Sham Shui Po, discussed previously on the blog here and here is one of the most rewarding areas of Hong Kong for exploring on foot, at least for those interested in the gritty, grimy “old Hong Kong” of bustling street markets, cheap and exotic restaurants (and cramped, slummy housing blocks).
One of the city’s poorest and old neighbourhoods (as in, it has the highest median age), it has resisted the glitz and glamour that has swept up much of the island and increasingly, Kowloon, in the wake of the continuing Chinese mainlander tourist boom. Instead it offers blocks of hawkers selling underwear, electrical cables, jade, pirated mainlander DVDs from the 1980s, tatty T-shirts and much else. Stores sell beads or zippers or costume jewellery. The pavements hum with jostling crowds. This is where working class locals,the unemployed and the retired, impoverished new arrivals and maids on their day off come to shop and eat.
Not surprisingly then, it is home to some of the city’s best loved “street food”. This weekend I went on a tour of some of SSP’s most famous eating establishments – all cheap, no-nonsense, plastic stool-and-formica joints with queues running out the door.
Foremost of these is the Wai Kee noodle cafe, famed for its French toast and its pork-liver-with-ginger noodles (above, unappetizing looking but tasty).
We also stopped by another store, around the corner for its locally esteemed handmade, bamboo-pressed noodles with pork knuckle.
The area is also a stronghold of snake restaurants, like the female-helmed Snake King Yip and Snake King Shan, decked out in stuffed reptiles and snakeskin handbags for sale.
All of this was topped off with a local dessert of hot sesame soup, almond milk and kiwi-juice, although I skipped the frog’s ovaries.