Chinese food consists of popular types of cuisine—Shanghainese, Cantonese, Peking, Szechuan and Hakka Chiu Chow.
The most popular are Cantonese, Shanghainese and Szechuan.
Chiu Chow tends to be simpler but equally flavorful, and is known to be healthier than the other types of Chinese cuisine. Chiu Chow dishes are lighter, less oily and rely heavily on fresh ingredients.
Also known as Swatow food, Chiu Chow cuisine originated in the city of Shantou, in the coastal region of Guangdong Province, 300 km from Hong Kong.
Fish, oyster, goose, duck and crab are major features of this cuisine. Poaching, steaming and braising are predominant methods of cooking, along with stir-frying.
With the food selections at Pak Loh Chiu Chow Restaurant, one can also eat very well without having to break the bank.
Pak Loh Chiu Chow was founded in 1967 by S.H. Pui. Its first restaurant on Hysan Avenue in Causeway Bay has become an institution. It is always packed mostly with locals and a few tourists. (We’ve seen Robert Kuok of Shangri-La Hotels there on two occasions.)
Highlights of traditional Chiu Chow cuisine:
1. Shark Fin’s Soup, Chiu Chow-style—The sauce is braised with pig’s trotter which makes it thick and creamy, then oyster sauce is added. Super tasty.
2. Freshly Steamed Cold Crab—Steamed large red crab from the South China Sea. It is steamed for 20 minutes and topped with ginger slices and spring onions.
3. Steamed Freshwater Goby Fish—Steamed and simmered in ginger and spring onions. Super light and clean-tasting.
4. Baby Oyster Omelette— Potato starch is mixed with the baby oysters and fried with duck egg. Chinese version of patis is dipping sauce. The gooey texture makes you eat more rice.
5. Fried Sliced Chicken with Chinjew Sauce—This is a very traditional dish that has Szechuan pepper fried with the chicken.
6. Double-boiled Pig’s Stomach Soup with Salted Vegetables—The pig’s stomach is double-boiled with the salty vegetables with white pepper. (White pepper is very good for the stomach. That’s why people feel warmth in their stomach after having this soup.) Perfect for winter.
7. Sauteed Green Beans with Minced Pork and Preserved Olives—The crunchiness of the beans and hearty taste of the pork have a nice texture.
8. Sliced Soya Goose—The most important ingredient is the dark soy sauce. It’s full of Szechuan pepper, Chinese herbs, tangerine peel, cinnamon, etc. The sauce itself is about 40 years old; we have to boil it everyday to keep it. The goose is dipped in a mild, white vinegar. The best! This is a must-have.
9. Deep-fried Whitebait—It looks like French fries and is dipped in salt and black vinegar likened to sukang Iloko. Kids love this dish.
10. Whelk (shellfish equivalent of the Japanese Fugu)—The meat is sliced and poached, so that you can taste the freshness of the whelk. It is served with tangerine sauce. Skill is required in preparing this dish, just like Fugu.
Other new innovative dishes one must try are Lamb Rack with Fish Sauce, Shrimp with Basil, Smoked Eel, etc. Always check out the specials of the season.
At the beginning and end of every meal, authentic Chiu Chow restaurants serve a very strong oolong tea called Tieguanyin in very tiny cups, like hot bittersweet tea shots. It’s great for digestion and is very potent, it feels as if hair is growing on your chest when you down it. It is also known as Gongfu Cha.
The original Hysan Avenue Pak Loh Chiu Chow location is by far the best. Other branches may be found at: 16/F, Lee Theater, North Point, and Elements in Kowloon; K11 and Grand Century Plaza in Mongkok.
If S.H. Pui were alive today, he would be 91. We are quite certain that he is looking down happy at how his son Raymond and grandson Joey safeguard the age-old traditions of popular Chiu Chow dishes.
Clearly, Pak Loh is here to stay. Chinese comfort food.