With the passage of time, many things have changed or disappeared without our knowledge. The kinds of food we used to eat began to disappear from the market. And even if they can still be found, it seems that the flavour is no longer the same as before.
With the advances of transport and greater convenience that associate with it, many kinds of food and products from all over the world can be bought easily these days. The production of food is now changed into massive production by machines. There are always new styles and tastes available which satisfy the fast tempo of life of Hong Kong people and their love for variety. Dishes with cumbersome production procedures and traditional dishes which require great efforts are beginning to disappear. Even for those family dishes and pastries that we used to eat at home are beginning to vanish as we grow up and as we do not have the time due to our busy work. The culinary art of our mother is slowly dying off.
This page provides a platform for the green age people to recollect the past and record these lost flavours. This page will introduce certain kinds of delicacies which we still remember and readers are welcome to provide information in the Discussion Forum. For example, information on the ingredients, methods of preparing, photos (including sources of such photos) and so on, plus other recipes so that all these delicacies which we had when we were once children can really relive in the long corridor of history.
Thoughtful delicacies of our mother
Dumplings in slab sugar
Now we can buy all sorts of dumplings with all sorts of tastes, like those made of sesame, peanut, red beans, egg yolk and so on. In some modern eateries for dessert, there are even dumplings made from green tea, chocolate and so on. As we look back in the olden days, we remember at the times in the Mid-Autumn Festival, the eve of the Chinese New Year and the Spring Lantern Festival, we used to eat dumplings made by our mother. These dumplings are simple and what is inside is only a small lump of slab sugar. When the dumpling is cooked, the slab sugar partly melts and the taste is great.
In the past not many families would have an oven and things like cakes and cookies could not be baked at home. But at that time our mother would use eggs, sugar and flour to steam a tasty cake made of eggs and it is soft and bouncy.
Agar agar jelly
In the olden days people were not so rich and kids did not have too many snacks and desserts. Agar agar jelly can be said to be a dessert commonly found at home some three or more decades ago. Agar agar does not have a strong flavour and actually it does not taste so well, and its colour is not so attractive too. However, it is a dessert which is very satisfying to the kids at that time.
Candies used to have not so much variety before and kids did not have a chance to eat candies so often. Our mother would buy maltose which was placed in a brown china pot and kids would use a chopstick to take out the silky maltose, turn it around a few times and eat.
Soup made with mushrooms stalks
Now people would remove the stalks of mushrooms when they cook mushrooms. In the past when people were not so rich, the housewives would not want to waste food ingredients and they would use the stalks of mushrooms to prepare a soup. The soup tastes equally well and is nutritious.
Cream soda blended with milk
In the past, popular drinks could all be made at home. If we pour cream soda into milk, we would make a sweet and smooth soft drink.
Another popular drink which could be made at home is to put chocolate ice cream into coca cola. When the ice cream blends with the soda, it produces a layer of foam. And if we reverse the order and put in the ice cream first, then add the soda, the foam will surge upwards and it may spill over the table.
Pineapple ice and red bean ice are special drinks that used to be found in a Hong Kong-style cafe decades ago. Nowadays we can still find red bean ice in a Hong Kong-style cafe or fast food restaurant, but it is rare to find pineapple ice these days.
Sausage with pineapple
Schools would hold parties before Christmas and students would decorate the classrooms and prepare drinks and food to celebrate the festive occasion with their teachers. Nowadays many fast food restaurants, pizzeria and many other eateries would offer party delivery and catering services during Christmas and New Year times. Many students would buy foods for their parties. In the past students would prepare some simple foods and drinks. One of the essential items were sausage with pineapple and fruit punch. They would cut canned pineapple into small slices and join a slice of pineapple and a sausage with a toothpick. This made a common snack found in these parties.
In the past there was not so much variety regarding drinks and students would add canned mixed fruits into orange soda to make a colourful and sweet party drink. They would also make some ham sandwiches, fish balls and chicken wings, then they would get a few packs of prawn crackers and potato chips, then these would be delicious food items for a party.
