Photo: Penny Watson, Hardie Grant Books
The trick to writing any book about Hong Kong is figuring out how to organize a topic that can seem overwhelming and chaotic. In “Hong Kong Precincts” (Hardie Grant Books, 240 pages, $29.99), author Penny Watson skillfully breaks down the 15 precincts (including Macau) and its “best shops, eateries, bars and other hangouts” to feature the wealth of Hong Kong’s cross-section of experiences from markets that sell everything from plastic toys to pigs’ ears, to modern bars and boutiques. Even better, interviews with local Hongkongers (including a mixologist, sommelier, interior designer, celebrity chef and diamond dealer) highlight favorite haunts and tips for enjoying the best in town. It helps reveal the city’s eclectic soul, beyond merely old-school authenticity and tourist favorites.
Excerpts from the book
Street Markets (Central): “Flapping fish, tubs of tofu and mountains of mushrooms: not far from the city’s flashiest retail district is an open-air food market that has operated since 1841. Despite government attempts to move them indoors, about 130 fixed-pitch hawkers still ply their trade here, contributing to the vibrant street life that Hong Kong is known for.”
Rabbithole (Wan Chai): “Dim lighting, industrial tables and understated décor only serve to heighten the most important piece of apparatus in this hidey-hole café — the coffee machine. While the local antipodean population is largely responsible for bringing lattes to Hong Kong, Rabbithole has taken the bean fetish one caffeinated step further. It serves Japanese-style hand-drip coffee from mad-scientist-looking flasks, and bags of hand-selected beans for punters to take home.”
Under Bridge Spicy Crab Restaurants (Causeway Bay): “When typhoons hit Hong Kong in days of yore, fishing boats would ride out the storm in Causeway Bay’s typhoon shelter. While the winds roared and rain poured, the fishermen would cook and feast on spicy crab. The shelters have given way to luxury yachts and party junks, but the crab culture lives on in a motley strip of open-all-hours restaurants on the corner of Lockhart Road and Canal Road West. There are four restaurants — each with varying décor — that lay claim to being the original Under Bridge Spicy Crab. Rest assured that you can’t really go wrong.”
Tim Ho Wan (Island East): “When Tim Ho Wan in Mong Kok earned a Michelin star, the dim sum offerings became the cheapest Michelin-starred dishes in the world. The restaurant closed down after a rent hike, but offshoots of the original still offer awesome cheap-arse dumplings, albeit minus the star. This North Point incarnation in a low-profile street of residential high rises is far bigger than the original.”Follow and Share with Jetsettersblog.