Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The Temple Street Night Market is an icon of Hong Kong, a mecca for hardcore shoppers and foodies alike – and as the name says, it only opens at night. Good news for us, as we wanted to shoot the night lights and atmosphere. Arriving at our hotel from Shau Kei Wan, we spent a while at the harborside promenade shooting the Symphony of Lights again, then took an hour’s much-needed rest; not only had we walked all day, we had to come back during the rush hour and so spent the entire train ride on our feet.
Did I mention we were tigerishly hungry? No? Well, whatever the condition of your appetite when you enter the Night Market, be assured that it will be in excruciatingly hyperactive mode within minutes of wandering in! A whole section of the market is devoted to streetside dining, where just about anything edible seems available in just about any Chinese style of cuisine. Soy-basted ducks and geese hung on racks everywhere, live groupers and other fish swam in aquariums, pails or basins along with lobsters and fat crabs, and there were plates of beautiful shellfish everywhere. Unless you totally hate Chinese cuisine, it’d be impossible not to find something to your taste here.
Cat and I finally decided on a place to eat, not so much by the menu as by the fact that the waiter spoke English. One thing about dining here: have an idea already what you want to eat! There’s a great throng of people waiting to be seated, and any hesitation is taken as a sinful waste of time by the busy restaurateurs. I took matters into my own hands and ordered something I thought we’d both like, as well as feeding my spice addiction: a dish of crispy Szechuan-style chicken. The dish arrived smothered with crunchy bits of fried garlic and dried red chilies, steaming hot and with a fragrance that might’ve been detected by the wolves in Mongolia. And yes, it was that good.
Dining at the Temple Street restaurants as a couple however is not the optimal way to do things. Far better to come here as a family or troop of friends, for only thus can you order a wider variety of dishes. We discovered the table beside ours was occupied by a Filipino extended family; at first we had no idea, as they were just so busy munching on a profusion of seafoods that I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Then a waiter walked between our tables carrying a crab dish that made both me and the guy nearest me on that table exclaim in Tagalog. Voila! Instead friends! And yes, they did call the waiter over on his way back to order the same crab dish for themselves. Another nod to Pinoy pride: a lot of diners, including many Caucasians, were washing down their vittles with golden San Miguel beer. What can I say? Good food deserves good beer.
The Night Market is also a great place to shop for Chinese handicrafts as well as toys, watches, jewelry and other gewgaws, provided you’re prepared to wade through a crowd and haggle aggressively. I was prepared to do neither, having in fact not an iota of inclination for shopping, but I did want photos of the merchandise. It was challenging to squeeze in and find a space to shoot, and even more challenging to get a stable shot what with people bumping me from every direction, but I did manage a few. It was near midnight when we got back to our hotel, tired, but very happy with our experience.