A few decades ago, people who went to yum cha (drink tea) in a Chinese restaurant would have to find their own seats. They would watch out for tables which had a high pile of dim sum baskets, they would know that the people would be finishing their meal and would pay the bill soon. Then they would stand behind the seats of the table to wait for the seats. In those days there were no dim sum record cards and the dim sum baskets and dishes would just be left on the table. The waiter would count and work out the bill. At times we could even find some dim sum baskets underneath the table left by some dishonest customers.
Nowadays customers would select the dim sum from the order forms. In the past there were people pushing dim sum trolleys and calling out the types of dim sum on sale, such as shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings and fish fin dumplings. But now we seldom hear these hawking cries.
Many of the dim sums we used to eat are disappearing because of the cumbersome production procedures involved.
Steamed dumplings in broth
The kind of steamed dumplings in broth we find in the Chinese restaurants these days is usually dumplings soaked in soup. The original kind of such dumplings is to have the dumpling wrapped in soup. If we eat this kind of dumpling and if we do not want to punch it and retain its good taste, we would have to get the right proportion of soup and the skin of the dumpling must just be right in thickness. This is really a very delicate work and many Chinese restaurants now do not use this old method to make steamed dumplings in broth.
Large chicken buns
The selling point of this kind of buns is that it is big and affordable. It is a few times bigger than the barbecue pork buns and lotus seed buns. What are found inside these large chicken buns are pork, chicken meat, sliced vegetables, salted eggs and so on. One would get full after eating one of these buns. As the society becomes more affluent, customers prefer more delicate dim sums and so large chicken buns are seldom found these days.
Chinese and Western Cakes and Pastries
Do you still remember the days when the topping of western pastries is not cream but it is spread with a layer of solid and yellowish cream? And what you will find on the surface of these cakes are pink, light green or light yellow patterns and in the middle of the cake surface are some patterns or words made out of jams in dark red, dark green, dark yellow or orange? At that time western assorted cakes were commonly called flower cakes. Now most cake shops do not make these flower cakes any more. It is only in some old-fashioned cake shops that we can find these nostalgic stuff.
Bakeries of the past did not just make the very popular egg tarts, they would also make coconut tarts which were well beloved by many people with a sweet tooth. Coconut tarts are made from sugar, coconut chips and flour mixed together. The surface would have a piece of red or green sweetened cherry. Egg tarts are most tasty when eaten fresh from the oven. But the flavour of coconut tarts is not affected when left cool. It may be that these tarts are too sweet and can easily lead to fullness that they are not often seen in bakeries these days.
Just like we cannot find pineapple in a pineapple bun, so we cannot find any banana in a banana roll. What we find is only a taste of bananas. These banana rolls are made from cooked sticky rice, syrup and banana-flavour fragrance. It is made into a long shape, then cut into small sections in white colour. It is soft and sweet and there is a banana flavour coming out. Decades ago these banana rolls were one of the most popular snacks around. But with the appearance of different kinds of western pastries and cakes, we rarely see banana rolls now.
These used to be a common item for kindergarten pupils at tea time. It is a piece of round biscuit with a flower-shaped candy of different colours. It is cute and lovely and kids would love to eat these cookies.
Sweet Green Biscuits
It is a kind of inexpensive snacks for kids decades ago. Silky candies made from maltose are placed on a thin wrapper, with some coconut and peanut chips sprayed on it. Then it is wrapped up. The hawker selling these biscuits would carry a small iron box and at the front of the box there is glass for people to look at the ingredients inside. We can hardly find these hawkers these days.
Another kind of popular street-side snacks is sugar waffle. The hawkers would use a frying pan and bake a round waffle, then sugar, sesame and peanut chips are spread on it. Then the waffle is folded into a triangle. It is crisp outside and soft inside.
