As my time in Hong Kong winds down to only 2 more weekends, I realize I have never been to Temple St. night market for the food. So, as soon as some friends suggest going there for dinner and a cold one after a long day of watching soap box cars drivers dancing pathetically to Gangham Style before rolling pathetically down a hill and drinking not-so-sponsored-cuz-it-was-still-10HKD Red Bulls, I was all over the idea, like hobo on ham sandwich. Turns out the place really does live up to the hype. Seafood (big tanks of live stuff, killed and fried on order) and street food (balls and innards and veg on sticks, congee) abound. Although I didn’t really find too many things I haven’t seen elsewhere – seafood in Sai Kung Village and street food in Mongkok – it’s still nice to have all the good stuff packed together in a 3 street x 3 street block of city, which is relatively easy to get to but still far enough from the island to make it a food adventure. The place is also very vibrant at night and is a good place to people-watch while you eat and go hunting through endless piles of fake junk in the night market to work off the calories after the meal.
Hell, you can even shop for funny pseudo-souvenir items while you eat! We chose Temple Street Spicy Crabs, a bustling and chaotic seafood restaurant that spills out onto the intersection of Temple St. and Nanking St. from 3 different corners of the intersection. Either these three are fierce competitors or the same restaurant. By the look of their menus, decor, and prices they are probably owned by the same (very successful) dude. The corner we chose had the best looking stuff in the tanks, including jumbo mantis prawns, lobsters and an array of bivalves I could not identify. Our seats (stools leaning out of the restaurant onto the pavement, al fresco style) were right across from this nifty little funny street sign store that kept us thoroughly entertained throughout the meal with its charismatic products. “You are my love my angle dont treat me like a potato,” was one of our favorites. Beers were super cheap and service was pretty quick, considering that the place filled up very fast.
The first thing we ordered was the Deep-Fried Mantis Prawns with Chili and Garlic. Although I had gotten one of these in Sai Kung before, I quite enjoyed this dish and thought it excellent, especially considering the price. A plate of 9 or so prawns was around 80 HKD which was around the same price I paid in Sai Kung for a single piece that was only slightly larger and not that much juicier. The shrimps were succulent, fresh, tender and with plenty of sweet flesh on the shell. For me, the shell was crunchy enough to eat as well, head and all. Deep fried garlic was poured on in a generous proportions, seasoned with salt and a bit of hot chili. The flavor of the fried garlic and chili seeped in through the shells of the prawns, inundating the meat with a robust flavor. A few strands of spring onions added a very needed fresh crunch to the dish. Delicious, naughty and garlicky fried seafood. A perfect combination with an ice cool San Mig after a long day in the sun.
Scallops were our next choice, and they came in a generous portion for the price – around 5 or 6 medium-sized steamed scallops, topped with a bit of glass noodle, PLENTY of garlic and spring onions. Another very garlicky dish, but very satisfying indeed. The scallops were perfectly cooked, not undercooked or rubbery. They were tender and soft, with a slight bite. The glass noodles, garlic and spring onions combined to give the dish a cool textural contrast – firm marine flesh, slippery and thin noodles, slightly crisp garlic and onions. The thing was covered in a garlicky cooking liquid which added even more of that slightly bitter, smokey tang to the dish.
And finally, some Fried Tung-Choi with Garlic. I don’t know why, we were all just kind of in the mood for garlicky stuff that night… This was not a huge disappointment, although it was not the healthy stir-fried greens I was waiting for. Fried watercress, completely coated in a thick, starchy garlic and chili sauce, with whole slices of fried garlic decorating the pile. The veg was a little goopy, a little overcooked and the sauce overwhelmed it a tad. It was packed with flavor though, heat from the chili and earthy, nutty bitterness from the garlic. Overall not good, but not bad.
Overall a night full of laughter, youthful exuberance and garlic. Thank God none of us had to kiss anyone that night.