Proud to be a Hongkonger? So are we. But in this ever-changing world we live in today, it can be easy to forget about our roots. With so much history and cultural heritage behind our city, it's important for us to preserve and acknowledge the significance of Hong Kong's unique culture.
Whether they are local bakeries, architectural beauties, traditional crafts and trades, cultural experiences, or the great people of Hong Kong, there are plenty of things that showcase the lion-rock spirit in its truest form. Here are just some of the very best:
Where to find the best tofu fa outside of Hong Kong Island
Certain sweet Hong Kong classics are always within reach, whether its pineapple buns, Hong Kong-style French toast, milk tea, or egg tarts. But others, such as tofu fa, have increasingly become harder to find. Tofu fa has been around for over 2,000 years and was the result of a search for an immortality elixir during the Han dynasty. While Hong Kong tofu fa is usually served with sweet syrup and brown sugar, you will find different variations around China that include tapioca, red bean and peanuts, as well as savoury ingredients such as chilli oil, garlic, and soy sauce. Southeast Asian countries have also put their own twist on it. Malaysia's version involves gula melaka (palm sugar cane syrup), or a sugar syrup infused with pandan, while the Philippines will serve its tofu pudding with tapioca and arnibal (brown sugar syrup) or strawberry syrup. Vietnam's adaptation will vary per region, with the tofu pudding being served with jasmine-infused sugar water in the North and with lychee and coconut water in the South. While you may still be able to find the sweet beancurd pudding at certain yum cha restaurants, nothing beats an old school mom-and-pop store that has been around for decades. Whether you're looking for a refreshing reward after a hike or just a simple taste of nostalgia, here are eight of the best places outside of Hong Kong Island that will give you that warm (or cold) treat you are craving for. By Natasha Tang RECOMMENDED: If you're looking for more sweet treats for the season, check out our roundup of the best Easter bakes and cakes.
20 best uniquely Hong Kong dishes you need to try at least once
Hong Kong is a true food paradise. From cheap eats and street food to Michelin-starred restaurants. But what makes Hong Kong’s dining scene truly unique is undoubtedly its local dishes. Whether it’s traditional Cantonese dim sum or beverages influenced by British culture, these restaurants and cafés capture our city's east-meets-west heritage in the most authentic and delicious ways RECOMMENDED: Spice things up and take your pick from our roundup of the best Sichuan restaurants found in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s oldest restaurants
So often Hong Kong’s dining scene puts the onus on what’s new and trending. Amid the excitement surrounding every soft opening, it’s easy to forget that eating out in Hong Kong is certainly nothing new. There’re plenty of restaurants here that have survived war, gentrification and the fickleness of customer preferences. Here are the oldest remaining restaurants in the city. By Gigi Wong and Graham TurnerRECOMMENDED: Feeling nostalgic? Why not check out these lost buildings of Hong Kong and disappearing cultural experiences.
Where to get the best street food in Hong Kong
Did you know that there is a popular Hong Kong Facebook group dedicated to appraising siu mai from different vendors? And did you know that Hongkongers love street food so much that there is Cantonese slang dedicated to it? The term ‘so gai’ (掃街), which translates directly as ‘sweeping the streets’, refers to the act of scouring the streets for the best street food. Gone may be the days of hawkers in Hong Kong, but there’s no stopping the street food scene in Hong Kong from evolving and flourishing, what with influence coming in from Taiwanese night markets and Japanese street snacks (Don Don Donki’s food market, anyone?). So whether you’re looking for some sweet waffles and eggettes to snack on, or craving for curry fishballs from somewhere that is not your local 7-11, read on to find the best spots for street food in Hong Kong. By Elaine Wong Note: As mask-wearing is still mandatory in public spaces at the moment, you’re advised to take the food away and enjoy it in the safety and comfort of your own home. RECOMMENDED: Prefer to sit down for a proper meal? Check out the 50 best restaurants in Hong Kong, or stay home for a cosy night in with these fantastic delivery deals.
