Who would have guessed that a bottle of syrup-y oyster sauce packs in the goodness of almost 200 oysters. This company was set up in the 1960s by Mr. Chan the father, who had been breeding oysters in the Shajing region of China. He picked Lai Fau Shan in Hong Kong for its perfect oyster breeding environment where fresh and salt-water environments meet. Yu Kee oyster sauce has a noticeably lighter consistency, but a distinct umami, a taste reminiscent of the ocean. It’s a quality mostly lost when it comes to its conventionally produced peers. It’s no surprise when the brownish sauce is a direct extraction of 200-odd oysters, boiled down to a sauce consistency. Consider yourself warned: once you’ve tried Yu Kee’s small-batch oyster sauce, there will be no turning back.
Like Vegemite, Chinese Fermented Beancurd could be an acquired taste, especially when uncooked. This old-school Chinese ‘delicacy’ is experiencing a comeback as a cream cheese-like spread on toast. This is instead of lending its fermented goodness to chicken stews, morning glory stir-fries, or even plain congee. Family-owned business Liu Ma See – now run by the third generation descendants of the founders – continues their century-long heritage of making these small fermented beancurd cubes. They are still mostly made by hand. Liu Ma Kee has been many Hong Kong family’s go-to for their fermented beancurd fix. The condiment, which was especially popular during Hong Kong’s less affluent days, would pass off as a meal with just a cube of it plus some congee. Still at the same location they’ve been for decades, the store hasn’t changed much. The store is up front, workshop and production in the back, and living quarters above the shop. Swing by to pick up a bottle of their signature item and other sauces. Savor the flavor of an old-school Chinese family business’s condiments while you’re at it.
Ask almost any foodie from Hong Kong, and they could probably tell you that they, their mother, or grandmother has a few favorites from the Kowloon Soy Co. It is an indispensable cornerstone of Hong Kong’s Chinese culinary scene since it started retail operations during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in the early 1940s. Their foodemporium-esque shop would have what it takes to give you a hand in elevating your cooking. What sets Kowloon Soy Co. apart is that it remains one of only a handful of soy sauce producers that brew soy sauce the traditional way. That is, in large clay vats under the sun for three months until full maturation. Nature-powered brewing, free from additives that speed up the maturation process allows the soy sauce full expression of its fragrant and bodied flavor. The difference is immediately palpable; it is no wonder that our city’s food connoisseurs and even monks with their attuned palates prefer KS Co’s brews. Discover the full range and breadth of Chinese sauce-sory at the friendly Central store – you’ll be in for a culinary buff’s delight.
Truth is, Mrs So did not quite set out to sell sauce, however, nature took its course. Mrs So ran a printing factory up in Yuen Long. Whenever guests visited and stayed for a meal, Mrs So served up their tasty XO sauce made by their in-house chef. The XO sauce was popular with everyone who got to try it. Since the guests could enjoy the sauce only at Mrs So’s, or if lucky enough be gifted a jar to take home, the guest-fans urged Mrs So on for years to set up shop. Thanks to their efforts, the XO sauce is no longer reserved only for those in Mrs So’s inner circle. The XO sauce will be by far the fanciest sauces used in Chinese cuisine. This is not a surprise when you have a packed jar of flavorful dried seafood, cooked with spices. Expect to find it only at higher-end restaurants or top hotels. It’s an addictive and magical ingredient as a dip for steamed dim-sum and noodles, or any seafood stir-fry, so you’d probably enjoy having a jar on hand.
For more than 80 years, the Pat Chun brand has been synonymous with Chinese vinegar. At their stores, essentially a delicatessen where East meets West, almost every other customer comes in to stock up on Pat Chun’s vinegar. Their sweetened vinegar is popular for making the traditional Chinese post-natal dish, pork knuckles and ginger stew. It so popular that Pat Chun now produces the stew, available in different sizes for customers. Beyond traditional dishes, this tangy Chinese brew is stealing the limelight in new contexts. At Michelin three-star Bo Innovation, Pat Chun vinegar stars in Tomato Three Ways, allowing foodies to experience a different nuance in taste with the tomato fruit. Apparently, the vinegar goes well with salads and ice cream, too.
Visit Tai O on a hot sunny day, and you’ll smell it from a mile away. Tai O, off Lantau Island, still exudes some of Hong Kong’s characteristic fishing village charm. There are small neighborhood streets, fish boats anchored, and some families still living in iron sheet huts, albeit with air conditioning, on stilts. The strong smell comes from the fermenting of shrimp paste in large blue tanks, basking under the sun. Only two traditional shrimp paste producers of Tai O remain. Traditionally, local fishermen would catch the inch-long silver shrimp in the evenings, when its silvery color is most evident under moonlight when the silver shrimp swim towards the water’s surface. Simply made from fermenting silver shrimp and salt under the sun, this paste has an affinity with seafood dishes. It adds a punch and salty umami. The best, like those made at Cheng Cheung Hing’s since 1920, are free from additives and coloring. They also have a gentle fragrance and soft rose-purple hue. Its unusual color is thanks to the carotenoid pigment in crustaceans, shrimp in this case, that turns red when cooked. This well-loved condiment among many Southeast Asian Chinese as well as locals would be the perfect Tai O grab.
Goodies, a modern emporium of both local and regional imports, stocks an impressive selection of quality sauces including Yu Kee Oyster sauce, Cheng Chueng Hing shrimp paste, and its house brands. Helmed by a foodie with several decades of dried seafood wholesale experience keen to spread the love, Goodies is the place for gourmands.