Subtitle: Hong Kong Fish Balls

I had a 17 hour layover in Hong Kong, China and I sure as hell wasn’t going to spend it lolling about the airport.

Arriving at 5am found us slightly out of sorts, as we had been on a plane all day and night, getting served 2 delicious airplane meals along with a cup-of-soup snack and hot jasmine tea. I was too excited by the prospect of eating this food that I forgot to take pictures so I’ll only say that I wasn’t disappointed by it. (Way to go, Cathay Pacific!) They served our first meal, dinner, at 3am (by our internal clock’s time) and then breakfast at what, to us, would have been 8 or 9 o’clock at night. By the time we arrived at the Hong Kong airport at 5 in the morning (actual China time), all concept of time had been lost.

We rallied at making a plan for the day so we could see what HK had to offer and began navigating our way around trains, busses, subways, and their ticketing/scheduling processes. Once we finally had our bearings, we traveled into the city, and up to Victoria Peak via the peak tram. At the top of the nearly vertical peak, we found a McDonalds, Starbucks, and other shops, indicating that this area was intended not only for gazing out over the city and breathtaking landscape, but for commerce as well. Since it was still incredibly early, nothing was open.

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We walked around snapping pictures of the hazy views out over the city and eventually made our way back to the subway, eager to see the hustle and bustle of the well-known shopping districts of Mong Kok.

We arrived, got off the subway and spilled out onto what we thought would be crowded and buzzing streets to realize that the city really begins it’s day around 10am. I checked the time: 9:30am. Hmm. We walked around and did some people/building watching, navigating up this street and down that one. A few pictures of clustered signs and buildings were snapped and we mused about the city until we turned a certain corner. BANG! There it was; my first food cart of the trip.

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The ladies were just beginning to produce the day’s first street snacks. I stood to the side of the cart to see if anyone else would take the lead in ordering. I watched as a crowd quickly formed around the food and requests were put in, in rapid succession.

First, there was large pan of braised tripe and other innards that I admit I was too squeamish to order. Next to that, there were two pans of fried something that I mistook to be a sort of dough. I assumed it to be similar to the fried dough I ate in Nicaragua that had a delicious honey-syrup glaze poured over it. Off to the right of that, a pan of freshly fried octopus tentacles was dumped on the counter. I waited for the crowd to dissipate before stepping up. Once the experienced mass had been satiated, I wandered close and pointed at the fried balls and tentacles. The lady bagged up some of the balls that appeared to have spices on them, along with another bag full of tentacles. I traded HK dollars for my prize and walked over to a quiet spot on the sidewalk to experiment with my purchases. Quickly after biting into my fried dough, I realized it wasn’t the syrupy sweet treat I had expected. Instead, it was what I suddenly figured was the ubiquitous “fish ball.”

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The fish ball. Exactly as the name implies, is a fishy tasting ball, fried and covered in hot, peppery spices. It has the consistency of the play dough that I remember eating as a little kid. It’s a bit chewier than jello, maybe more like a gummy bear, but bready. It’s taste is like a fillet you might have forgotten in the refrigerator a couple of days too long. And spicy. I’m not the type that enjoys a lot of heat from my meals, so the spiciness of this snack, along with the stale fishiness of it, was not pleasing to my palate.

Frank seemed to enjoy the pepperiness of it and ate most of them, which got me off the hook of powering through the whole container. I, rather, snacked on the deep-fried octopus tentacles that I covered in all 4 of the different types of sauces supplied at the counter. The tentacles are just as you might imagine them if you’ve ever eaten overcooked calimari. They were little arms of rubber, smothered in batter and fried in a vat of oil that clung to every surface, occasionally dripping off my fingers. The sauces included soy sauce, fish sauce, one tasting like bbq, and one that tasted like buffalo sauce. The sauces and oil made the chewy treat go down a little easier than the fish balls, and I dug into them instead.

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After getting our fill of oil-soaked seafood, we walked around to specific sections of town where the goods were being sold in categories. We checked out the plant market, skimmed by the goldfish market, and through the bird market where we saw numerous brightly colored exotic birds, the only one I could identify being a toucan. Eventually we trekked back to the subway and sped off to the giant mountaintop Buddha statute at Ngong Ping.

Navigating our way to transportation, we found out the cable car, the main method of getting to the top of the mountain, was closed for repairs, and were forced therefore, to take a bus. Switchback upon switchback carried us to the monastery and the giant, peacefully meditating buddha.

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As we heard the sound of monks chanting, we walked up the myriad stairs to the base of buddha’s lotus to soak in his peaceful message, along with the view. I was able to walk around the entire statue and survey the landscape from every direction. The steep hills were covered in lush greenery and I could see other mountainous islands in the hazy distance. The rooftop of the monastery was visible from my vantage point but it was surrounded by towering trees. If I hadn’t been schlepping my heavy backpack since 5am, I might have been calmed by such a setting.

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After our requisite photo shoots with buddha, we got on the bus and headed back to the airport to finish up the last leg of our flight to Bangkok.

Sadly, during our whirlwind Hong Kong experience, I only ate the one time and have nothing else to report on the street snacking front. Luckily, I’ll be in Thailand for a month, so be on the lookout for more coverage of SE Asia. Until then, keep snacking!

6 Responses to “Am I The Only One Who Ate Play Dough As A Kid?”

  1. Kevin T.
    21 September 2013 at 11:56 am #

    He’ll yeah! Take advantage of long layovers! Fish ball play dough sounds nasty!

  2. Madonna
    21 September 2013 at 2:43 am #

    Good going sis. Great finds! Should have know u would dicover some amazing foods. Love u have a safe journey!!

  3. Liz
    21 September 2013 at 12:43 am #

    Ahhh! This is fabulous! I can’t wait until you post again!!

  4. Shawn and Bobbie Jo
    20 September 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    Wow it’s great to see you are eating well it looks pretty good! Not sure I could try all those sorts of things, lol ! Missed you at work today but looks like you’re having a blast and not gonna be back here anytime soon! Be safe and have lots of fun! BJ

  5. Amanda Snowden
    20 September 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    Looks like you’re having a wonderful time!! Best of luck, my miniature Andrew Zimmern!

  6. Jennifer
    20 September 2013 at 11:08 am #

    Yay! First adventure and successful food cart find! I can’t wait for the next one! MIss you bad!