Travel Strategy: Festival/Seasonal Celebration in Hong Kong Ocean Park

148658_1492059829681_5414362_nI’m a fan of any theme parks, Disneyland, Universal Studio, pop-up carnival… I do influenced by the fun and care-free atmosphere, they make me feel young(er) again. Hong Kong Ocean Park is the one and only local theme park that like no others, it’s totally  worth a visit for whom ever planning a trip to Hong Kong. Ocean Park is a theme park locate at the Southern district in Hong Kong, with two main sites, one uphill as The Summit and one at the bottom named The Waterfront.

Ocean Park is basically divided into two theme, The Waterfront is popular among family visitors that filled with animals, including a huge and beautiful aquarium with all kinds of marine species like sharks and tropical fishes and an animal park with 4 China’s exclusive species Panda and all kinds of birds; The Summit is perfect for those who is bold and looking for adrenalin rise, it’s full of thrilling rides, 3 roller coasters, turbo drops, water rides, 360 degree swings…and much more! So there’s always a spots in the Ocean Park that suit everyone’s taste.

The permanent stuffs in the park are great enough for a enjoyable visit. However, Ocean Park has much more to offer while it’s come to special theme during festival or seasonal holidays. Here are some highlights themes you might consider in your next visit or even revisiting it:

Halloween Bash (mid Sep-31st Oct)

Tired of dressing up like an armature and doing pub crawl, or looking for some real trilling experience in Halloween? Plan a visit in Halloween. Ocean Park Halloween Bash is the most famous event in the year to all locals. It had already been holding for the past 15 years and remain one of the most popular time of the year.

The park will extend its opening hours from 6 to midnight and turned into a haunted park. Some of the venue will turn into haunted house in the evening, and each year the will have different trending themes, for example in 2015 there’s one with zombie like the Walking Dead and one with Vampires. Personally I love those haunted house with local themes that related to local ghost stories that dedicated to Hong Kong’s myth, for example decorated like an old haunted hosing estate or high school that make it extra scary when we can be related to the environment. Be careful when those actors/actresses scare you out along the side!

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Biggest show in Halloween Bash! Must see especially the last show on 31st Oct

The Halloween Bash is very entertaining indeed, you can interact with performers dressed up as all kind of ghost wandering in the park(Trust me, the ghost are much more scarier than you can imagine, with professional f make up and all the bloody disgusting stuffs will creep you out!) or go to the special shows in different corners. With lots of the most talented contracted performers, dancers recruited for Halloween, the shows in Ocean Park are surprisingly amazing. I remember the time they have a band gig called ‘Rock in Hell’ and dancing with all the ghosts in the midnight, that’s what I call a proper Halloween!

Summer Splash (July-Aug)

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Bubble bath tube !

Want something alternative to go apart from the beach or wanted to be soaking wet in the summer? Then come to visit Ocean Park in the summer holiday! There’re pop-up games for summer time, there used to be like a water maze, water fight or a 20m slides that make sure you will get wet in the hot weather! The park even increase the water amount in some of the water rides that make sure everyone get wet once again. Don’t forget to enjoy the special shows for the Summer Splash like the diving performance or music with splash!

*There’s lockers for putting belongings but if you want to save money, just bring come with flip flops, a water proof bag for your electronic gadgets and sets of cloths for change.

Christmas Sensation (whole Dec)

60997_10200357029071575_1368209386_nChristmas to Hong Kongnese is more like a celebration for young adult than a family fest. We celebrate with going out for western meal or watching special lighting decorations on those skyscrapers along Victoria Harbour.

The Christmas edition in Ocean Park is indeed very festive! The park will be refurnished like a winter wonderland, with Santa’s house you can meet and greet the old man and his elves, special rides and performances and artificial snow once in an hour! Well, seeing snow is especially exciting for local when Hong Kong never snow. There’s lighting ceremony in the park is extremely beautiful!

