Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mak's Noodles: World's best Wanton Noodles? or just Wold Famous?

with family in Hong Kong

Noodle shops are ubiquitious in Hong Kong. As it should be. If I am not mistaken, wanton mien wass invented there. Every street corner, or so it seems, a dingy noodle shop would be serving piping hot bowls of noodles. But Mak is a cut above...it's made it even into the Michelin Guide's 2009 Hong Kong/Macau edition as a cheap good eat. Even Anthony Bordain visited to eat at its hallowed halls. And not wanting to be left out of a culinary adventure, I too tracked my way up and down Wellington Street to this little noodle shop.

Mak Kee (as the place is known in Cantonese) serves the traditional wanton mien in very small bowls...about the size of a regular rice bowl. Even the name Mak Kee...in Chinese a play with two words conjuring up the meaning stingy noodles - a tongue in cheek reference to the small portion of the serving.



The reasoning is that because noodles will absorb the soup and swell, and a small serving allows only a very limited the amount of liquid which are absorbed, and keeps the noodles from going soggy. I am not sure if I buy the argument, but the noodles were not soggy. They were wiry, thin as is typical in Hong Kong. And it was firm, al dente to the bite. In fact very firm, and had a distinct kee taste, which can be addictive after a while. It did absorb some of the wonderful piping hot broth, and tasted heavenly.

The soup base is made of powdered dried flounder, dried shrimp roe and pork bones. One can taste the dried fish and shrimp roe in the soup...a hint of salt and smokiness, but just so. The balance of salt is just perfect. The broth was robust, but at the same time had a delicate, almost sublime flavour.



The wantons were about the size of a quail's egg, and the skin was thin, but offered sufficient protection to keep the contents from spilling. The treasure within is made from two whole shrimps tightly wrapped and no meat filling. The texture biting into the wanton was springy...it provided some resistance to the bite, but just so...the prawns were very fresh. The taste was excellent. Certainly the best wanton I have ever eaten. Shiok Hochiak!

We also ordered some stewed beef brisket. Known as Ngau Lam in Cantonese, this is a quintessential dish, much like wanton mien and offered by unknown numbers of eateries around the territory.



Brisket is the soft, flabby bit hanging under a cow's neck...comprising mainly of fat and collagen. This was stewed in the traditional Cantonese fashion with turnips and star anise. I would imagine the cooking would be a long involved process, the result is a brown, sticky, slightly slimy, super tender brisket...and oh so yummy.



Note the near translucent connective tissue. Wonderful mouth feel, and really excellent taste.

We had the obligatory vegetables in oyster sauce.



Nicely blanched, perfectly cooked.



The cooking station is right at the front of the shop - this is an open plan display kitchen...one can view the cooks doing their magic from the street.

Mak's noodles is my personal best for a wanton mien, and possibly ngau lam. I already miss it. I wonder what is so special, that the same texture, taste, fragrance is not replicated elsewhere.



Mak's Noodles 麥奀雲吞麵世家
77 Wellington Street, Central
Hong Kong
中環威靈頓街77號地下



Postscript:

Some links:

Another review of Mak's Noodles, with a video of Anthony Bordain's eye opening experience of how the noodles are made in Hong Kong. See the video, about 2 mins into the video.

Teczscape's review of Mak's containing the video on youtube.

See also ieat's account of a bamboo noodle place in Singapore:

ieatishootipost review of bamboo noodles in Singapore
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