It's a long time since I've eaten at one of the Noodle Stalls of Spring Garden Lane, on Hong Kong Island, but the experience is one I will treasure all my life.The street food stalls are what the Cantonese people call 'Dai Pai Dong', and they are wooden food stalls where you sit and eat at a raised bench, rather than a table and chair.The food stalls are painted green and have a tin roof to keep off the tropical sun and the rain. They are built on four small wheels, because some past regulation must have said they have to be mobile. However, the wheels are set firmly into a block of concrete, so they can't go anywhere.
And the food stalls have electric power connected to them permanently, and even a telephone to take orders.The Chinese cook creates everything in a giant-sized boiling pot in the center of the food stall, with a roaring kerosine burner underneath. He tosses in the indredients and stirs it with a wire scoop and 2-foot long cook's chop sticks. Then he ladles out the noodles and wuntun into the large soup bowl placed in front of you.
My favorite food there was wun tun mein, a large steaming bowl of noodle soup containing Chinese Wun Tun - steamed dumplings contining chopped shrimp or beef.You can even tell the cook what types of noodles you want; just point. The choice usully includes bright yellow egg noodles, white vermicelli super-fine rice noodles, brown thick wheat noodles or even white hor fun noodles (thick strips of hand-sliced rice pasta).
Living there as a local Gwai Lo (meaning 'Foreign Devil') for many years, I was reluctant to eat at a Dai Pai Dong for a long time. They looked so crude. But once I overcame my initial unease, I discovered the food was fantastic and cheap, and their hygene was tip-top as well.You can always ask the cook to rinse your bowl and chopsticks in boiling water for you before you eat. They do it all the time for people and they won't take offense.
Oh, you can use chopsticks, can't you? They won't have any knives and forks. I suggest you learn to use chopsticks first, before you try a street noodle stall.If you just can't make it to Hong Kong for the experience, there are Asian food stalls all around the Far East, in Singapore and Malaysia as well. But you really should give it a try somewhere. You'll be glad you did!..David Harvey spent half his life in Hong Kong before moving to Australia. He now publishes web sites, and he still adores Chinese food. More info at Enjoy China.
By: David Harvey