Written by Chris Dwyer, Hong Kong-based restaurant, food and travel writer. For more, follow him on Twitter at @chrismdwyer and check out his website at www.finefooddude.com
In the trailer for his forthcoming Parts Unknown show from Shanghai, brilliant television farcically left to fall off the network by CNN International, Bourdain performs a gentle takedown of the word ‘foodie’. “They talk about foodies, now what the hell does that mean? By current definition, as I understand it, that means just about every Chinese person I ever laid eyes on. A perfectly reasonable person who enjoys, or pays attention, to where the good stuff is.”
He is, as he is pretty much all the time, right. It’s a non-word. Every vaguely sentient being on the planet would be able to name or talk about one thing they enjoy eating. And in China, as he says, there’s an awful lot of good things to eat.
Case in point, a hole-in-the-wall Sichuan noodle joint. Three minutes walk from Prince Edward MTR, so less than 15 minutes from a desk in Central, you have some of the finest food I’ve eaten in Hong Kong. More than I can finish for $HK30, less than $US4.
The boss man in red t-shirt is friendly and speaks good English as we reach the front of the early lunch line. As we leave later, it’s tripled in length. We know why. Cold Sichuan noodles are sensational, heady, smoky, gently-numbing Sichuan hua jiao pepper comes through the layers of vinegar, scallion, chopped coriander, sesame seeds, oil and sugar liberally but carefully applied by noodle mama.
Big Noodle himself, Da Mian, joins me in making two bowls disappear before we hit the dumpling soup. Here the heat is different, the spice more subtle, the dumplings more slippery than ever with an oily sheen on a plastic spoon. As rain falls, we eat sitting on a park bench around the corner – this place is takeaway only and when it’s all gone, they close. To finish, all too quicky, we mix in the remaining chilli oil from the cold noodles with what’s left of the soup, raising our Styrofoam bowls and drinking down. This is, as Bourdain would attest, the real good stuff.
Jun Jun, 456 Portland Street, Prince Edward, Hong Kong. No phone. Opens 1130ish until they run out.