The best dim sum in Hong Kong
Ask a dozen Hongkongers where to get the best dim sum in Hong Kong and you’ll likely get a dozen different answers. Dim sum is a huge part of Hong Kong's unique heritage and cultural identity and therefore, also a big part of our diet. There’s everything from white tablecloth establishments housed inside luxury hotels to neighbourhood gems that are still rough-around-the-edges, but almost equal in quality. Such diversity can be a little overwhelming for the uninitiated, but that’s what we’re here for. Ahead is a list of the very best dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong. The settings may vary, but just about everything they serve is highly recommended. RECOMMENDED: If you're looking for more of the best food options to try in the city, don't forget to check out our pick of the top 50 restaurants in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s best local bakeries
Hong Kong bakeries are essential to our local culture. Because let’s be honest, most of us don’t have the time to have a sit-down breakfast. Bakeries are the sacred pit stop many of us visit on our way to work for some much-needed sustenance in the form of a hearty bun. Local bakeries are also purveyors of homemade, carb-tastic traditional Hong Kong pastries like wife cakes and cream cones that you can’t find anywhere else. Whether you’re craving a good old fashioned pineapple bun from a local institution like Happy Cake Shop or the legendary egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery and Hoover Cake Shop, these historic Hong Kong bakeries bake up the best bread and buns.RECOMMENDED: If bread is life, consider being regulars at one of Hong Kong’s best bread bakeries. Or if you can manage time for a sit-down breakfast, there’s no better place than one of these cha chaan tengs.
The best Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong
Hong Kong really does have an impressive variety of global cuisines. From French fine dining, Japanese and Korean, to Southeast Asian eats and beyond – the culinary choices are endless. Hong Kong's own cuisine, however, is mainly influenced by Cantonese cuisine. A cuisine characterised by its lighter and more natural tasting flavours, along with the traditional, and sometimes laborious, techniques used to create them. So, whether you're looking to sample some comforting classics or enjoy an exquisite Cantonese feast, here are some of the best places to find it in Hong Kong. RECOMMENDED: Not in the mood for Cantonese food? Take a look at our 50 best restaurants in Hong Kong list and get some inspiration for your next meal.
Where to eat the best dumplings in Hong Kong
Dumplings are basically little Asian pockets of joy and comfort that can be pan-fried, steamed, or boiled. The fillings range from juicy meat, crunchy vegetable, and mixed versions that make this versatile dish a favourite for many. And since September 26 is National Dumpling Day, we thought you might like to know where you can eat some of the best in Hong Kong. RECOMMENDED: Need help to digest all the dumplings? Head to these new cafes for a coffee or find out where to get a digestif at these bars.
History and culture
11 signs that you’re a real Hongkonger
We hate to burst your fishball-scented bubble, but just living and working in this city doesn't automatically qualify you as a real Hongkonger. But, that's not to say that you won't ever become one. There are many common misconceptions about Hong Kong, but one thing's for sure, we have some real peculiar quirks and habits that only a true Hongkonger would ever say or do. Read on and see how many you can tick off. RECOMMENDED: If you're still relatively new to the city, be careful not to ask certain questions that will set us off. Meanwhile, get to know Hong Kong one bite at a time and check out these uniquely Hong Kong dishes you need to try at least once.
