It sucks when winter each year keeps getting abnormally warmer. When chilly temperatures descend and I can finally bask in wintry vibes, my thought turns to eating piping-hot claypot rice, and Good Taste Kitchen (also known as Sheung Hei) in Kennedy Town is on my radar. To many Hong Kongers, the ultimate comfort food to chase away winter’s chill comes from sizzling claypot rice.
One rainy, cold evening before Winter Solstice, Janis and I squeezed into a queue at the narrow doorway of Good Taste Kitchen (at least we were lucky to snatch one stool to share during our wait). The no-frills neighbourhood favourite has become notable for its claypot rice and dim sum, with increased popularity as a result of being named a Michelin Bib Gourmand eatery for four consecutive years since 2018.
The entrance was guarded by a woman who was in charge of giving out queue numbers to the eager crowd, occasionally helping to serve food fresh out of the kitchen. No estimated wait time was announced, but everyone was patiently anticipating a taste of the eatery’s buzzed-about claypot rice.
After approximately one hour, we were beckoned to claim our seats. The tables around us could be seen enjoying at least one or two claypot rice along with other dishes. My excitement was immediately heightened.
“A restaurant needs to have soul, and the soul of my restaurant is claypot,” owner Lam Wing Hong once declared decisively. The menu at Good Taste Kitchen is taken over by more than 30 varieties of claypot rice, ranging from the classic combo of Chinese sausage and cured meat to offerings that are rarely found at other establishments such as steamed meat patty with dried shrimp and steamed meat patty with salted threadfin. Lam also ensures that quality ingredients are guaranteed to provide diners with quality flavours, thanks to his family’s decades-old dried seafood business.
While cooked-to-order claypot rice usually takes about 20 minutes to prepare, our dinner began with a hot casserole of braised mixed vegetables with glass noodles, mushrooms, black fungus and dried shrimp ($82). To many Cantonese people, a delectable bowl of soup or soup-based dish renders a warm feeling, like being wrapped in a comfy blanket. The soft vegetables soaked in the MSG-free broth with dried shrimp add a nice umami edge to the casserole, making it a cosy, hearty delight.
“Be cautious!” A server’s holler signalled the arrival of our sizzling claypot rice. The moment we opened the lids of our claypots, we were greeted by an enticing, homey smell of deliciousness. I drizzled my casserole with the accompanying plate of light soy sauce, then covered the lid again for about 30 seconds, allowing the rice and ingredients to breath in extra flavour. Janis, on the other hand, started mixing with a metal spoon and scraping the crispy rice off the bottom of the pot. The fragrance of our dishes diffused slowly into the air.
The chicken with lap mei claypot rice ($90), which includes Chinese pork sausage, duck liver sausage and cured pork, is a scrumptious, meat-centric fare. The tenderness of the chicken is retained, with the skin remaining a silky texture. Its aroma is heightened after being glazed with Good Taste’s house-made soy sauce. I grinned with the moment-to-moment pleasure of eating one spoonful of fragrant, al-dente rice with a bite of lap cheong, or Chinese sausage. To Lam’s credit, the smoky, buttery duck liver sausage with its noticeable grain alcohol flavour exerted the biggest taste satisfaction for me. This nourishing claypot rice truly warmed me up from the inside out.
Good Taste Kitchen prides itself on preparing claypot rice with a volcanic rock grill, rather than the traditional method of cooking over a charcoal fire or gas stove, to achieve a better layer of caramelised rice crust. The crackling sound of the brown, charred crust between my teeth took me back to my childhood. I remember my sister and I used to fight spoons over the crispy rice at the bottom of the pot.
The juicy beef with lap mei claypot rice ($90) is another indulgent dish with rounded flavours. Lam’s vow to use quality ingredients is justified here.
The staff members were working tirelessly to serve a full house of patrons, and we noticed that stacks of bamboo baskets were being delivered to different tables. Good Taste Kitchen also serves fresh, handmade dim sum for those who crave it day or night. We ordered our favourite, steamed chicken feet with black beans ($20); we just love the sweet and spicy sauce braised over the tiny, gelatinous bones.
Another item I couldn’t resist checking off on the menu was the deep-fried dace fish balls with clam sauce ($25), a local delicacy from my ancestral home. I’ve tried this dish at other restaurants where the price was almost double, but the taste wasn’t solid. The dace fish paste is deep-fried to a golden brown, maintaining a sweet flavour and firm texture. I couldn’t find one single fish bone, and I can almost guarantee that even my grandma would have enjoyed this seafood treat, giving it a big thumb up.
With our tummies filled contentedly, we nearly forgot about the cold weather outside as we put down our chopsticks. The end benefits of this comforting meal had certainly outweighed the cost of our waiting time. Good Taste Kitchen might only have a modest-looking interior, but they would rather endeavour to see their customers finishing their food with happiness. Also, they promise no service charge is added, and you just need to prepare enough cash when you come to visit or have your Octopus card topped up. As we walked out of the restaurant, the line was still there, and I concluded that Good Taste Kitchen is not just hype.
25 North Street, Kennedy Town, 2819 6190 (open daily, 5am–3:30pm and 6–11pm)
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