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Simple Recipe: Inspirations of Alternative Chinese Mains in 30 Minutes

IMAG1934Rice is an essential element in Chinese dinning however, I’m not much of a rice person. Since my family is not a very traditional one, they won’t force me to have rice in every meal, so I prefer having mains with very small portion or even without rice. After I’ve been studying aboard, it became even harder to cook the right proportion of rice that I always ended up eating the same pot for few days. So here are some inspirations mains that sorted a meal for one:

Tiger Prawn in Two Ways (Steamed with shredded garlic and in tomato stew)

I’m a seafood lover, prawns, crab, fish, oyster…are all my  favourite. I found that the way of cooking seafood had much more variety in Asia than in the west, and here are two of my favourite ways to handle a whole tiger prawn (from head to tail!):

Ingredients:

1/2 kg whole prawn

Tomato stew:

2 tomatoes

ketchup

sugar and salt

chopped garlic

Steam with garlic:

shredded garlic

2 t/s rice wine/white wine

salt and black pepper

Preparation: Clean the prawn and leave the shell on, put them into a cold salted water for 10 minutes that will make the  prawn more chewy textured

How to(tomato stew):

  1. Pan fried the half of the chopped garlic with butter. Then add half of the prawn in. Take them out when you see the prawn started to change into orange colour for later.
  2. Added the tomato in, flavouring with ketchup, salt and sugar, taste it for your own preference. Pour bit of boiled water till the sauce became thicker.
  3. Add the prawn in and stir until they are wrapped in sauce and fully cooked.

How to(steam prawn):

  1. Prepare a pot of boiling water and a metal tray that higher than the water level.
  2. Place the rest of the prawn on a plate and topped with shredded garlic, salt and pepper. Evenly pour the wine on the prawn.
  3. Place the plate on the metal tray and cover the pot with it lid (this method is call water steaming, that apply to many other Chinese dishes as well).
  4. Steam around 7-10 minutes until cooked (varies with prawn size) and dip with soya sauce.

Homemade Dumpling

IMAG1932Alternative choice of nutritious meal, with starch, meat and vegetable. Homemade one is much cheaper and tastier than those you buy from any Chinese supermarket, simply frozen and save for the next meal when you fancy some dumplings!

 Ingredients:

300g minced pork

1 pack of Chinese dumpling pastry (30 slices in white colour)

1 Pak choi (large) or 4 (small)

plain flour

How to:

  1. Marinated the minced pork for 10-15 minutes How to marinate*
  2. Spraying some plain flour on a plate that make the pastry dry and separated from each other.
  3. Chopped the pak choi into fine pieces and mix well with the minced pork.
  4. Take out a 10p coin sized portion of meat filling and placed it in the middle of the round pastry.
  5. Folded it halved, stick the edge of the pastry with water and flour. Making small fold along sides bit by bit to seal the dumpling.
  6. Put the dumplings into a boiling pot of water until they all float. Serve them will you favourite sauce!

Dip suggestions:

– soya sauce with fresh chopped chilli

– soya sauce with sesame oil and vinegar

– soya sauce, sesame paste, vinegar and chilli oil

Special Congee in Winter Melon Broth

Serving rice in soup is perfect for those day that you don’t fill like eating a lot and suitable for dieting. Winter melon is summer seasonal vegetable that can cool down your inner body heat.

Ingredients:

1 slice of winter melon (3-4cm thick, can be found in any Chinese supermarket)

1 portion of boiled rice

1 cube of chicken cube

Any other ingredients you want, ham, chicken slices, mushroom, mixed seafood…

How to:

  1. Pealed the skin of the winter melon and chopped it into 2cm cube size. Chopped any other ingredients you want
  2. Add the chicken cube to a boiled pot of water and the melon in and cover with lid then boiling it for 10-15 minutes. Added other ingredients.
  3. Pour the soup into the rice bowl and it’s done!

Simple Recipe Part 1: Quick and Tasty Hong Kong Dishes you can Sorted in 30 Minutes

IMAG1274My cooking skills had improved a lot since I studied aboard, since I’m totally dependent on my own now. Eating out in London is a quite pricey for me, I prefer cooking myself in order to save up and be healthier. While I got used to the busy, efficient lifestyle in Hong Kong, long preparation for a meal like marinating, baking really bother me, so usually my meals can be sorted with the simplest ingredients, nearly no preparation time and cooked in less than 30 minutes. If you are looking for a quick meal for 1-2 portions like me, here are few easy and still, tasty recipe inspired by homemade Hong Kong dishes:

*Remark: Marinate beef, pork or chicken with soya sauce, salt, sugar and black pepper is our basic preparation for meat. This is a simple but incredibly useful tip to bring up the taste of any dishes.