Hong Kong in the 1960s: A look back in time through photographs
The 1960s was a seminal decade for Hong Kong. Not only was this a time when attitudes began to change as people became more culturally and sexually liberated, but the 60s was also a period when our city flourished. Hong Kong grew in wealth and population at an unprecedented rate to become the significant high-rise metropolis it is today. It's a great thing to journey back and imagine what the city must have looked like back then, and better still to actually see it. We've been lucky enough to have gotten hold of some photos that allow us a window back in time to view the Hong Kong of yesteryear. Join us as we journey back to what has been described as ‘the decade of one damn thing after another’. RECOMMENDED: From Victorian private members’ clubs to Hong Kong’s old international airport, read about the city’s lost architectural gems. Victoria Harbour, 1964. Photograph: Mike Cussans Rewind the clock to the 60s, and you'll be met with a city in flux. Low-level colonial buildings are being razed to the ground and replaced by high-rise buildings that tower over the older buildings still standing – all at lightning speed. The Prince's Building and a luxurious new hotel called the Mandarin Oriental have just opened, much to the awe of passersby. One of the older buildings that can still hold its own amongst the Central district's rapid development in the 60s is the HSBC building. Built in 1935, it stands proudly as the first air-conditioned building in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, it has seen its surroundings change significantly in the past few years. The HSBC Building in Central. Photograph: Mike Cussans You'll be pleased to know that rickshaws are still in use, and it will set you back a mere 50 cents for a coolie to wheel you from the Peninsula Hotel to the Star Ferry Pier. Rather than a secondary, more pleasant option for crossing the harbour – as it will become in future decades – in pre-harbour tunnel days the Star Ferry is essential, as it is pretty much your only means of getting over to Kowloon side. Unless you fancy a swim, of course. Rickshaw pullers. Photograph: Mike Cussans Unlike a lot of things in 1960s Hong Kong, the Peak Tram is nothing new. It's been around since 1888 as a convenient means of transportation to and from Central for those that lived on the Peak. During the 1960s this is still the case, but fast forward to the 20th century, the Peak Tram is a tourist destination, and people come here to get a glimpse of Hong Kong's cityscape. The Peak tram. Photograph: Mike Cussans Still years away from being a city with a supermarket on every corner, many people in 1960s Hong Kong rely on the markets as their primary source of food. Bustling, fragrant, exciting, the Hong Kong market is an institution that will continue to thrive for decades to come. Hong Kong market. Photograph: Mike Cussans As the economy quickly swells, you see Hong Kong transform from a colonial harbour into a modern city that is buzzing with life. There's an unprecedented population boom, and housing blocks are popping up like mushrooms – up right, left, and centre. Hong Kong is becoming a crowded city. Kowloon street scene. Photograph: Mike Cussans Bristol Street in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photograph: Mike Cussans Despite the modernisation of the city, today if you take a walk by the coast, chances are you'll see a few sampans bobbing around. In the 60s, people use these vessels to get around, do business on, and even live on. Sampans. Photograph: Mike Cussans Hong Kong has come a long way in a short time, and by now, the horrors of Typhoon Mary are fading in memory. The typhoon hit Hong Kong on June 8, 1960, and left dozens dead and millions of dollars of damage and in its wake. Typhoon Mary hits Hong Kong (1960). Photograph: Mike Cussans The city marches on, and more and more previously rural areas are now becoming urban centres, full of people and amenities. Hong Kong will emerge from the 60s as a major hub of finance and culture, and one of the most talked-about cities on the planet. Mong Kok lights. Photograph: Mike Cussans Mike Cussans lived in Hong Kong during the 1960s and is responsible for these beautiful photographs. For more photos from this magical time, check out this website.
Dying trades and practices in Hong Kong and where to find them
Gentrification, urbanisation, Westernisation. Whatever the diagnosis is, the prognosis is the same: once treasured trades and practices in Hong Kong are slowly disappearing before our eyes. Thankfully though, they’re not gone quite yet as we take a look at some once-thriving trades and practices on their last legs and where you can find them. RECOMMENDED: Unfortunately, these aren't the only things on their way out. Join us down on memory lane as we look at disappearing cultural experiences and things we miss in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s oldest buildings and structures
Our city has a wonderfully rich history. From its humble origins as a fishing village through 150 years of British colonial rule, many remnants of the past – both Chinese and western – remain and can be found scattered throughout the city. And since there is a renewed interest in preserving old structures in the city, let us take you to a trip down memory lane as we visit some of the oldest surviving buildings and structures in Hong Kong. RECOMMENDED: Let’s not forget Hong Kong’s oldest restaurants that have kept pace with changing food trends. And also, pay homage to some beautiful architecture that sadly didn’t make it to the present day.
