Friday, July 31, 2009
Destination Hong Kong #1: Hui Lau Shan's Mango Pudding
Arriving in Hong Kong at six in the morning, of course my first meal was an early dim sum near my aunt's house in Ho Man Ting. However, as with most meals on my month-long trek, I would be sharing with too many people to impose my food photography on them. Therefore, I neglected to document my dim sum experience, which if you're in Hong Kong, is certainly a must. I'd say aim for the dishes that you don't see in America, but even the Occidental stand-bys are outstanding. I did however, capture my first Hui Lau Shan trip.
Hui Lau Shan is a major dessert chain throughout Hong Kong. There's even a location in San Francisco stateside where it's named Creations Dessert House. But it's readily identifiable by the three golden words hanging over its door. In Hong Kong, you'll see them as commonly as Jamba Juices here. Enter any of them and you're greeted with a myriad of mango mixtures, but I wanted to try the pudding as original as it came.
My friend who spoke Cantonese actually ordered the pudding. We were a group of five people, but the cashier only suggested two orders. I figured with the diminutive sizes of Asian dishes, two may not be enough. After a ten minute wait, we realized that the gigantic saucers of golden agar would be more than enough. About 8 inches in diameter, 2 inches thick, and weighing a pound each, the mango pudding is certainly a meant to be shared. Though I suspect there is a smaller order for one.
Since we were in the Causeway Bay area of Hong Kong island, we walked to the Times Square Mall and sat in the food court. There, I poured on the condensed milk, a dessert ingredient we'd encounter many more times before this trip was over.
I was already expecting much before my first spoonful. Seeing the mango crates outside the store, I knew that they used fresh mangoes in their desserts. And looking at their menu, mangoes are what they do best. Most of the puddings, ice creams, drinks and other concoctions contain mango in some form, often fresh. A key element that I saw all over Asia, is that the mangoes they use are the yellow, slightly tapered mangoes. Avoid the large green and splotchy red ones, as those tend to have less flavor. I've heard the yellow ones have shorter shelf-lives, making them less marketable. You'll find them commonly in Asian or Hispanic market. I've bought a crate of them before off a Latino guy on the street. My experience is that American grocers tend to only stock the hardy green ones. Besides that little description, I can only point you to Wikipedia for a full list of mango cultivars.
Next time you're in Hong Kong, be sure to look for those three golden words. They'll guide you to dessert heaven.