Baked Rice with Pork Chop in Hong Kong Style

Baked rice is a very signature dish for Hong Konese ‘Local Tea House’, kind of a east meet west fusion dish and taste extremely satisfying!

 Ingredients:

2 pork chop steak

2 tomatoes

2 portion of rice (may varies)

1-2 eggs

1 bottle of tomato pasta sauce

Cheese

How to:

  1. Marinate the pork steak for 15-20 minutes, pan fry it for use later.
  2. Fry the steamed rice with eggs. (even better with leftover/refrigerated rice, the less water in it, the easier to fry!)
  3. Place the egg fried rice at the bottom of a oven plate, topped with pork chops then tomato pasta sauce. Add as much vegetable and cheese as you want!
  4. Pre heat the oven, but the plate in and bake for 15 minutes/ the sauce dried up.

Braised Pork Belly

IMG-20140123-WA0007When I cooked this dish for my westerner flatmate they all don’t believe how easy and tasty the dish is simply made with 3 ingredients.

 Ingredients:

200g pork belly

Soya sauce

5-8 Crystal sugar cube (this sugar is best for braise dish)

Additional flavouring:

-White/black pepper

-seven spicy powder

-deep fried onion

-dark soya sauce

How to:

  1. Put the pork belly in a pot of boiling water for few minutes till the surface is slightly cooked. Diced it into small pieces around 1cm cube.
  2. Hot a pot with oil, fry the diced pork belly. Add 1:1 ratio of soya sauce to water into the pot. Turn it to low heat after boiling.
  3. Add the crystal sugar cube, constantly taste the sauce and varies the sweet or salty level with sugar or salt. Gently stir it or with additional flavour and colouring with dark soya sauce .
  4. Braise for another 20-30 minutes till the sauce is thicken and wrapped around each pork belly cube.

      5. Serve it with plain noodle/steaming rice/ hot steam rice!

Tomato Soup with Homemade Meatball

Ingredients:

4 tomatoes

2 potatoes

1 carrot

1 onion

150g minced pork

Meatballs preparation:

  1. Marinate the minced pork* for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Mix well the minced pork with strength like crushing a flour dough, till it became a meat platter with thick texture.
  3. Take a portion out and rounded it like a ping-pong size.

How to:

  1. Quartered the tomatoes, chop the other vegetable.
  2. Pour a t/s oil into a pot, slightly stir fry the tomatoes. This will get the taste of it into the soup easier
  3. Put all the vegetable to a pot of water till boiling, then add the meatball in.
  4. Crush the tomatoes. Wait till the soup changed into slightly orange colour and the vegetable are fully cooked. Sever we a pin of salt and it’s done!

 

Shopping in Style: 5 Picks of Vintage/ Flea Market Around the World

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Everyone have their own favourite golden era, mine is the 80s with all the dramatic hair and fashion. Walking through vintage market it’s like an alternative way to see their history through fashion and antique that represent certain eras of different countries. I love collecting second hand fashion and gadgets that so unique and real bargain! Here are my few picks of budgeted vintage market:

#1 Bricklane Market, London

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Mural with constantly changing graffiti.

Basically heaven for vintage lover like me! The area is filled with East London vintage vibes, with cheap vintage clothing, eyes catching graffiti and full of street food! Bricklane is my favourite area in the entire London and may find me wondering around with handful of bags and food on Sunday. The market is full of second hand cameras, antique, furniture and much more to offer.

IMAG5442Oversized jackets, cardigan sweaters, high waist denim jeans,? You can find everything to complete your look from 20s to 00s. With vintage chain shop like Rokit and Beyond Retro, you can find high quality second hands in bargain! Or search  through a rank all for 5 quid on the street stores, here is no pressure to your wallet!

The area is open daily however, the best visit to Bricklane is on Sunday. On Sunday, it’s filled with streets of food carts, a whole floor of pop up shops, and street performers just around each corner! Don’t forget to try out the best salted beef bagel!