Views around Hong Kong: Then and now
Hong Kong is a unique city where rich history lives side-by-side with gleaming skyscrapers and cutting edge technology. Starting off as a humble fishing village, the city transformed during the twentieth century into the world-class financial and cultural hub that it is today, and it's fair to say that the place we live has come an incredibly long way in a short time. Sometimes, it's nice to look back at how the Hong Kong of yesteryear looked compared to how it appears today. Here are some images from around town for you to compare how the city looked then versus now. RECOMMENDED: If you're all about views, check out these awesome drone photographs of Hong Kong.
Five iconic Hong Kong buildings: Then and now
Our city’s famous skyline has witnessed a wealth of stunning architecture over the past 150 years. Though many have since been demolished for the modern-age of glossy skyscrapers, some buildings remain just as salient in our collective memories – take a look at these lost buildings if you’re feeling nostalgic. From the city’s oldest buildings to arguably the most beautiful, revisit these five architectural gems and see what they’ve now become. RECOMMENDED: Explore more of Hong Kong through nature and experience these beautiful heritage trails in Hong Kong.
10 iconic products that are made in Hong Kong
Hong Kong was once a manufacturing powerhouse with the ‘Made in Hong Kong’ stamp seen as a mark of quality around the world. While rising costs in the 1980s pushed many companies to relocate their production facilities elsewhere, some products have remained proudly made in this city. From plastic pails to cure-all pills, here are a few of our favourite locally made things. RECOMMENDED: Be sure to check out these uniquely Hong Kong experiences, or these local cultural gems that are on the brink of disappearing.
Best Hong Kong memes only Hongkongers will understand
Ah, memes. Who doesn't love them? They are almost always relatable, and truth be told, it's a great way to avoid the realities of what's happening in the city right now. So, without further ado, here are some of our favourite memes that every Hongkonger will definitely understand. Enjoy! RECOMMENDED: Get to know more about our city through some of the most influential Hongkongers in history.
HK Profile: Calligraphy master Au Yeung Cheong
One of the most distinctive things about Hong Kong is the abundance of colourful neon signs – often written in traditional Chinese calligraphy – that hang on the side of our city's buildings. While there are local preservation groups in the city who work hard to keep this remarkable cultural aspect alive, not many know or understand the work that goes behind the makings of these glowing signs that light up our streets. So, we paid a visit to Au Yeung Cheong, acclaimed calligraphy and authentic Chinese typeface signage master, who has been keeping the tradition alive for more than 40 years. By Andrea Wong Brilliant Tailor Shop, one of the two last remaining tenants inside State Theatre Once a landmark and the glory of North Point, the 68-year-old State Theatre Building is the kind of place that would give you goosebumps the moment you step into the building. Clouded in an eerie atmosphere throughout the premises – most likely due to the vast empty spaces, vacant shops, and sounds of reverberating water leakage – the dimly lit building is a jarring contrast to the bustling streets of the North Point neighbourhood. If you walk further into the building, you'll spot the two remaining tenants tucked in the back, one being a traditional tailor shop, and the other surrounded by lit-up signboards and plastic signs, which is where Au Yeung Cheong and his shop King Wah Signboards (京華招牌) resides. Having learned calligraphy through books like Tung Shing (traditional lunar calendars) and Buddhist scriptures given by his father during his younger days, Au Yeung Cheong is a good example of 'practice makes perfect'. Au Yeung did not have the best tools available to master his craft, yet, he made do with what he had with no complaints and persevered to become an apprentice at numerous signage stores, before opening King Wah in the 80s. With decades of practised precision, every