The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 5 April 2013

Wai Kee Congee Shop, Hong Kong

I haven't been feeling very well these past few weeks. First, there is the persistent cough that doesn't want to leave me alone. Then to make matters worse, I got some kind of tummy bug that has been making me feel off with no appetite. I haven't felt hungry for a week. Unfortunately for me, life goes on, and I still have to bring my son to his classes and take care of my family. My 4.5-year-old boy has been on spring vacation for the past two weeks, and I enrolled him in Mandarin classes for almost every morning during the vacation period, leaving me with 90 minutes in Central between dropping him off and picking him up. One morning, feeling weak from not being able to eat much breakfast, the thought of eating congee seemed rather appealing, and I acted on it promptly. I headed to the little congee shop on Stanley Street that my sister had found a few years ago. Wai Kee Congee Shop is a small, very local shop located opposite a bunch of dai pai dong near the wet market on Graham Street. I would visit this shop three times in one week, ordering a bowl of nourishing congee each visit for my second breakfast while waiting for my son to finish his class.

The small and crowded dining room of Wai Kee. I sat at the same spot all three days - at a table on the edge of the shop:

The kitchen that churns out hot congee of various kinds, noodles, fried bread sticks (aka you tiao) and other dishes:

Wai Kee is the epitome of a typical no-frills local eatery in Hong Kong, with a kitchen on one side usually manned by a couple, and a small dining area overlooked by someone who takes the order (different person each day) and someone who takes the payment. Like with many local eateries, sharing a table with strangers is common and expected, especially for lone diners. Basically what I do is grab a seat and then wait for someone to ask me what I want, then I point to the menu stuck under the plastic sheet on the table. I don't have to say anything, and they understand what I want. I see many other people eating congee with plates of fried noodles, steamed turnip cake or you tiao (Chinese doughnut), but I only order a bowl of congee each time as I didn't want to push the limits of my appetite. I eat my food and then I pay and leave. The food is cheap, especially for Central's standard, and Wai Kee is very popular with the locals. I have heard a few foreign expats come by, place their orders in English, and take away their food. I'm guessing this kind of dining is not really many expats' cup of tea.

The menu with English and Chinese to make ordering easy:

I usually get preserved egg congee with either pork or beef as it is a good way to get a healthy dose of carbs, protein and haem iron into someone with poor health and appetite. Pictured is Preserved Egg & Minced Beef Congee (HK$17) - boiling hot congee is poured over marinated raw minced beef and slices of preserved egg, and I usually stir for a few minutes to cook the beef before eating:

The most expensive item this shop sells is only HK$17. I would love to come back here when my appetite has returned and try out their steamed turnip cake which the locals seem to really love.

Wai Kee Congee Shop
Ground Floor
82 Stanley St
Central, Hong Kong
Tel. +85 2 2551 5564