Hong Kong: home of world's cheapest Michelin restaurants

After queuing on the street, diners are sat next to strangers in the cramped Hong Kong restaurant before rinsing their own cutlery.

Welcome to the world's cheapest Michelin-starred experience.

Ho Hung Kee (Ho Hung's restaurant) was first awarded a coveted star in 2011 and on any given day is packed with local and foreign diners ordering bowls of wonton or fried flat noodles with beef for around HK$35 -- less than US$5.

Wontons, a traditional dish served in Hong Kong and in China's southeastern province of Guangdong, are similar to dumplings but their skin uses less dough, into which succulent shrimp and pork servings are wrapped.

Like hundreds of other Hong Kong "tea restaurants" or "Cha chaan teng" in the Cantonese dialect, Ho Hung Kee also serves quick, simple dishes ranging from congee and fried rice to a selection of Western-style sandwiches.

Squeezing onto tables with strangers is a normal dining experience in the cramped restaurant that seats about 50, nestled between towers of retail in the teeming shopping district of Causeway Bay.

Chefs start from 7:00 am to batter shrimp and wrap wontons for the roughly 1,000 customers served daily at the family-run restaurant, which began life as a humble street stall in the 1940s before it opened up as a full shop in 1964.

Patty Ho, the daughter-in-law of the restaurant's founders and its current owner, said she has stuck to original recipes because she wants customers to experience a "traditional eating culture".

"More modern restaurants have already changed the culture of making wontons, where they only use shrimp, but we have continued to use our original recipe which includes pork, which preserves the meaty flavour," Ho told AFP.

She believes that staying true to tradition was one of the reasons Ho Hung Kee was awarded a star.

"They must have recognised our methods," she said of the anonymous Michelin inspectors. "The fact that such a local shop was awarded a Michelin star, it is a recognition of Hong Kong's dining culture."

Taiwanese diner Jerry Lin, 55, arrived at the restaurant early to avoid the lunchtime crowds.

"I have tried other Michelin restaurants in Shanghai, but this is a restaurant that is very accessible for normal people, we really like it," he said.

"The price is great for a Michelin-starred restaurant and the taste is really good," 45-year-old Riamida Ichsami from Indonesia said, while waiting outside Ho Hung Kee with her family five minutes after it opened.

Michelin guide's international director Michael Ellis said it was a surprise for diners to discover inexpensive starred restaurants in the Asian financial hub, which is better known for its courting of expensive luxury experiences.

"To have a one-star experience for around HK$50 is something unique to Hong Kong," Ellis told AFP. "You do have, at extremely affordable prices, just some absolutely stunning food.

"Obviously it's going to be cramped quarters, you're going to be waiting in line, you'll rinse your eating utensils with hot tea before you eat."

Ellis was speaking after Michelin awarded 10 new restaurants with a one-star rating in the fifth edition of its guide for Hong Kong and Macau for 2013, where the cachet of the star continues to carry allure for diners.

Ho Hung Kee, along with dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wan and Pang's Kitchen, a new addition to the list, make up "the least expensive, most affordable starred experience" in the world, Ellis said, with dishes for as little as HK$30 to HK$60.

Tim Ho Wan is famous for its steamed dumplings and its barbecue pork bun, all staple dim sum selections, while Pang's Kitchen serves home-style renditions of Cantonese cuisine with specialties including baked fish intestines in a clay pot and seasonal snake soup.

However, the guide is not without its critics, who question whether the most deserving eateries have been recognised or if the food quality of Hong Kong's cheaper restaurants can compare to ones in Europe despite the price difference.

"I've eaten at the one-star Benoit in Paris, and it's on another level, in terms of quality of food, service and ambience, to Tim Ho Wan," wrote the South China Morning Post's food and wine editor, Susan Jung, soon after the 2013 guide was launched in December.

The Michelin guide has for more than a century recommended restaurants throughout Europe and now covers 23 countries across three continents.

It gives one star for "a very good restaurant in its category", two for "excellent cooking, worth a detour", and the top three stars for "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey". Hong Kong has four three-star restaurants.

