July 12, 2011

The last sandwich

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I first came across Yue Hing (裕興大排檔) while trawling through KC's blog some time ago.  As it happens to be just a few steps away from my office, I figured I'd give it a try.  Being one of the very few true dai pai dongs (大排檔) left in Hong Kong - let alone in Central - it was definitely pretty unique.

I went and had breakfast there the very next morning after KC's post, and ordered exactly what KC wrote about - the spam and egg sandwich (餐蛋治).  I was totally amazed at how delicious it was.  Instead of the usual deal with separate egg and spam bits, the "omelet" was made together with pieces of spam and cabbage.  The omelet was lightly browned, and adding cabbage was a surprising but nice touch.  Finally, the boss added a peanut butter and condensed milk mixture as the sauce.  Now, I'm used to having peanut butter and condensed milk on toast (奶醬多), but I never figured the sweet and savory combination would work.  It did... wonderfully.

But don't expect quick service here.  Everything is made to order, and there are only 2 gas hobs.  But I don't mind, as I'm a firm believer in those who take their sweet time to make sure things are done right.  The team of father, son and daughter-in-law definitely deliver.

A few days later I tried going for late lunch.  I arrived at 1:55pm, only to be shooed away by the father.  Back then they stopped serving at 2pm, and arriving 5 minutes before was simply too late.  No, they don't do take-outs, so I would simply have to return another day at an earlier time.  I did, many times.  I love the noodles at lunch, and I've even had the sandwich served with a Thai sweet chilli sauce instead of the peanut butter... which also works extremely well.  I've introduced quite a few friends to this establishment, all of whom have returned on their own.

Not long after I started going there, the son informed me that they were going to be closed for 3 months over the summer.  Ever the clueless guy, I thought these guys had it so good that they were taking a three-month vacation.  It was only a week after that I realized that the entire section of dai pai dongs at the end of Stanley Street had been torn down, and a government-led "renovation" was being done.

The three month renovation, naturally, turned out to be much longer.  What do you expect for a government project?!  The stalls finally re-opened in early November, all with brand spanking new awnings, tables and stools.  The tables and laminated menus were sponsored by my friends at the WOM Guide, with the trademark colors and lip-licking logos.

Two days before my scheduled departure from Hong Kong, and I decided I needed to have one last sandwich.  I ordered my usual breakfast, without browning the toast, and enjoyed it while listening to Front 242's Headhunter.

The son came over to chat with me.  He remembered that I used to come to breakfast with a colleague, and inquired regarding his whereabouts as I've been coming alone these days. He also thanked me for supporting them, as I had returned almost immediately after the renovation was done.  I find it amazing that he ever remembers all of this, given the number of people he serves daily.

The father came and sat down next to me, and asked me what I thought of my iced coffee this morning.  I gave him the honest answer, and told him that I thought it was a little diluted.  He answered sheepishly that he was feeling a little lazy, and didn't bother to mix his two pots.  Apparently he brews two different pots of coffee - the lighter pot is more fragrant, while the stronger pot gives it more ooomph.  Normally he serves a blend of the two to give his customers the best combination, but not this morning.  Once again I am amazed, at the pride the old man takes in making a simple drink that people like me take for granted.

As I got up and left, I told them that I was moving out of Hong Kong, but I just had to come back for one last time.  They wished me well, and hoped that they'll see me again.  We will meet again one day, my friends...


Tom said...

Great post - thanks for putting down a bit of the history and vintage behind the stall that my non Cantonese eating ways can't access.

That street is one of my favourite in the whole of HK. That place for breakfast and then the dpd at night.


Peech said...

Thanks, Tom. Hope you enjoy your last few days in HK!


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