From decades-old holes in the wall to multimillion dollar businesses, Hong Kong’s noodle scene is a money-spinner in a city that runs on quick and affordable comfort food.
Steaming bowls are served up 24 hours a day, often in clear, richly flavored broths and topped with fishballs, beef tendon or pork knuckle.Other favorites come with Spam and fried eggs, an echo of the city’s British colonial past.
Lau Fat-cheong is one of the last traditional noodle makers in Hong Kong. He prepares them fresh every day for customers at his three Lau Sum Kee restaurants in the bustling working-class neighborhoods of Sham Shui Po and Cheung Sha Wan.
Employing an old method rarely used now, he sits at the end of a 1.5-meter bamboo pole, nimbly bouncing on it to pound balls of dough on a workbench underneath.
"We’ve been doing this for all these years and have developed an emotional connection to it," Lau says, explaining why he adheres to traditional methods."There is a satisfaction in the work."
Customers across his restaurants slurp more than 500 bowls of fresh egg noodles a day.The best-selling dishes come with wonton－shrimp and pork dumplings－or are liberally sprinkled with dried shrimp roe, harking back to Hong Kong’s origins as a fishing village."It’s fresh. You feel it’s much better than anywhere else," says 17-year-old student Gavin Lee, who prefers Lau’s creations over food from Hong Kong’s mega-chains.
But despite the steady stream of loyal visitors, Lau says rising rents and wages are a challenge.He fears the next generation will not take up the mantle, admitting the work can be "hard and tedious".
There’s also pressure from Hong Kong’s lucrative noodle empires with branches all over the city.The popular Tam’s Yunnan Rice Noodles chain, known for its variety of spicy broth bases and customizable toppings, was recently sold to Japanese restaurant operator Toridoll for HK$1 billion.Tsui Wah, which started as a small cafe in 1967, has also grown into a multimillion-dollar mega-chain, serving Hong Kong staples alongside more modern alternatives.
But food writer Janice Leung Hayes says independent businesses like Lau’s still survive because of a sense of nostalgia and classic flavors."They have never gone out of fashion. So, I do feel like, even though there are big chains trying to dominate, the small ones still have a chance," Leung says.
但美食作家Janice Leung Hayes说，像刘氏这样的独立企业仍然存在，因为它有怀旧和经典的味道?！八谴游垂??！彼?，我确实觉得，即使有大的连锁店想要占据主导地位，小公司仍然有机会，”Leung说。
Hong Kong’s noodle culture reflects its history as a city of migrants from all over China as well as its colonial history.