stroke is as sharp as a knife, or in his words, "as sharp as the knife you'd use to cut up a winter melon." His workshop is raggedy, messy, with materials and tools scattered all over the place (some of his works littered the staircase that leads to the basement of the building) – the setting may seem chaotic, but that wasn't always the case. During the prime of his career, he had four shops within the State Theatre Building, around 20 staff members, and was living quite the luxurious lifestyle without worrying about running out of money. "Back then, I never worried about whether I was making enough. If I ever ran out of cash, I know I always have money in the bank. I also had a maid, and I would always go play mahjong after work at around 2pm." Sadly, the merciless fire that occurred in the State Theatre in 1995 burned all of his work and effort into ashes, leaving him with no choice but to lay off all his employees, sell his house, and continue on his journey as a one-man-band to provide for his three children. Now, what remains of his shop is also his 'home' – where he has his meals, paint during his free time, all while doing what he does best, making traditional signboards. Au Yeung takes immense pride in his craft, and he doesn't shy away from complimenting his own skills. "These computers can't do what I do," he explains. "Machine-made typefaces are not as clean-cut and cannot top my authentic calligraphy. Most of them are simply a common replica of the real deal that lacks character, they're just there for the 'cockroaches'," he adds. While some may call him cocky and arrogant, quite frankly, his success and legacy give him full bragging rights. When asked what his most notable works are, he simply says, "if you look above you on the streets, most of the signs are probably written by me. Even the ones opposite this building are done by me." With his shop becoming a hot Instagrammable spot, Au Yeung seems utterly unfazed by those who only want to snap a pic for a few 'likes' on social media. The setup of the shop feels like it's intended for people to freely photograph his work, with stools and tables set up, signboards scattered in a disorderly fashion, and lit up signs that created a warm and vibrant nook against the backdrop of the dark and empty spaces of the State Theatre. During our interview, there was a photographer having a photoshoot with a model, and a whole film crew shooting a music video with piano and erhu playing just steps away from his store, but he was never bothered or annoyed. "Why would I be annoyed? If everyone can see my craft on the internet, then they will know how great my craft is." Throughout our visit, he made sure that we had noted down every answer and anecdote properly and even suggested for us to film the tour that he gave around the shop – 10 out of 10 points for the hospitality! Business was slow during our visit. Au Yeung was writing three signs for only one customer, with words and phrases of her choice, charging $400 altogether. In between intricate strokes made with red ink and no hesitation, he tried to keep the conversation going between us and his customer, even sharing snippets of his work, paintings he did during his free time, and photographs he took with his customers (he often asks his customer to take a photo with him as a keepsake). Au Yeung worries that no one will take over his business and carry on his legacy. Yet, he remains hopeful and continues to provide mini 'lessons' for any visitors who are interested to learn the craft. One of Au Yeung's wishes is to have authentic Chinese typefaces and signboards spread across the world. "As long as there's a place with these authentic Chinese typefaces, it'll withstand the test of time and survive forever," he enthuses. With no successor to inherit his vocation, it's a pity to eventually have to bid farewell to this authentic craft when Au Yeung decides to retire. Since our interview with Au Yeung, he has moved his shop to 40 Kam Ping Street, just behind Metropole in North Point. So, for anyone interested, pay Au Yeung a visit at his new shop, have a chat with the man himself to learn more about his life story, and support his passion for one of Hong Kong's oldest crafts.
