Kau Kee and Mak Ngan Kee are two of Hong Kong's most famous specialist noodle shops. Their menu is not extensive as many other eateries in Hong Kong. And you won't find them on the Michelin Guide. But what they do, they do amazingly well.
Kau Kee started as a humble dai pai dong (open air hawker stall) across the street from where its air-conditioned shop is now located. Over the years, the founder has retired and passed the baton to his son Mr Poon Jr, but patrons continue to throng in. Residents, local celebrities or tourists like yours truly. Expect to share a table with strangers because seats are limited and queues are long at lunch hour. But don't let communal dining put you off because you might encounter friendly locals (some anyway) who offer free tips on where to eat. A fellow diner at our table does exactly that and fondly reminiscences the days when a bowl of beef brisket noodles only costed 50 cents (less than 10 cents in today's AU currency).
Today, the dishes range from HK$7 (soup only) to HK$68 (limited edition beef brisket). Beef brisket is served with either clear or curry broth (both HK$26). The Engineer and I both opt for the former, and the broth is excellent. Made from beef ribs daily, there is also a mild hint of Chinese herbs and spices. Prior to our trip, I learnt from a TV interview with Mr Poon Jr that the herbs also change with the seasons for maximum nutritional benefits. We would prefer the beef brisket to be more tender but it is still delicious.
And while you are on Gough Street, remember to visit the various Homeless homeware boutiques dotted along the street. The boutiques are packed with creations by international and local designers alike. My favourite is the talented Carrie Chau. The whimsical print entitled "Mid-Summer Dreaming" above is now happily sitting in my living room.
Mak Ngan Kee counts Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations as one of its former patron. And it's easy to know why - their wonton noodles are hands down THE BEST that we have ever had. And trust me, we have had a lot. So delicious that we keep ordering dish after dish until we are full to the brim. Like Kau Kee, this eatery has been around for years and passed from one generation to another.
The wonton noodles are thin and springy, and served in a small bowl the traditional way. Wonton dumplings at the base of the bowl prevent the noodles from being completely submerged in the soup, thereby retaining their springy texture longer. The prawn dumplings are equally delicious, with a small quantity of the dried shrimp roes to draw out the sweetness of the prawns.
And the soup? It is simply unforgettable. Made with fresh shrimp, dried shrimp roe, dried flounder and pork bones, it is rich with a strong hit of fish flavours. We also try their wonton noodles with dried shrimp roes. The roes are not as salty as we expect it to be but compliment the noodles very well.
Mak Ngan has completely changed my idea of what wonton noodles are supposed to be - from flavours, texture to presentation. Yes, the portions are small but rest assured that they are made with the best ingredients. Oh, how I wish I had access to Mak Ngan's noodles on a regular basis!
21 Gough Street,
Closed between 7:15-8:30 pm, and on Sundays and public holidays
77 Wellington Street,
Opens 11am-8pm daily
Important Note: Don't confuse Mak Ngan Kee with Mak Man Kee, which is located in Jordan.
Other Hong Kong Eats: HERE