#2 Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen, Paris

The largest flea market in Paris, open on the weekend. The market started with ordinary flea market stuff like retails clothing or tourists goods. Vintage gems are located at the end of the market, filled with vinyl records shops, second hand fashion, antique, and lots of amazing interior stores.

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Amazing modernism interior decorations on the road.

The shops here are full characters, like each boutique is specified in its own era or style. Each and every little interior store is a complete decorated room with its own theme. A laidback atmosphere is in the area, you can certainly enjoy a chilling Parisian afternoon there.

#3 Brooklyn Flea, New York

My host in New York offered to take me to breakfast and the flea market on a Sunday morning. I had the best avocado toast ever in my life!

The market is kind of hard to find in the middle of the community but it worth visiting if you’re a antique or furniture fan. The market has lots of old furniture and I was addicted to an old greenish wooden chair. There are many fascinating little gadgets like metal toys or military pledges. Apart from vintage stuff, you can find some local artists or designers stores as well. Tired after a long shipping day? Simply grab a beer next door and meet some cool people.

#4 Ap Liu Street, Hong Kong

Flea market in Hong Kong is popular for its cheap price and variety. These markets are differ from the western one, most of them are selling daily goods instead of second hand stuff which people consider those may bring bad luck.

Ap Liu Street is located at Sham Shui Po district, was one of the old public estate area in Hong Kong, the lower living standard explained the low pricing of goods in the area. Ap Liu Street aimed selling electronic gadgets, from phone case, machine pieces to devices repairing services. There are many shops for fabric and clothing export and retail as well. Not to mention you will end up in a food coma after having cheap and tasty street food along the market.

#5 Sofo, Stockholm

Walk pass the Old Town in Stockholm will enter the artistic area Gamla Stan. Alternatives of northern Europe interior, you can find best of both from aged and classy to modern and posh. Looking for high fashion? Then you may find some recycled vintage garment with designer retouches.

If you are a photographer or simply looking for some cool museum to visit then walk along the sea side of Gamla Stan. Beside a beautiful view over Stockholm skyline you will find Fotografiska, a contemporary photography museum showing some of the most significant photographer’s work of the century.

Chinese New Year Special Edition: Festivals in China

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Chinese New Year celebration taken in China Town, London

Happy New Year Everyone! Today is the 2nd day of Chinese New Year on the year of monkey. We have totally different festivals than in western countries and many people are curious about it so I think it would be nice to list out and explain some of the festivals. The date of the festival is conducted in the Luna Calendar that might varies from the western calendar. Let’s get some festive vibes started!

Chinese New Year, 1st day of the Luna Calendar, in February

Chinese New Year is probably the most important festival in China, when the whole family have to gather around and celebrate, just like Christmas in western countries. CNY is a period overlapping the New Year.

Since Chinese are cautious about idea of Luck so there’s a lot of interesting traditions that need to be followed. For example, we have to clean our house before new year eve and all the dirt have to swipe out of the house since it symbolizing all the bad luck are out. And we have to wear new cloths and red colored underwear symbolizing a new start with good luck to the bottom!

On new year day, we have to visit different relative, according to our generations, the youngest to meet the oldest. We have to propose greetings for good lucks like 心想事成 means things come as you wish or 龍馬精神 mean being energetic for a whole year!

Food are really important in every festivals in China, New year food are what we call symbolic dishes, whether they look or named after luck.

端午節 Dragon Boat Festival, in June

Dragon-Boat-Festival-03_tourismboardDragon Boat festival is another big festival in China, it’s a festival for getting rid of the dirty sprite in the house and commemorates the death of the good hearted poet and minister QuYuan.

The most popular activity is Dragon Boat riding, a ceremony for scaring out the bad luck and sprit. The long narrow boat itself is decorated like a dragon, with head and tail, ride by around 22 panderers 2 by 2 and a drummer in front as controlling the tempo. 粽Zong is a sticky rice with different fillings wrapped with bamboo leaf, the traditional food for dragon boat festival, serve with steaming or boiling it. The myth behind Zong is by throwing them into the river in order to prevent fishes or creatures eating the body of QuYuan.