Chan Lok-choi as Hong Kong’s last remaining birdcage maker
Image: Calvin Sit In Prince Edward’s Yuen Po Bird Garden, surrounded by a cacophony of song birds and traditional Chinese music, you can meet maybe Hong Kong’s last remaining birdcage maker, Chan Lok-choi. Having joined the family business in 1955, Chan was trained at the tender age of 12 under the tutelage of renowned birdcage maker Cheuk Hong. He has since made a name for himself as a master of crafting traditional birdcages. “Owning songbirds is representative of Hong Kong and Cantonese culture,” says Chan. “But the trend has diminished significantly since people can no longer ride public transportation with their birds.” Cultural heritage aside, Chan sees the practice of keeping birds to be indicative of one’s personality as well. “If you’re good with birds, you’re naturally good with people,” he explains. As you might expect, making a birdcage by hand is no easy feat. You must shave pieces of bamboo – the same used for scaffolding – soak them in hot water for hours, bend and mould them under kerosene lamps, and then nail them altogether. The process can take months. Chan likens it to an art form and not everyone is up to the task. “Patience is key to making a cage but creative talent is just as important,” he says. “It’s what makes you stand out from the rest.” Sadly, this could all be moot as the craft is in danger of disappearing from our city. “There’s no-one else in Hong Kong who knows how to make one by hand any more,” claims Chan. “My own children have no interes
William Cheung of Ki Tsui Cake Shop
Housed on Mong Kok’s always bustling Fa Yuen Street, Ki Tsui is one of a handful of traditional Chinese cake shops still operating in Hong Kong. Despite its vintage look and retro furnishings, there’s a youthful energy behind the store, thanks in no small part to its second-generation owner, William Cheung.The 31-year-old returned to Hong Kong in 2012 and started helping out at his father’s cake shop after finishing a degree in psychology in Toronto. “I never planned on taking over the store from my father,” says Cheung, who jests that he only started working there because he needed a job. Jokes aside, the cake shop represents much more than just a pay cheque for Cheung. His father, now in his 70s, opened Ki Tsui in 1984 after moving to Hong Kong from his hometown of Enping in Guangdong. Not only is the shop a part of his father’s legacy, it’s also an important part of Cheung’s childhood. “I used to visit the shop a lot when I was a kid and I’d play around with the pieces of card from the pastry boxes. The chefs knew how much I loved eating egg tarts, so they’d always give me a piece that was fresh from the oven,” says Cheung.The heir didn’t receive any special treatment, however, when he started apprenticing at the cake shop. He had to learn all the basics of pastry making and worked 12-hour shifts from 7am, just like the rest of the staff. The training paid off. These days, Cheung is a seasoned pro in the pastry kitchen and oversees most of the operations at the shop. Si
Things you only know if you’re a Hong Kong taxi driver
Ever thought of what’s life like as a taxi driver in Hong Kong? We chat with Franco Cheung about little known facts about the occupation and a few secrets of the trade. It’s difficult to become a taxi driver “In Hong Kong, you need to carry a private-car driving license for at least three years before you can apply and take the test for a taxi license. The test itself consists of three sections: a multiple-choice section on housing estates, 20 questions on taxi rules, and 100 questions on traffic regulations. You need to have a comprehensive knowledge of more than 600 areas. Once you get the license, you’re like a tenant of the vehicle and you’ll have to put down a deposit (around 10k) and pay regular rent.” We pick passengers based on their clothes “If you don’t have any passengers, surely you’ll pick up anyone who waves for a taxi, right? Actually, if there are several people hailing at the same time, we act like Sherlock Holmesand guess where they are going based on their outfits. It’s not 100 percent accurate but it does work occasionally. For instance, someone with a suitcase is usually a tourist while a person in a suit from Sheung Wan and Central is more likely to go somewhere nearby, like Robinson Road or the Airport Express. Sometimes though, you might assume it’s going to be a short journey because the passenger is in their home wear but it could turn out to be the complete opposite. I’ve had passengers who live in Ma On Shan go to Sha Tin or Mong Kok for groceries.” We’ve seen it all “I’ve encountered many different passengers, especially during my night shifts. I once had a female passenger who tried to take her clothes off while asking me if she’s pretty. I’ve also observed different minorities, including a same-sex couple who were more comfortable with each other in the car than in public. Another memorable passenger was a mother from Central who asked to be driven around Chai Wan so she could breast pump in the backseat because she was discouraged to do so at work.” The most difficult passengers are drunk “I also find pretty girls to be more troublesome so I try to avoid picking them up. They tend to have a lot of demands, like asking to be dropped off at places where cars can’t stop. Passengers with pets can be annoying too so it’s reasonable to have that additional charge.’” Passengers have left behind some bizarre items“Once, a passenger had completely forgotten that they’d placed a stroller in the trunk and left without taking it. Even I’d forgotten about it too. Another time, I found some underwear and stocking, and the underwear didn’t look new either. There was also an iPhone with no password protection – it’s hard to believe there’s someone in this day and age who doesn’t lock their phone. I once also opened up an old and ratty reusable bag to discover a stack of Renminbi inside it.”
