There are people in this world who love spicy food, and then there are those who don't. If you consider yourself part of the first camp, then we want to introduce you to a chain of noodle shops in Hong Kong called 傷心酸辣粉. Translated to English, this means, "sad, spicy, sour noodles." Their tagline is, “so sour it makes you salivate, so spicy, it makes you cry.” We were ready for the challenge.
Although there are 18 locations around Hong Kong, we opted for the Causeway Bay location and made our way into the Island Beverley Centre and then popped up to the 5th floor. Greeted by yellow signs purely in Chinese, we were immediately seated at a small table in the middle of the floor, surrounded by families and couples enjoying their meals.
As we looked through the menu, stickily wrapped in plastic, we saw a number of our favourites, including the Sichuan-Style Fish ($128), Chongqing Chilli Pepper Chicken ($128), and Dry-Fried String Beans ($52). But we weren’t here for that today. We came to pour our hearts into the noodles, and we weren’t going to settle for anything less.
They’ve got a special set that offers you a bowl of noodles with an accompanying dish for only $62, so we ordered two bowls of their signature sad, sour, spicy noodles, a mouth-watering chicken, and a spicy sliced beef. Just to make sure we had one non-spicy dish, we added a Marinated Plate for good measure.
As we ordered, our waitress asked us how spicy we wanted our food. As you can see from the diagram below, there are five levels of spicy, from baby spicy to SUPER spicy. They even have a stipulation that if you order BIG (#4) or SUPER (#5) spicy, you have to pay an extra $2. Having lived in Bangkok, we’ve eaten “Thai spicy” and felt pretty confident to handle at least BIG, if not go all out and try SUPER.
When we asked for BIG spicy, she politely asked, “are you sure?” As we engaged in a conversation about how spicy “spicy” was, she gently coerced us into ordering medium spicy (#3), and potentially adding more chilli if it wasn’t hot enough. Good plan.
The Marinated Plate arrived first, and offered a nice selection of braised meats, sausage, and a tea-cooked egg.
The large bowl of chewy, yam-flour noodles in a steaming, sour, spicy broth, came topped with a bit of minced pork, pickled vegetables, peanuts, and a boatload of chilli oil.
The mouth-watering chicken was cooked well, though, a bit under salted, and was bathed in red chilli oil. The spicy sliced beef was more to our liking, and although spicy, was well balanced by the fresh cilantro garnish.
As we dove into the sea of red chilli oil covering the noodles, we noticed that the broth was mildly sour, and had a really good flavour to it. It was also enjoyable to experience the texture of the chewy noodles contrasting with the crunchiness of the pickles and peanuts. However, it took us a while to get through the bowl of noodles for a few reasons.
- The noodles are so chewy they are nearly impossible to bite through.
- The soup and noodles are so hot (temperature-wise), it’s hard to take large bites / slurps.
- Bite after bite, our lips and mouths ignited on fire from the spice.
- Our noses had started to become congested, and tears were streaming down our face.
Read more: The 18 Best Lunch Deals in Hong Kong
Deep into the meal, between sniffles, we asked our highly-entertained waitress, “why isn’t anyone else crying?” She calmly replied, “no one else orders it that spicy.” Hmm, interesting.
We can only remember a few dining experiences that moved us to tears. This one was different than the rest: memorable, #notfancy, inexpensive, and accompanied with cans of Tsingtao beer. We'll be back for another good cry soon.
P.S. A small tip for the morning after that we picked up in Thailand: Freeze your TP.