does it compare to their outlets in the US? Made reservations online and im already impressed with their service… Prompt and efficient…

    Dec 13, 2007 | 9:54 am

  10. Blaise says:

    The dishes look sumptuous, but I would have to prefer more Szechuan-style since I like my Chinese food spicy..

    The picture of the hot and sour soup has me salivating.. Looks so delicious..

    Dec 13, 2007 | 11:05 am

  11. CecileJ says:

    The yellow croaker croaked!…and ended up on your plate. Is it a cross between a cowardly fish and a frog?

    Dec 13, 2007 | 1:03 pm

  12. Lea says:

    Of all the chinese regional cuisines, I am partial to Hakka dishes. Packed with flavor!

    Dec 13, 2007 | 8:35 pm

  13. alicia says:

    The Dow mui looks gorgeous! That and a bowl of rice and I am set. Am spending the holidays there and this post just made me more excited for my trip. I love Shanghainese food and my HK shanghai resto in Hong Kong is Snow Garden in Causeway Bay (the other branches pale in comparison) Personal favorites are the noodles with cucumber in peanut sauce, the shrimps like yours, dan dan mien, the xiao long bao stuffed with crab fat, and when in season.. you must try this.. the lion’s head meatballs, which is a slow cooked braised pork meat ball and green leaf vegetable with shanghai crab and crab fat! Oh my gosh! The lion’s head is great without the crab but with it and the crab fat, its the absolute best! Booey, look up Zuma in the Landmark for a hip Japanese restaurant many people prefer it to the Nobu in Hong Kong. Its the hong kong satellite of a famous london japanese restaurant. Am trying it at the end of the month so I can’t say which one I personally prefer yet.

    Dec 13, 2007 | 10:03 pm

  14. Ed says:

    I love the various cuisines found in China – I’m quite partial to Sichuan mapo tofu and Hakka braised pork belly with salted vegetables. And I’ve heard the hairy mitten crabs are known for their eggs rather than their meat…

    Dec 14, 2007 | 2:36 am

  15. TPS says:

    Not surprisingly, although I just had my breaksfast, I’m again hungry when I saw the pics. I don’t think I’ll ever have the willpower to diet if I keep on going to Mr MM’s site. Haha!

    Dec 14, 2007 | 8:23 am

  16. Booey says:


    Thanks for the Zuma and Snow Garden tip. Will be staying at the Causeway Bay area so will try that. Happy holidays!

    Dec 14, 2007 | 10:24 am

  17. ragamuffin girl says:

    Hi MM! Pea shoots are yummy, aren’t they? Simply sauteed with some garlic they round out a meal with a meat dish or two amd steamed rice. Hairy crabs are not meaty or particularly sweet, but the roe is quite good, and attached to the roe is a gooey, stickly, greyish thing that is absolutely delish! :) It is expensive in restos, so my friends and I bought some from a local purveyor for 100 HKD each, steamed them ourselves, ate them with rice and pea shoots, and some fried meatballs “bola-bola” with water chestnuts (a good addition, I might add), then finished off with ginger tea.

    Dec 14, 2007 | 6:27 pm

  18. nina says:

    everything looks delicious…

    Dec 14, 2007 | 8:56 pm

  19. Maria Clara says:

    Everything looks good but the newcomer to me is the pea shoots. Never have had that before looks very inviting though.

    Dec 15, 2007 | 7:29 am

  20. Marie says:

    Hi MM! I’d love to take you, Mrs MM and the Kid out for a food-fest when and if you do come to Shanghai. I think you’d like a lot of the ethnic Chinese restaurants here.

    Dec 22, 2007 | 9:04 am

  21. ponchit says:

    While I love our Crabs the hairy crab packs a lot of umami or linamnam.

    if I manage to get my hands on this crabs a grab a couple. sarap

    Dec 31, 2007 | 6:05 pm

  22. Marghi says:

    Yeah!!!!! Thank you thank you for the tip….another great Shanghainese place to try in Hongkong…next to premium taba ng talangka, the flavor of the glutinous white fat of the male hairy crab has to be the ultimate in the “malinamnam” department of flavors …the river shrimps look absolutely divine!!!!

    Jan 1, 2008 | 11:19 pm


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