HK Profile: Kwok Man-lung
Chinese New Year isn’t complete without lion dancing. The plethora of red decorations, the lai see and the city’s huge fireworks display are all essential fixtures of the festive Lunar New Year experience, but it’s the lion dance that’s the ultimate symbol of good luck and prosperity. Although the activity may not look particularly physically demanding, every gymnastic leap the lion dancers make is the result of years of practice. Master Kwok Man-lung has more than 30 years of experience teaching kung fu and lion dancing. He is the leader of Kwok’s Kung Fu & Dragon Lion Dance Team, a group that has won dozens of local and international championships in its time.Kwok’s father founded the team and from the age of five he trained to become a lion dancer. Over the years, Kwok has witnessed many changes in the artform. Previously, the lion costumes were extremely heavy. There were no LED lights, no tall metal poles used in the acts and the lions came in only three varieties: red, black or rainbow. Lion dancing, at that time, in the 70s, was mostly rooted to the ground and based on traditional kung fu stances. The jumping element came later and costumes were adjusted to become lighter to accommodate the change. This ‘new lion dancing’, as Kwok coins it, took the art to a more competitive level and the master’s fondest memories are from his first days experimenting with these more daring techniques. “My happiest memory was when I first started jumping with my brethren,” reveals Kwok. “We’d try and we’d get hurt. And after the practice, we’d go to drink beer. And then we’d do it all over again. They were the best times. We’d try some crazy things and get injured. But, looking back, that was the best.”Full of pride, Kwok rolls up his trousers and shows us the many scars that streak across his lower legs. “I call lion dancing the ‘Chinese-style X Games’,” he jokes, though with good reason. Some of the poles used in the most acrobatic displays are over five metres tall. The lions jump and spin from pole to pole but doing so requires immense co-ordination and trust between the two people manoeuvring the creature.A lion is a double act, requiring both a head and a tail performer. “The head must be a good jumper. He has to leap high as well as focus on the performance,” says Kwok. But the tail is equally important, he tells us. “If there’s a fall, the tail must look to protect the head first.” Kwok, who was a tail himself, explains: “If you fall, the head can’t do anything about it. If the tail gives up and lets his partner fall... Next time he’s the tail, would you trust him?”Lion dancing may seem fairly low risk but, just last year, an Australian lion dancer fell to his death during practice. Unperturbed, Kwok says the beauty of lion dancing is in the challenges. “It’s difficult,” he comments. “Not so many people can do it. That I can do it makes me proud of myself. I feel the challenge. When I’m jumping, I feel great satisfaction.”Kwok wishes to promote lion dancing as something more than just a traditional form of dance. He’d like it seen as both a professional sport and a cultural art worth preserving. However, though Kwok is passionate about maintaining the traditions of lion dancing, he’s also a man open to change. “We always want to develop the lion dance in a competitive way,” he tells us. “We try new and difficult routines. We create new actions and we always try to make our dances more artistic.” Kwok’s team have even gone so far as to incorporate hip-hop into their latest routine. “To make it more modern and to make a sharp impact,” he says, “we call in a hip-hop dancer. We do the lion dance part and they do the Happy Buddha part.” The Happy Buddha is a playful character in the traditional lion dance who dances and ‘feeds’ the lion. “Our lion dance still has the traditional feel,” says Kwok, “but we make every effort to be fresh and modern.” Angela Kwon
Trading stories: Two barbers from different generations
