Wellington Street – Lin Heung Teahouse and Mak’s Noodles

By , August 5, 2010 10:23 pm

I walked down this alley and voila, there's Lin Heung!
After my Sun Tung Lok dim sum breakfast, Gingko House Western lunch and Kau Kee post-lunch bowl of curry beef brisket, I was walking on my own randomly exploring the vicinity. Actually, trying to walk off some of the calories too, when I passed by this huge wall sign that you simply couldn’t miss. Hey! Lin Heung Teahouse! Am I at Wellington Street already?

Lin Heung Teahouse at Wellington Street
Indeed I am! Oh I was very glad to see this old school yumcha teahouse. Lin Heung (160-164 Wellington Street; Tel: +852 2544-2556) has been around for some 80 years. But it was such a pity that I was way too full to eat any more immediately.

Busy yumcha atmosphere inside Lin Heung (upstairs)
Well, no harm taking a look at least. I ventured upstairs to the airconditioned hall. It’s brightly lit and reasonably clean (well, cleaner than I expected). Families were chattering at runaway speed in Cantonese, amidst the constant clink of porcelain. Steaming baskets of dim sum were shuttled briskly to the tables, their aroma filling the air once the lids were lifted. Cups of Chinese tea dotted the crowded tables. I loved the bustling atmosphere! There was not a single seat free, even if I had wanted to eat.

It's more than dim sum at Lin Heung
Lin Heung is not just about dim sum. They have popular dishes for dinner too. If I have the chance to come back, I would love to try some of these too.

Stairway leads up to airconditioned dining hall, and down to takeaway pastries
I love the dark wood stairs and banisters. At the bottom of the stairway near the entrance is the takeaway pastries section.

Super old school pastries
Lin Heung has a bakery that does traditional Chinese biscuits and pastries. They also started putting out mooncakes already.

Traditional Chinese pastries from Lin Heung Teahouse
I was determined to take away a little piece of Lin Heung with me, so I bought some of the pastries to take back to the hotel. The old-fashioned packaging is so quaint and lovely.

Flaky pastry with salted egg in lotus paste
Flaky pastry with salted egg in lotus paste. The flaky skin is more papery than oily. Very dense lotus paste too. The taste is quite rustic and traditional indeed.

Pastry with century egg in mixed nutty paste
This is the first time I’ve tried a sweetish pastry with a whole century egg embedded within! Gotta say it’s an acquired taste.

Easy to see where Bladerunner got its inspiration from
But back to Wellington Street. I continued my way, taking in the sights. This area is like quintessential old Hong Kong. This side alley may not be a prime example, but it’s not difficult to see how Ridley Scott drew some of his inspiration for Blade Runner.

Shops crammed with goods
And then we have the commercialisation that’s everywhere. There are lots of shops here selling anything and everything. They are often crammed to the brim with goods, some of it even spilling out onto the pavement, mixing with abandoned cartons.

Talk about a "no signboard" eatery!
There are also all kinds of eateries here. Look at this one, a single table in a dark shop underneath tungsten lights and the dilapitated carcass of a signboard. I was just wondering if the upper level is abandoned, when I caught the words near the staircase that say there’s more seating and air-conditioning upstairs.

The building in which Mak's Noodles is housed - rather gaudy, no?
I finally reach what I’ve been looking for. This is the building in which Mak’s Noodles is housed. Had not figured it’d be this gaudy.

Mak's Noodles - Anthony Bourdain was here!
But there it is – Mak’s Noodles, right on the ground floor. This legendary place needs no introduction. Even Anthony Bourdain came here. But oddly, it seemed rather empty.

Tsim Chai Kee opposite Mak's seems to have more business
And right opposite, is a rival selling pretty much the same stuff – wantan noodles, apparently at twice the size and half the price. Tsim Chai Kee had a lot more people in it.

But I chose Mak’s anyway. Every other shop else can come later.

Something magical in that steamy kitchen
I gingerly made my way in, and was immediately served tea. I watched the cook in the steamy kitchen, the place where all the magic happens.

These guys are super adept at making wantans - just 2 seconds per wantan!
I also watched the two gentlemen at the back of the shop, rolling wantans with practised ease. They didn’t take more than two seconds to neatly parcel pork mince and prawn into the skin and fold it.

The infamously small bowl - Mak's Noodles
And soon, my bowl of the signature wantan noodle soup (HK$28) arrived. Mak’s is known for its “stingy” portions – notice size of spoon in relation to bowl? That’s how small the bowl is. That’s why I could still eat this after having had 3 meals.

The small bowl is meant to keep the noodles from going soggy, but that’s debatable.

Mak's famous wantan noodles
I dug up the wantans from the bottom. I have to say the soup smelled great, and tasted so. Made using powdered dried flounder, dried shrimp roe and pork bones, it was pungently umami and almost perfect. The wantans were excellent – incredibly fresh shrimp and flavourful seasoning.

However, the noodles were less QQ than I had hoped. Maybe I had left them soaking in the hot soup for too long while I admired the dish and took photos. But I checked the timestamp on the photos – it was less than 4 minutes from first photo to last. Still, it must have softened somewhat. I should have had another bowl – no photography allowed.

The famous Yung Kee at Wellington Street
So I left Mak’s slightly underwhelmed but still happy I got to try it. Further down the road was Yung Kee. Been there, done that 10 years ago. Nice but I’m not a big fan of goose.

So ended my short walk on Wellington Street. Enough food for the day, right? Hahaha. Not quite. I hadn’t had dessert!

Next up, I meet a couple of old pals who bring me to where the locals go for Hong Kong desserts. Stay tuned.

In between Imagination & Reality in Causeway Bay

By , August 5, 2010 1:00 pm

While wandering around the busy Causeway Bay area on the second day of my Hong Kong adventure with Aussie Pete, we stumbled upon a really interesting sculpture exhibition “In between Imagination & Reality” going on at the Atrium in Times Square featuring sculptures from two of Korea’s renowned contemporary sculptors, Yong Ho Ji and Hwan Kwon Yi which runs up to 22 August 2010. What caught our eyes were the sculptures of Yi, whose sculptures are made in distorted proportions that play on one’s mind in a way that it serves to confuse and confound what the mind makes out of what the eye sees. It was really hard to describe how “disturbed” we felt from looking at the sculptures and this is something you have to see in three dimensions rather than in two dimensional images to have the feel of it. I guess the best way that can describe how viewing the sculptures affect one’s mind is how the NUS in Singapore had described Yi’s works in an introduction made to an exhibition held last year: “the affect of art lies not so much in the poses but rather in the compression of distance, space and time in Yi’s world”.

The distorted proportions of Hwan Kwon Yi's sculptures (sometimes in all three dimensions) play on what the mind makes out of the eye sees and serves to confuse and confound one's mind.

The "In between Imagination & Reality" exhibition runs up to 22 August 2010 in the Atrium Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.

The disproportionate sculptures caught the attention of curious shoppers at Times Square.

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