 

盂蘭節Ghost Festival, in August

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Theater for ghost

It’s a very special festival the specialized for passes away sprits according to Buddhist belief. Chinese believed in ghost that were trapped in Chinese hell and in 14th June, the door of hell will be opened once a year. Family will be doing ceremony for their ancestors to return home, preparing meals and burning paper goods like food, cars or even servant for them to enjoy in afterlife. Religious master will ceremony for wandering ghost to get into better place and Chinese theater will be performing outdoor for entertaining the ghosts as well.

There’s certainly things that we can’t say that day like can’t say the word ‘ghost’ directly when avoiding to bump into them or any bad luck.

中秋節Mid- Autumn Festival, in September

Mid-Autumn Festival is another most important festival in China. It’s obviously a festival the middle of autumn, celebrating the great amount of harvest of the year hard work when China was supported by agriculture. The full moon in that time also symbolizing the united of the family.

Moon cake is a tasty traditional sweet pastry for Mid-Autumn Festival, which is filled with lotus seed paste crust and contain yolks from salted duck eggs. After the gathering dinner, family will go out for a walk or night picnic under the full moon and ever with seasonal fruits and snacks and kids will play with lanterns.

Hong Kongese Foodie Part 2: Hidden Locations where you Find Unexpected Food

IMAG1793It’s interesting that when talking to people who have been to Hong Kong, they’ve missed out the food that I found much more representative as Hong Kong dishes. Then I realized that the reason of that is because we already get used to our food for daily life that we are no longer surprise by where and what food we have. The Chinese idioms民以食為天 means Food is as important as the empire, indicated how food are crucial in our culture. Influenced by that concept and food are simply everywhere in Hong Kong. Here are some amazing food/dishes that you never notice or don’t make sense that exist in some hidden locations:

1. 西餐廳 Old Steak House

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Mixed Steak on Iron Plate: Pork and chicken steak, bacon and sausages with black pepper sauce over spaghetti.

It sound a bit weird that I’m recommending western restaurant, but this is not referring to all western restaurant but the old tradition steak house started in the 80s. Food provided are westernized Hong Kong style. If you are looking for a satisfying and budget meat feast, old steak house is perfect for you! Start with a warm fluffy bread with butter, chose from cream soup or tomato soup, main course as a large portion of different meat with sides of chips or rice or spaghetti, and with a standard drink for around HKD 100? There’s nothing to complain about.

Alternatively, you must try the baked rice! It’s a Hong Kong invented western dish as well. With egg fired rice as the base, topped with meat or fish and choices of sauces and baked with slices of cheese. Taste phenomenal!

2. 燒臘 Hong Kong Style Roasting and Salted Dried meat

燒臘actually means two different way of cooking: roasted and salt dried. Visitors maybe more familiar with the roasted one like Cha Siu (pork roasted in honey sauce), Siu Yuk (pork belly) or roasted duck and chicken. However, I think it’s a shame to miss out the second way of salt dried meat.

臘味Lap Mei is traditional Chinese food, pickled meat like duck or pork with salt and sundried it as a way to preserver meat till winter or festive food for Chinese New Year. My favorite one is Lap Mei is dried pork sausage. We usually steam them on a bed of rice in a clay pot. Eat with sweet soya sauce and those slightly burnt rice at the bottom is the highlight.

3. In any Local Mall

There are many large shopping mall in Hong Kong but I prefer the small and local one, where you can find small independent shops and restaurant with interesting stuff. These mall are usually located a short buildings in some older districts like Mong Kwok or Shum Shui Po where rent are lower. My mom used to work in one of these mall in Tsuen Wan. There are lots of small food stalls or restaurants that food can be surprisingly good since they have time and dedications running a small business. Name any and you can find in just one mall: food cart, Japanese, western café, fresh juice…

4. 糖水店 Sweet Soup Place

There’s places specialized in dessert. Dessert places are where we hang out after a meal instead of bars or pubs. Dessert places in Hong Kong is quiet unique, they offer traditional Chinese sweet soup like sesame porridge, red bean soup; western fusion like sundaes or purple rice cream brulee and our own invention like cotton ice cream or fruit bowl with herb jelly (much more that I can’t explain properly!). But I assure you that will be a great finish touch of a meal and decent place for gossiping!

