Indoor dai pai dong dining at a cooked food center!
Chiu Chow-style oyster pancake
Sea snails in sauce as spicy as it looks! ;b
"Let's go eat at a dai pai dong", I suggested to a friend one winter evening. But rather than dine at one located out in the open air, we headed over to a stall in the bustling cooked food center section of her neighborhood Municipal Services Building that almost looked too "authentic" to be true and got me wondering for a moment or two if I had stepped straight into a Hong Kong movie!
The very well patronized eatery that we dined at that evening doesn't have an English name and neither does it have an English menu. But even if its picture menu isn't as extensive as its Chinese one, it does list the highlights -- which both my native Hong Konger friend and I found intriguing and ample enough to satisfy us.
Happy to find Chiu Chow as well as Cantonese specialties on the menu, my friend set her heart on ordering the Chiu Chow style oyster pancake -- which was fine by me as I like that dish too. And when our order came to the table, we knew we had made the right choice as it really was very tasty -- with the stir fried eggy bits being alternately fluffy and crispy, and the overall dish feeling far less greasy than lesser versions.
We also enjoyed my choice for the evening: sea snails in spicy sauce which actually wasn't as burning hot as I feared it would be but still definitely had a fiery kick. In retrospect, part of me wishes that I had dipped some of my share of the oyster pancake into that sauce. (Actually, an even better option would have been to bring the bottle of Maggi Chilli Sauce that represents a taste of home for me, and which I think goes great with fried things, be it chicken, fries or eggs! And no, I don't think the folks operating this unpretentious eatery would have been upset if I had poured some of that sauce onto one of their dishes!)
In addition, since both the other dishes we ordered can appear more "snacky" than filling, we also decided to get a plate of mixed vegetables and bowls of white rice -- to make sure our stomachs would be full but also that the meal would feel more balanced. As it turned out though, we struggled to finish all the food, however tasty so much of it actually was, because the portions dished out actually were far more generous than we expected!
Leaving the cooked food center using a different route from the one that we had used to get there, we saw that seating for the stall had flowed out into an adjacent outdoor space. So we could have dined outdoors at that dai pai dong after all!
Considering though that even indoors, the temperature was so low that pretty much every diner there had kept their jacket or coat on, perhaps it was for the best that we had gone for the indoor dining option. And even while there were a few smokers in our midst (despite there officially having been a ban on smoking in eateries for some years now), there actually was sufficient ventilation to make it so that my clothes and hair actually didn't smell of cigarette smoke or, for that matter, strong cooking aromas post dining there!