It is difficult for me to be talking about food, you know. Doing that always makes me hungry. This is especially the case when funds are low and stocks are low as well. No matter how well you take care of yourself, things can be pretty tough in and around Hong Kong if you are one of those who love to indulge yourself in the many entertaining aspects of cultural life in Hong Kong. While the region is essentially ruled from the top by a communist regime, everything down here is pretty capitalist and mercenary.
So, whatever you see, you must pay for. Time costs money too. This post was originally going to be chatting about Hong Kong history in general, but then I thought, let’s swing into the culture of cuisine straight away. This short post will only be introducing you briefly to two strong influences of mainstream Hong Kong cuisine today, namely Cantonese and Western. You should not find the latter influence at all surprising.
The Western Ways of Eating
After all, remember, Hong Kong was ruled for many years by the British before being handed over to the communists just before the turn of the millennium. There are still traditional restaurants in the style of old world British colonial eating dotted across Hong Kong. What intrigues me are the eight course dinners of our very own Chinese cuisine. Eight course meals were usurped from the British ideal of fine dining among the elite and aristocratic classes.
The bitter pill of western, capitalist ways is no longer confined to Hong Kong. It is scattered across every single commercial and industrial center of China, most notably Beijing and Shanghai. You see them everywhere and most Chinese youngsters drool for it. Takeout joints everywhere, you name it, from fried fish to burgers and fries and famous fried chicken, it’s all over town.
Canton Ways of Eating
The Canton way of eating comes from mainland China, of course. Hong Kong was apart from mainland China and its eating halls catered mainly to the traders and merchants who did a roaring trade. Traditional Chinese delicacies were fused with typical Western meals. This may have taken the sensitive palate some time to get used to but generally, everyone was happy. Chinese dishes are prepared mainly out of fresh ingredients. Interestingly, this is still done today more out of necessity than for health reasons.
Most of the Hong Kong residents today are Chinese. They will not have enough lucre to spend gleefully at the thousands of Hong Kong restaurants, even the traditional food stalls. These are the rural migrants who have managed to slip in and find work. They must buy fresh, vegetable-based ingredients to be prepared and consumed on the day because, poor, and in lieu of the famously cramped living space anyway, food must be consumed straight away.
Whether it is a Western themed restaurant or traditional Chinese restaurant, most sit-down Hong Kong restaurants are strongly influenced by Cantonese cuisine. They are, after all, catering towards the main market of Chinese workers, young and old and professional. Work hours are long over here and space being at a premium, who has got the time and place to cook at home anyway. You see what I mean.