Traditional Shanghai-style barbershops have long held a special place in the hearts of Hongkongers. For many men who grew up here, sitting in an old barber chair while an electric hair trimmer buzzes is guaranteed to stir up nostalgic childhood memories. While these barbershops were once the bigwigs of men’s grooming in Hong Kong, their numbers began to decline after the 60s as they became unable to compete with new-style hair salons. In recent years, a new generation of barbers have clipped out a new path for this industry while paying homage to the masters of the past. Kelvin Yu, the co-founder of Too Far East Barber & Co., and industry veteran Lam Bo, discuss how this trade has transformed throughout the years. Meet the barbers At 78 years old, Lam Bo has been in the men’s grooming business for more than half a century. After retiring, he was unable to put down his clippers and now works as a barber at the 56-year-old Wah Lai Beauty Parlour in Choi Hung. Image: Calvin Sit Kelvin Yu, 35, returned to Hong Kong from Canada in 2010 to continue his career in IT-Finance. In 2014, he decided to leave his job to learn about the barbershop business. Last year, he and his business partner opened Too Far East Barber & Co., which pays tribute to the Shanghai-style salons of the past. Image: Calvin Sit Trading stories K: How did you get your start in the industry? L: I started working when I was nine years old. Back then, 90 percent of kids my age didn’t have a good education
Cheung Shun-king – Mahjong tile artisan
Come the weekend, the rattle of mahjong tiles being shuffled before a game is a common sound. It creeps out of apartments and into stairwells, an indelible part of local culture. Nowadays, most mahjong sets are mass-produced in factories on the Mainland. Only a handful of artisans who are able to engrave the tiles by hand remain in Hong Kong. Jordan’s Cheung Shun-king is one of them. “I’ve been in the industry for more than half a century,” Cheung tells us. “I grew up surrounded by people who made mahjong tiles, as both my father and grandfather were in the business.” Cheung goes on to tell us how he acquired his skills solely by observation. “I didn’t start off as an apprentice to the old masters,” he says. “It began with the old masters giving me tiles on which they made mistakes, which I could engrave for my own amusement. I closely inspected their techniques.” In retrospect, Cheung jokes that it was a mistake to have learned the techniques for fun, because once he knew how to do it, he was obliged to help out with the family business. “Those were the days when we had too many orders and too few staff. I had to help out on the side as a child,” he mentions. A self-taught craftsman, Cheung demonstrates his virtuosity by engraving the green 12-stroke character ‘發’, meaning fortune, on to a tile in less than five minutes. Afterwards, he shows us a myriad of homemade knives, cutters and other utensils he uses to go about his business. “I made these myself and some have lasted
Lau Fat-cheong of Lau Sum Kee
What’s the story behind Lau Sum Kee?My grandfather used to sell noodles on the streets of Guangzhou in the 1940s. After the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949, my father came to Hong Kong by himself. At first, he had a mobile street cart in Shau Kei Wan and later, in 1954, he moved his cart to Pei Ho Street in Sham Shui Po. We operated as a dai pai dong for a while in the ’70s when the government was still issuing cooked-food stall licenses. Finally, in 1993, we moved into a proper shop space.How old were you when you started helping out at the restaurant?My two brothers and I started helping out at the store ever since we were kids. When I was 11, my dad was already teaching me how to knead dumpling wrappers and make noodles with a bamboo pole. I wasn’t very good at school growing up so I continued working at the restaurant. I became more passionate about it after a while. Now I’ve been doing it for more than 30 years.When was this type of traditional noodle the most popular?To be honest, this type of noodle has only started becoming more popular in recent years. It’s always been tough working in the noodle-making business. Even during my dad’s time, business wasn’t easy. When I was growing up in the 1980s and ’90s, none of my friends liked to eat bamboo-pole noodles. They all wanted to eat KFC or sushi. I was so afraid of telling people that my family made these noodles for a living. I was embarrassed by it. What technique goes into making these noodles?It varies from person