"After our restaurant got one Michelin star, we have seen a lot more people come in, not just people from Southeast Asia, but people from Europe and the US have also increased," Patty Ho said.

Ho Hung Kee has braved the city's notoriously high rents to open a second branch in a gleaming shopping mall to handle the influx of customers who discovered the restaurant through the guidebook. The new branch offers a wider selection but at the same price range.

"We hope that by increasing the selection, customers will spend more," she said.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Pacquiao pleads for Indonesia to spare death row Filipina
    Pacquiao pleads for Indonesia to spare death row Filipina

    World boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao took time out Monday from final preparations for his $400 million megafight with Floyd Mayweather to plead for the life of a Filipina on death row in Indonesia. Pacquiao, a national hero in the Philippines, added his voice to a chorus of global opposition led by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the executions of a group of eight foreign drug convicts, including compatriot Mary Jane Veloso. The eight-division world champion, who will face …

  • Halt Indonesia drug executions until graft claims probed: Australia
    Halt Indonesia drug executions until graft claims probed: Australia

    Australia urged Indonesia Monday to delay the execution of two men for drug offences until a corruption probe into their case is complete, after a report that judges sought tens of thousands of dollars in bribes. "Bali Nine" drug traffickers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan could face the firing squad within days, along with others from Brazil, Nigeria, the Philippines and an Indonesian prisoner. The Indonesian attorney-general's office said the executions would take place this week but did …

  • FordPH Launches the All-New Mustang
    FordPH Launches the All-New Mustang

    Ford Philippines launched the all-new Mustang in a rock concert held at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, last week .  The All-New Mustang is the sixth generation since Ford  launched the first model in April 17, 1964. “The all-new Mustang represents the very best of Ford and its arrival marks the latest chapter of the iconic muscle car’s rich legacy, crafted with a more contemporary look and feel.  With a history spanning more than 50 years, this iconic car is at the heart and soul of Ford and …

  • China maritime tensions dominate Southeast Asia summit
    China maritime tensions dominate Southeast Asia summit

    By Manuel Mogato and Praveen Menon KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Southeast Asian leaders edged closer to open criticism of China's land reclamation in the disputed South China Sea at a regional summit on Monday, as the Philippines drew the ire of Beijing which called its objections to the work "unreasonable". The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, which was supposed to showcase the 10-member bloc's progress towards economic integration, was overshadowed by the …

  • The ‘All You Need’ 2015 Isuzu D-MAX launched
    The ‘All You Need’ 2015 Isuzu D-MAX launched

    Isuzu Philippines Corporation (IPC) just recently introduced the 2015 Isuzu D-MAX pick-up truck at the Clark International Raceway to show that their pick-up model can conquer any kind of terrain.The high-end LS variant and standard LT 4x4 is now equipped with a more powerful engine, the 4JK1-TC (Hi) 2.5-liter engine which with Common Rail Direct Injection and an intercooled Variable Geometry System (VGS) turbocharger. IPC also introduced a new standard ride variant, the LT-X 4x2 manual …

  • Limited Edition Honda CR-V and Jazz now available
    Limited Edition Honda CR-V and Jazz now available

    If you’ve always wanted to be part of an exclusive group of car owners, now might be the time for you to consider getting a Honda CR-V or Jazz.  Honda Cars Philippines Inc. (HCPI) just came out with their limited edition All New Jazz and New CR-V. …

  • ToyotaPH hit its highest monthly sales last March
    ToyotaPH hit its highest monthly sales last March

    Toyota Motors Philippines hit its highest monthly sales to date last March, registering 10,237 units sold.  This recent CAMPI report puts Toyota’s market share at 43.5% last month. …

  • VolkswagenPH launches Child Safety Initiative
    VolkswagenPH launches Child Safety Initiative

    Volkswagen Philippines just  launched the VW Child Safety Initiative (CSI) campaign which aims to support child safety on Philippine roads at the just concluded Manila International Auto Show (MIAS). The World Health Organization’s road safety facts show about 1.24 million die each year globally as a result of vehicle related accidents. Child restraint systems like child seats and booster seats also reduce risk for children by about 70% for infants and upto 80% for small children. This …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options