A Star in my Bowl

By Christina Kim - April 06, 2017


When one travels, it is customary (though not compulsory) to try the domestic cuisine to get that taste of the local offering.

I am more of a non-conformist when it comes to food, and most of the time, I really don't abide by that rule.
Even when I am traveling.

Perhaps it is my personal preferences or maybe I am just picky, anyway, it is just me.

There are times I do though, attempt to try the local tastes; maybe out of curiosity, or its appeal, out of the blue.
Maybe I was just in the mood at that time, and had that spur-of-a-moment impulse to be adventurous.

When it comes to local cuisine, it is usually about adhering to what the locals themselves would indulge in, though of course, there are times things could turn out to be more tricky that lead us into that whole touristy trap.
Then again, it may not be as bad as it seems too, for it still offers a different spectrum of tastes to what we usually have.
I mean, everything just tastes good when you are traveling, somehow, don't you think?
(Well, Not every single thing, but let's blame it on the adventurous buds)

Doing a little research is good too, to understand the local preferences and their lifestyle to get an inkling of the overall culture.
(It is always important to know about the local culture for it makes up for that wholesome traveling experience to a place different from where we came from).

On my recent trip to Hong Kong earlier this year, I managed to try out a few of the local joints which are popular among the locals and tourists alike; where some of them even snagged their spot, well star(s) on the famous Michelin award list.

One of them is this humble wanton noodles shop located smack right in the busy district of Central; Tsim Chai Kee (沾仔记).

Started in 1998, this is supposedly the bold and daring newcomer who set their insights, raised their stakes and made their base right across the already famous brand name in the same line, Mak's Noodles which purportedly rose to fame with the inaugural visit by world renowned personality Anthony Bourdain, and also having earned a Michelin star in their bag.

I only got to Tsim Chai Kee, as Mak's Noodles was closed at that time of my visit and I was also fortunate that the crowd has yet to make their appearance at that time and I quickly found a spot. (I must be really early then, or just in luck!)
(In Hong Kong and in local eateries like these, you usually walk in and seat yourself. Don't wait for them to seat you, like back in our own country).

One would expect a place with a Michelin-star on its label would be fancy, or even packed, but turns out, Tsim Chai Kee is just as simple as it gets and what you-see-is-what-you-get without any frill; just one glance makes up the entire shop.

The menu was fairly simple too (I think we are way too spoilt with long lists of choices on our menu in Malaysia, and some complain that the choices are limited), that it made our decision making easier, not to mention faster too.

You choose the type of noodles (Option of yellow noodles (usually the ones for wanton noodles), flat white noodle (what we refer to as koay teow), and vermicelli (bee hoon)), then you choose your toppings.

The toppings are fuss-free and fairly straightforward too; with three main choices: Wantons (of course), Minced Fish Balls, and Sliced Beef.
You can dance solo with your toppings to go with the noodles you selected, or if you want a little company, you can opt for the Two Toppings, and if you find that you simply just cannot decide and just want a taste of everything, you can just go for all Three Toppings altogether.


Of course, the prices vary for the options you make too.
Read the menu and refer to the prices.


For add-ons, there is only the Vegetables with Oyster Sauce available, and it is always (everywhere you go), the Kailan.
The Hongkies are proud and love their Kailan very much.


Sometimes they do have lettuce too (in some of the other establishments, just ask or refer to the menu).

We definitely opted for their famous and signature Wanton noodles; the simple and good old traditional wanton noodles without anything decorative, we are old-fashioned that way.
Well, for starters, the hubs is a fan of wanton noodles and he loves it the basic way and secondly, Hong Kong is almost synonymous with the whole wanton noodles branding (besides dim sum) that it would be quite a sin (and almost criminal) to leave Hong Kong without even having a bowl of their wanton noodles.

The signature of Tsim Chai Kee is their King Prawn wantons; where the gigantic and luscious prawns are mixed with minced pork where they are then embraced with the soft texture of the yellow wanton skin on the outer part, creating that mildly wrinkled appearance in its balled up form.


The bigger-sized prawns gave that extra punch to the wantons definitely; crunchy and juicy for that satisfying bite.

While wantons are the main highlights here, we found ourselves drawn to the flavorful and bouncy handmade fish balls which are somewhat larger than the usual ones you see but delivers quite an impactful bite with its densely packed tastes of the freshly minced fish meat.


It is quite a delightful ride as one takes each bite into the squashy paste which springs back in response to the taste buds and makes one crave for more, despite its rather hideous appearance.
Looks can be rather deceiving and it rings somewhat true for these fish balls.


I am already missing these fish balls as I write this post, and I hope I can find similar ones back here in my own homeland.
Please enlighten me should you know of any such delicious fish balls; I like handmade and dense ones like these.

Tsim Chai Kee has earned a Michelin star for her own good, and this has proved that it is all about the flavors and tastes when it comes to the ratings, for at a glance, one may easily dismiss a humble shop like this tucked away in the busy business district of Hong Kong as just another eatery for the usual working crowd and not of the likes of renowned joint with ranks.

Tsim Chai Kee has proved the passersby wrong and has risen quickly with their deliverance of a humble offering, straight from their kitchen.


My verdict?

I am glad I stumbled upon this place, and managed to sneak a taste of their famed offerings though I still stand by my preference; even if it is not the main star, those bouncy fresh minced fish balls are what stole my heart.

And that, is the Star I found in my bowl.

The wantons can keep the Michelin star, thank you.

For your reference: TCK7

Tsim Chai Kee (沾仔记)
98, Wellington Street, Central District, Hong Kong
(It is located near the Central Mid-Levels Escalator)

Operating Hours: 9am-10pm

Contact: +852 2850 6471

*Author's Note: 
This is not a sponsored/promotional post, and solely based on author's personal opinions and do not represent the general public. 
Experiences vary from one individual to another.
You do not have to agree with me.

Art Direction and Photography Styling by Me.
Photos/Videos all belong to me and are copyrighted.
Please kindly ask for permission if you need to use any of my images.

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