Hong Kongese Foodie Part 1: Michelin Guide from a Local

IMAG3706What I miss the most of Hong Kong while studying aboard? Apart from my families and friends I’d say it’s the food. Michelin Guide maybe a standard toward fine dining or cuisine in Paris or NYC, but it can’t beat a food map from the local Hong Kongese. Traditional Hong Kong food is unique, we combined Chinese and western dishes and eventually make them best of both world, for example eliminated the heavy spice in Chinese dishes and improved the cooking method of western dishes. Here are some food/dishes that visitors always missed out because they are never included in a guide book.

*I’ll try my best to translate the place or the dishes in English since words in Cantonese is really difficult and specific to explain.

1. 茶餐廳 Local Tea House

Ok, you may heart of it from the guide book and must be a list of chained Local Tea House. Tea house was and never should be running in chains so I’m not talking about THE tea house but any general one. Tea house was aimed to provide quick and budget meal for working class in the pass, so if you want to try the authentic experience go to the one look pretty dim and not the best cleanness, or simply the one in a public housing estate. Beware that you may have to share a table with strangers!

Must try:

-蛋治 Scrambled Egg Sandwich

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I’m an egg freak. That’s one of my favorite breakfasts in Hong Kong. We never serve cold sandwich. Local tea house makes the best smooth and juicy scrambled egg, usually with slice of ham or our salted beef in between of two sliced of soft bread.

-常餐 Set Meal + Milk Tea/Lemon Tea

Set meal is very popular since you don’t have to decide what to eat among a massive menu of great choices. It’s usually a snacks with noodle as main come along with a drink.

Milk tea and lemon tea in local tea house are a highlight. When I’m in London, I’m pissed off every time I was offered with ‘milk tea’, that’s not even a proper one! Milk tea in Hong Kong are smooth in texture and rich in the taste of tea, both hot and iced worth a try. Iced lemon tea is my favorite.

-碟頭飯 Rice bowl serve in a plate

This is some really local thing. 碟頭飯mean everything sever in a plate for one person. It’s quick and cheap, just 5 minute you can have a full meal served, best for students and working class to get their lunch sorted. There are variety of dishes to chose from, from main course with boiled rice to fried rice or noodle, cook once you order in a massive wok and present piping hot!

2. 西餅店 Hong Kong Bakery

(the words literally mean western cake shop, but I’ve never seen that kind of bread in any western countries tho)

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From the left: Mexican Bun, Fresh cream shell, Danish roll and cocktail bun. HKD 50 for 3 portions!

My second favorite breakfast and best snacks for tea time or in between meal. Every times I can’t resist the heavenly smell from the bread, there’s always one around the corner in my high school and the biking wave is at 3pm, the time we are out from class! The more the tradition one, more cheaper and better.

My favorite bread is Pineapple Bun, named after its crispy surface like a pineapple. The advance way of eating it is severing it hot with a thick slice of cold butter, simply speechless! My second pick would be Cocktail bun(ok I don’t understand how come of its name), anyway, it’s a fluffy bun stuffed with sugary shredded coconut.

In local bakery, they make cake as well, that really differ from the western one. We don’t make cake with pie base or chesses something like that but with fresh cream, mosses and fluffy cake base. They are all cut into a mouthful rectangular shape that you can share and try of another taste.

3. 粥店Congee Shop

IMAG4902Congee is a smooth rice porridge and a traditional dish from China good for those who suffer from cold or stomach. Hong Kongese always wanting something so efficient so we invented生滾粥, with a huge pot of plain congee base that prepared in the early morning like 4am, adding the ingredient according to order. Most common ingredient is loin pork with thousand year egg, chicken, Cup Dai (mixture of everything), and my favorite crab congee.

Congee always serve with sides like stir fried noodle or rice noodle in soya sauce, 油器Yau Hei (Deep fried favored flour like Spanish churros) and steam rice cake. It’s a really cheap thing to eat and number or these shop are constantly decreasing since it’s a dish that require dedications and care.