My taste buds have been through on wild ride these past three weeks. Hong Kong offers everything one can imagine within the spectrum of savoury and sweet. Healthy or not-so-much, I allowed myself to indulge during my vacation. Matcha soft serve, monstrous mangoes, and egg waffles yo!
Three weeks is definitely not enough to tackle all the foodie adventures of Hong Kong, so I chose to fill up on the most local foods. Even within the category of ‘Hong Kong cuisine’ are several types which include dimsum, hole-in-the-walls, cafes, and fast food. Don’t turn your noses up at fast food so quickly, I will explain in a moment!
Dimsum is significantly cheaper and more varied in Hong Kong. Even at a chandelier-ed restaurant with uniformed servers, four hungry people can be fed with less than twenty Canadian dollars. That’s real food, real chefs, air conditioning, and unlimited tea and seating time. My dad is a total traditional Hong Kong grandpa who needs his rice bowls so we had dimsum almost every day, even twice on some. For recommendations, just comment below or send us an email and I’d be happy to give some pointers
Don’t get me wrong, I love dimsum but there is no time to waste opportunities to explore a new nook or cranny. When we convinced my father to have something other than dimsum for breakfast, we’d grab a bite at some hole-in-the-wall. Comfort food cravings will be satisfied but air conditioning is not guaranteed. At congee shops, I drizzle hoisin sauce, tahini, and hot sauce over my rice rolls like a French chef. Then I proceed to dunk some freshly fried donuts into [my mom’s] pipping hot congee, all while sweating my brains out. I tell ya, hot congee stays hot in 36 degree weather. But it’s all worth it; I’m still craving those rice rolls.
Hong Kong-style cafes are a world in their own. There are the hole-in-the-wall types with plastic stools and shared tables, the slightly nicer renovated ones (you’ll know when you step into one), and of course, the Hong Kong fast food chains. Now to defend Hong Kong fast food, I promise you it is nothing even close to McD’s or Burger King. Four dollars Canadian can get you much more than a burger made with “beef”. My favourite meals in Hong Kong, regardless of where I’m dining, are breakfast and afternoon tea. Go to any fast food chain (my favourite is Fairwood 大快活) and you’ll find fried-to-order eggs with toast, congee, and soup noodles during breakfast hours. Real food! Minus the instant noodles of course. In the afternoon there are thick HK-style french toast and red bean icy. Which brings me to introduce you to my summer lifesaving drink.
Two in the afternoon is when the sun beats down the hardest and when I begin to crave a glass of red bean icy. Paired with a massive slab of HK-style French toast, this is the ultimate afternoon snack. In Hong Kong, French toast is a deep fried peanut butter and condensed milk sandwich made with Texas toast. Epically unhealthy, I understand. Sharing is the solution. Back to the icy.
On one rainy afternoon tea-hunt, my family stumbled into a random cafe in Wan Chai. As mentioned above, having a red bean icy is a must. And once I saw it was one made with coconut milk rather than regular milk, I was even more excited. Needless to say, it was phenomenal and changed my world.
What I love about red bean icy is that there is something to chew on and something to sip on. It will please your sweet tooth and cool you down. This classic Hong Kong drink is incredibly easy to replicate at home, one pot of cooked beans and you can have Coconut Red Bean Icy all summer long!
- ⅓ cup dried sweet red beans (azuki beans)
- ⅓ cup coconut sugar, plus more as needed
- A pinch of salt
- About 1 cup coconut milk
- About 1 cup almond milk
- Ice cubes, for serving
- Ice cream, if desired
- Rinse the dried beans to wash off any dust or dirt. Place in a small or medium bowl and cover with 1 inch of water. Leave to soak overnight.
- Cook the dried beans by transferring the beans and the soaking water into a small pot with a lid.
- Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once at a boil (careful of the bubbles overflowing!) turn the heat down to low, add the coconut sugar, salt, and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, or until beans are cooked through. Alternatively, you can cook the beans in a slow cooker overnight.
- Do a taste test; a perfectly cooked bean should hold its shape yet be soft and melt in your mouth. Also, adjust the sweetness as necessary. Keep in mind that ⅓ of the drink consists of these beans, the rest is milk, so it can be sweeter than normal.
- Once the doneness and sweetness is achieved, turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature in the pot.
- To serve, fill ⅓ of a tall glass with the red beans and some of the liquid. Top with ⅓ of coconut milk and ⅓ of almond milk. Add some ice cubes, a long handled spoon, and a straw. Enjoy cold!