On the way back home to Japan I had a layover in Hong Kong. Since it was a 9 hour layover, I decided to go into the city to explore and enjoy some of the noodles.
I first stopped by Ho Hung Kee Congee & Noodle Wonton Shop(何洪記粥麺専家) inside the airport. Established in 1946, they are a long-established noodle house and was also awarded a Michelin star.
I ordered their signature Shrimp Wonton Noodle Soup. It seems the classic style for these wanton noodle soups is to use thin, yellow egg noodles with lye water to give it its distant texture.
I was impressed by their shrimp wonton which had the perfect, bouncy texture.
To make the most out of my sightseeing in Hong Kong, I stopped by a stall where the locals were hanging out in. The shop was filled with locals speaking Chinese, with no sight of an English menu or English being spoken.
I ordered a Fish Ball Rice Noodle Soup, which is made of fish balls and flat rice noodles.
The soft noodles really went well with the gently flavored soup—the two really complemented each other.
When I returned to the airport I headed to Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao(翡翠拉麵小籠包).
I ordered the Scallion Oil Noodle (葱油乾撈拉麺), which is made of fried scallion and dried shrimp. It is a broth-less ramen rich in flavor and aroma.
The noodles felt extremely fresh and tasty. I assume the noodles are hand pulled and boiled to order—that’s how fresh they tasted.
The soup dumplings (小籠包) were also juicy and delicious.
I then stopped by Tasty Congee & Noodle Wonton Shop (正斗麺粥専家) at the food court by our departure area.
I ordered their popular House Specialty Shrimp Wonton Noodle Soup, which looked similar to what I had at Ho Hung Kee(何洪記). This one on the other hand, didn’t live up to my expectations, it seemed a bit lackluster but this could have been due to the fact that I was pretty full by then, and as the saying goes, “hunger is the best spice”. The shrimp wonton still had a really good flavor and texture to it.
My overall impression was that the noodles are just like how Cantonese dishes are, lower in oil and sodium unlike Japanese ramen noodles. Those who are used to eating Japanese noodles might take it as rather light.
Cantonese food is rather light in flavor and in a traditional dim sum meal, the noodles are just part of the entire experience among many other dishes. In contrast, Japanese ramen is a complete meal in one bowl.
Through my experience making ramen in America, I have often received comments that our ramen tends to be too “salty”. While I was in Japan, my ramen often received comments that it wasn’t salty enough, so I was extremely surprised to hear that it’s too strong and flavorful in America.
To add to that, the average daily intake of sodium per day is 10.0g world-wide, 9.1g in America, and 12.4g in Japan (Source: 2010 British Medical Journal, “BMJ Open” refer to link below). The sodium intake number tends to be higher among Asian populations, where rice is a staple. Rice is higher in protein than wheat so it can be taken as a protein source. It is said that in order to help increase appetite, the side dishes accompanying rice were prepared with a focus on saltiness and umami flavors.
Perhaps it is this “Japanese rice culture” that influenced ramen making to include strong flavors and umami. The link is quite interesting and it is exciting to see how ramen is spreading from Japan to all around the world.