The thing about Hong Kong is, unless you’re hitting the Michelin-starred restaurants and fine-dining establishments, you’re hardly likely to exhaust your wallet. A bowl of congee costs around 10HKD, which is less than $3SGD. The bottom-line is, you can happily drown yourself in a vat of congee and still have enough moolah for all the you tiaos to accompany your wanton gluttony.
Take Wai Kee Congee Shop for example (I actually didn’t know what it was called in English, and kept referring it to the Last You Tiao You Should Eat Before You Die shop). Enter any congee shop in Hong Kong and you can be sure to get velvety, smooth, and very tasty porridge for any meal. The yao jak guai (you tiao/ dough fritters) at Wai Kee however, may induce the kind of rabid addiction enough to grab the shelves of glistening golden dough fritters and make a break for it.
Wai Kee Congee Shop is located at the end of Stanley Street, and it took me a good 10 minutes of walking back and forth in front of the shop trying to discern if this flourescent-lit, slightly shabby-looking eatery was really it.
But we were hungry, we entered anyway, and struck jackpot.
Congee is the quintessential breakfast dish for residents of Hong Kong. It’s fleecy, light, fragrant, and warms your belly first thing in the morning. You might have a little trouble ordering from the menu if you’re not versed in Mandarin since it’s all in Chinese characters, but make a good guess and point to anything and you should be fine. Unless you’re violently averse to Pig’s Blood Congee (although I heard Wai Kee’s is wickedly good). A safe bet would be a Century Egg Pork Porridge, or a Sliced Fish Porridge. Language won’t be that bad a barrier, and some of the staff were even slightly amused at my careless smattering of Cantonese and Mandarin, both blending and appearing in a single sentence alone (yat wun jok, tong…er…you tiao).
And then, this is where I instruct you to order up a mountain of dough fritters, whether you’re going to dunk it in your congee, or just eat them on their own. I should have taken a video of how they sounded when I tore into them. I really should have. But my fingers were slightly oily and I just wanted to eat. The next best thing I can do is to describe.
So the typical you tiao you’ll find in Singapore requires some semblance of dental strength. They’re doughy, stretchy, rubbery, and some even reek of the telltale smell of dough that’s been deep-fried multiple times. And even if they’ve been fried at your order, they’re always dripping and greasy and get soggy too fast. I never used to like them, because I felt they just taste of dough that’s been soaked through with oil.
But those at Wai Kee are of a texture so divine, I tremble just remembering the swift, crisp quality they just snapped at the slightest pressure. I’m not talking about a biscuit/cracker sort of snap, but a clean break into fluffy insides where you don’t need to gnaw and tear and crush the poor thing just to consume it.
The golden outer crust is devoid of any greasy, waxy sheen, and just simply matt and unassuming. Baffling. Just baffling.
When we walked into the shop, they were frying up fresh batches upon batches of them, and when we left, they were still going at it. That little shelf of you tiao in the picture above? It never seemed to run out.
Every other table in Wai Kee had a plate of these: Zha Leong (or Zha Liang in mandarin). Dough fritters wrapped in smooth cheong fun and served with a sweet black bean sauce. Oddly enough, not many people know about this ingenius creation. It’s got silky cheong fun, and maddeningly crispy yet soft you tiao inside. I had a ton of these at multiple places during my stay in Hong Kong. They all went to my thighs.
It’s a simple shop, but undoubtedly popular among the locals, with at least 10 of them popping by to take away breakfast or dining in during the short duration that we were there. They make everything in-house from the congee, to the cheong fun. Everything.
I dream of the you tiao. This is the first place I’ll sweep into the next time I set foot in Hong Kong. Until then, I’m not eating any dough fritters. I will not be adulterous. Wai Kee is the only one for me.
Wai Kee Congee Shop
Address: 82 Stanley Street, Central
Nearest MTR Station: Central Station, Exit D1 & D2