One think that immediately struck me about Hong Kong is how much Hong Kongers like to queue. No sooner does the occasion lead to a slight pause, then people start lining up one behind the other, a dynamic line of expectation waiting to enter a restaurant for lunch time yum cha, or to step onto a train (to travel to yum cha...). Queues are self-policed, and taken rather seriously; on the platform floors in the MTR stations are markers indicating where people should wait, and lines form quite regularly. There is no pushing or shoving. After a lifetime living in England followed by a six-month stint living in Sweden, I myself am very accustomed to queueing; but it is not a practice that one immediately associates with other countries. Of course, Hong Kong was a British colony for so long, it is obvious how the influence entered the territory.
Pictured above is just one of the (many!) queues that I encountered whilst in Honkers. It was outside a Szechuan restaurant close to Wong Tai Sin temple. The restaurant was inexpensive, but high, high, high up on taste.
I don't like to eat out at fancy restaurants when I am in Asia. There's just no need: you can get the most amazing meals at the humblest of establishments. This restaurant, like many in HK, seats parties squashed in next to each other at any available space; but unlike many other places I ate at during my 5-day sojourn, it was relatively spacious. Food appeared, as if by magic, through a hatch in the wall; and the waitresses paced endlessly up and down the tiled restaurant floor. You eat, dazzled by glossy pictures of food fixed up on the walls, surrounded by a glittering array of dishes in any direction you look.
And so what did we eat? This is not a food blog, but indulge me for a moment longer. Szechuan food is popular (the restaurant was packed by 5.30pm) but less common in Hong Kong, which is largely Cantonese and famous for the region's yum cha (dim sum), wonton noodles, sea food, and all manner of delicious things. We took the house speciality, noodles in a fragrant and warming soupy gravy, topped with peanuts; shared Szechuan wontons; and a dessert of sticky rice balls filled with ground black sesame, in a sweet ginger broth.
I'm hungry reminiscing about the experience, rather far away now sitting in my partner's flat, listening to the South London night that's peppered by reggae beats and the waft from the chicken shop. One day, England will have as varied, tasty, and - importantly - affordable a food culture as in Asia. I only fear that I may be awaiting that day for the rest of my adult life!