As much as I enjoy a big American breakfast, or a breakfast burrito, or even an Irish breakfast, there is something about noodles for breakfast that I just love. When I was in Hong Kong in 2015 I found a couple of out-of-the-way vegetarian restaurants where I ate breakfast, and on a recent return trip I made sure to revisit them.
Fook Luk Sau is just a few minutes walk from the Central MTR station, but it feels a world away. It’s down towards the end of a narrow alley, and there is no English language menu. On my first visit I got some assistance from another customer, who helped me order some fried noodles. It was good, but I couldn’t help notice that the other customers were all eating bowls of noodle soup. I knew that if I ever returned to Fook Luk Sau I wanted to get that soup.
It was pouring rain the morning I arrived, and I was the only customer. The woman at the front took one look at me and shouted for someone in the kitchen to come out an help. A man emerged, looking confused, but he spoke English well and I was able to finally order the noodle soup. I even got the optional egg (it would have been vegan without it). The broth itself was a little bland, but with some soy and chili oil it really brightened up. There were big chunks of pressed tofu and mushrooms, as well as a couple of vegetables. While I was eating another customer came in and ordered — he got a different kind of noodle soup.
Three days later I was back for more. Again, the man had to come out from the kitchen to help me, and he seemed excited to see me. Unfortunately, he said, all they had that day were rice noodle — was that ok? Fine with me, I said. My bowl this time had a lot more veggies in it, and some fake meat this time. Then the man asked me if I liked rabbit. “Rabbit?” I said. He said he didn’t remember the English word, but he pointed at an object in my bowl. “Ah.. radish,” I said. Yes, that was it, said the man. He brought out some fried radish cake and asked me if I wanted some. Of course I did. They were great — crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and packed full of flavor.
I chatted more with the man, and let him know I had been there three years before. He told the woman up front that, and they had a good laugh about it. Oh, did I mention that breakfast (including tea) was roughly US$4?
Po Lin Yuen Vegetarian is even farther out of the way. In addition to the restaurant they have a ton of vegetarian dim sum that you can take out. On my previous visit I got some rice rolls with soy sauce, and they were good — but not noodle soup good. Just like at Fook Luk Sau I was the only customer when I got there. Unlike there, however, they have an English language menu. For roughly US$3 you can get the rice rolls, or for a little more you can get other things. I pointed to something called “jai lo mei”, not knowing what it was, only knowing that it was served with noodles in soup. I was asked if I wanted rice noodles or “yellow” noodles (I went with yellow). What came out was a plate heaped with various fake meats, plus an enormous bowl of noodle soup. Again, the broth was a little bland but there were sauces to add. I also dragged some of the fake meats through the broth as I ate, so their sauces were added to the bowl as well.
I went back for a second visit as well, and was asked if I wanted the same thing as last time. I got the same thing, only with the rice noodles. It was good, but the yellow noodles were better. I also got a couple of steamed buns to go, both savory. Once had a tasty mix of mushrooms and noodles, the other had a vegetarian char siu filling. Cheap and tasty, but I preferred the noodle soup.
As much as I like seeking out new places I’m glad I took the time to revisit these two restaurants. And making repeat visits within the week I was there meant that I got to make a more personal connection with the people working there. If I’m ever back in Hong Kong I want to go back to both restaurants. If for no other reason, then to make the couple at Fook Luk Sau laugh again.
Fook Luk Sau — 8 Tit Hong Ln, Central
Po Lin Yuen Vegetarian — 308 Queen's Road West, Sai Ying Pun