This is also one of many posts that are part of the series Jen's Guide - Best Places to Eat in Hong Kong for Visitors.
One of my favorite comfort foods from Cantonese cuisine is the congee. I've always loved congee, and the Taiwanese version I grew up with - plain white rice porridge topped with your choice of pork sung, peanuts, pickled vegetables, or whatever else suits your fancy - bring back many nostalgic memories. However, when I discovered Cantonese congee later in life, I was introduced to a whole new world of congee flavors that just blew my mind.
Cantonese style congee differs in one main way. The congee itself is not plain white congee. Instead, it's made with a flavorful broth (typically some kind of bones!) and "toppings" are often already incorporated inside. The result is a deep, rich congee filled with goodies that can be enjoyed without any additional toppings.
I'm now a HUGE fan of Cantonese congee and I try to have it often. One great place to enjoy it is Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Shop. Tasty is founded by Ho Koon Ming, the son of Ho Chiu Hung, founder of the famous 1-Michelin starred Ho Hum Kee wonton noodle shop in Causeway Bay.
Tasty is a Michelin "Bib Gourmande" restaurant, meaning it has "good quality, good value cooking." I like Tasty because it's a bit nicer than your average street side congee joint yet still has very reasonable prices and good service. The congee is excellent, and they also make a lot of other great dishes.
The congee broth is key when it comes to Cantonese style congee. It defines the flavors of one restaurant's congee over another. Some restaurants will use a seafood based broth (for example, fish), while others may use pork bone or poultry bone.
Different congees may have different broth bases. One of my all time favorite classic congee types is the thousand-year-old (or "century") egg with lean pork (皮蛋瘦肉粥). The version at Tasty uses a pork-based broth and is very good.
Another favorite is anything with abalone. We tried the chicken and abalone congee at Tasty, and it was fantastic. Beware that there *may* be some chicken bones in the congee.
The abalone is delicious and adds a beautiful sweet seafood flavor. Abalone is expensive, so any congee with abalone may cost twice as much as most of the other congees, but it's worth it!
Aside from congee, Tasty also offers a bunch of other small plates that are great for sharing. Try stir fried rice rolls, which are flat steamed rice sheets rolled up, cut into segments, and then stir fried.
One of my favorite appetizers (something that was harder to find in Boston) is deep fried cruellers (youtiao) wrapped with a rice sheet. These are crunchy on the inside yet soft on the outside. Dip them in your favorite sauce (I like spicy!) and enjoy.
Turnip cake (luobuogao) come sliced into pretty small pieces which are each individually pan fried. The flavor is good, and I liked how there was quite a bit of turnip inside.
I love a good rice roll, and the one at Tasty is good. The shrimp was juicy and cooked just right, and the slightly sweet soy sauce was the perfect accompaniment.
We ordered sweet and sour shrimp for the kids at the table, but I must admit that it was pretty tasty. They fried the shrimp quite well, and the flavors were very good.
In general, I found the vegetable selection at wonton noodle shops to be a bit boring. Nevertheless, it's healthy and we always get some. Here is the classic preparation, steamed (or blanched?) Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce.
All in all, Tasty is a great place to visit with friends to try a slice of authentic Cantonese cuisine. Get a couple bowls of congee to share, and try some of the various snacks and noodles.
There are many locations around Hong Kong, and even one inside Terminal 1 at the Hong Kong International Airport.
They don't take reservations, but they do have a ticketing system where you can pick up a ticket to hold your place in line.
Tasty Congee and Noodle Hong Kong Locations
Central Shop 3016-3018 on Podium Level 3 of ifc mall, 1 Harbour View Street, Central
Hong Kong International Airport: Shop 7E181, Level 7, Departures East Hall, Terminal 1
Elements Shop 1080-82, Level One, Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon
Happy Valley 21 King Kwong Street, Happy Valley, Hong Kong
Shatin Shop 119, Level 1, New Town Plaza Phase 1, Shatin, N.T.
Additional locations exist in Shanghai, Chengdu, Tianjin, and Malaysia. Check out the company website for all of the information.