These are pickled olives with licorice and cinnamon added. They are sold in about three olives wrapped in paper. In 40 to 50 years ago, there were still many tenement buildings with just four or five floors. If you hear the selling cries of the hawkers, you could wrap the money in a piece of paper and throw down to the hawker below. Then he would throw up the olives accurately to you. But with the increasing height of the buildings, and the demolition of these tenement buildings, one do not find this unique hawking practice any more.
Snacks found in front of a cinema
Not many large cinemas are left in Hong Kong now and almost all cinemas are mini cinemas and they have moved from the street-side to inside shopping malls. In the past there were snack stalls in front of cinemas and the taste of these foods remind us of the hustle and bustle scene of cinemas in the bygone days.
Hawkers would use a charcoal stove and grill the squids. The aroma of the charcoal and squid fills up the street. Now we can hardly find a stall like this outside a cinema and it is hard to find some freshly-grilled squids in shops.
Boiled peanuts in spices
Hawkers would use five-spice powder and water to boil the peanuts. The husk of the peanuts becomes soft and soaked with some water. It is especially attractive in winter time.
Quail eggs baked in salt
Quail eggs are baked in fried rough salt and the salty flavour would immerse into the egg. Quail eggs are now regarded to have a high cholesterol level and few people are eating them. So we do not often see foods like these baked quail eggs, quail egg dumplings and so on.
Stir fried chestnuts
In the past we often see stalls selling stir fried chestnuts in front of a cinema or on the street-side. The hawkers would put the chestnuts into a large wok containing black sand and sugar, then they would use a spade and turn the chestnuts and black sand all the time until the chestnuts are cooked. And we would smell the aroma of chestnuts all over the streets. Now we may still find one of two such stalls, but many stalls now use machines to stir fry the chestnuts instead of by hand.
Poor Men’s Night Club
It appeared more than 100 years ago in Sheung Wan. At that time the British barracks moved and the vacant land became a gathering place for the local residents. Then it developed into a night market. At first acrobats and other performers were there. Then some people moved to the newly reclaimed land in Sheung Wan and formed another site. Starting from the 1960s, the place was very busy after night time. There were stalls selling Chinese and Western clothes and sundry goods. And there were acrobatic performances, storytelling, opera singing, fortune telling and so on. There were also stalls selling all kinds of delicacies such as fried prawns, fried clams, sea snails, fried crabs, seafood congee and so on. In the 1970s, the land was resumed by the Government and this poor men’s night club then moved to a place near the Hong Kong Macao ferry pier. At first it was still a busy place. But it began to decline. And in 1992, as the place had to be used to develop a bus terminus, this poor men’s night club then ended.
Street-side Food Stalls
These street-side food stalls provide unique-flavour food for the common people. They are stalls situated at the corners of streets and built with green colour iron sheets and wooden boards. The cooking utensils and food ingredients are put inside the stalls. When the stall is opened for the day, a number of foldable tables and chairs would be placed outside for use by the customers. There is a great variety of food provided here. The prices are reasonable. And so they are much welcome by the people. There are stalls selling Chinese food such as Stir-fry, fish ball noodles, congees and other deep fried stuff. There are also stalls selling western food such as milk tea, coffee, mixed milk tea and coffee, toasts, sandwiches and so on. Starting from the 1980s, the Government has adopted a policy of natural wastage and does not issue new licences any more. After the death of the licence holders and their spouses, their children cannot succeed to the licences and many of these stalls then closed their business. Some of them moved into the shops or the cooked food stalls in the municipal buildings and continue their business. Now there are only 20-odd of these stalls in existence. They will disappear with the passage of ime and will remain as part of our memories.
相關網站 Related websites
Ten nostalgic snacks (Eat and Travel Weekly, 7 June 2017) (Chinese version only)
Ten delicious street-side snacks (Eat and Travel Weekly, 1 July 2017) (Chinese version only)