Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pasar: A culinary find in Hong Kong

Image of the 'Seafood Special' board for Pasar restaurant in Hong Kong.
Dear Gentle Reader,

Your Heroine and humble scribe discovered a fantastic, humble restaurant serving great food the other night.

It is called Pasar and it has three branches in Hong Kong (Central, Wan Chai, and Tin Hau).

We ate at the Wan Chai branch--delicious.

Everything they had was enjoyable, not something your scribe usually says after visiting a restaurant.

Image of the 'Daily Special' and 'Pasar Special Drinks' board for Pasar restaurant in Hong Kong.
Dinner came in two sections, savoury and sweet. 

Both sections had four parts. We only meant to have two desserts, because they looked unusual, but (very surprisingly for Chinese Asia) they were quite good, so we tried two other desserts...

Here is the menu, as consumed...


First, curried vegetables with roti prata (two dishes combined).
Image of vegetable curry at Pasar restaurant in Hong Kong.Image of roti prata at Pasar restaurant in Hong Kong.

See that white powder in the middle of the (slightly decimated) plate of roti prata? That is sugar. What a lovely combination with the curry and the roti prata. I had never thought of combining those before; a masterful blend of tastes.

Second, stir-fried vegetables (a morning glory variety, allowing savoury revenge for gardeners) with a fermented shrimp paste.

Image of stir-fried vegetables (a morning glory variety, allowing savoury revenge for gardeners) with a fermented shrimp paste at Pasar restaurant in Hong Kong.

Third, fried carrot (really radish) cake with a fermented shrimp paste.
Image of fried carrot (really radish) cake with a fermented shrimp paste at Pasar restaurant in Hong Kong.
The fermented shrimp paste is the intensely flavourful blob of red in the lower left corner...

Finally, a spicy, lemony, prawn mee.
Image of prawn mee at Pasar restaurant in Hong Kong.


A Pandan chiffon cake and a lapis cake came first.

Pandan chiffon cake (bright green like a pistachio macaron, and your humble scribe almost forgot to photograph it!). This baby was light, fluffy, and delicately flavoured. 

Image of pandan chiffon cake at Pasar restaurant in Hong Kong.
(For those not from these parts, frequently these types of cakes are light, fluffy, and flavoured with sweetened cardboard. I thought I had given up trying them; I am glad I had not.)

Next, lapis cake. Image of lapis cake at Pasar restaurant in Hong Kong.

Lapis cake was like a very heavy mille-feuille pastry--but with poured batter layers instead of pastry layers... 

This was surprisingly tasty, and heavy, very much unlike mille-feuille except in the general concept of prepartion. Or maybe mille-feuille is only useful as a point of comparison for Western palates. End result, it was a very nice dessert. 

We were going to stop here. 

We had not intended to have any dessert, but these were so much better than anything else we had had in an Asian restaurant in Hong Kong (on the dessert side of the menu) that we decided to continue exploring beyond the belt line.

We solicited suggestions and tried ang koo kueh and soon kueh.

Ang koo kueh.Image of ang koo kueh at Pasar restaurant in Hong Kong.
Ang koo kueh translates as green bean tea fruit and this is a mashed, steamed mixture with a consistency like marzipan but with a nutty (though it is also not nutty) flavour in a savoury/sweet, thin (in terms of physical thickness) yet thick rice paste which is steamed. 

The dessert is served cold. It is thick, heavy, a little gooey, and a delicious find. 

But, how ang koo kueh tastes is still a mystery. Well, it tasted very nice, but what it tasted of is still a myster to your scribe and your Heroine both. I have to go back to try it again, and check on the restaurant's consistency. That is my excuse, at least.

(Revision: I went back and looked at the Chinese characters. This should be Ang Gu Kueh or red tortoise kueh! Look closely at the pattern printed in the lucky red rice paste wrapping. This is meant to symbolise good fortune and longevity, and these are given out at a child's one month celebration... And, the green bean filling is a sweetened mung bean paste.)

Soon kueh.Image of soon kueh at Pasar restaurant in Hong Kong.
Soon kueh translates as bamboo fruit. This was recommended by the chef and this is a hot dessert. 

Soon kueh is dumpling filled with some type of mashed sweet radish and peanuts steamed in a rice-flour pouch. The brown bits on top are caramelized, crunchy onions and the black sauce is a thick, condensed soy sauce. 

This does not sound like it should work, especially as a dessert, but it really does. There is a slight savoury edge to it, but it melts in the mouth and reminds you of the sweet ending to an autumn meal. 

I would liken this, in its effect, to pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is another warm, savoury, vegetable concoction that you would not normally think of as a dessert, but that works so well, especially when it is crisp and chilly outside.

Dinner in total cost 225 HKD which is about 25 euros, or 35 USD. Very reasonable, for Hong Kong at least, and a delightful find. 

If you live in Hong Kong, the Wan Chai branch is located at 197 Johnston Road and you would get out of exit A3 on the MTR (subway) at Wan Chai station. Go straight down Thomson Road (the street opposite the exit), walk two blocks and turn right on Johnston Road, and it will be on your side of the road about half-way down the block.

Your Heroine and your humble scribe hope you enjoy it. We will certainly be back. 

This restaurant met the tests of (1) utterly enjoyable, (2) something we could not make, easily, ourselves on a moment's notice, and (3) well worth the money expended. Truly a good value proposition for the time, money, and taste-buds proffered to the restaurant.



Barrie said...

That meal looked delicious. Mille feuilles is one of my favourite desserts. I once had a mille feuilles birthday cake! Yum!!!

Sepiru Chris said...


It tasted fine, too; an excellent convergence of appearance and taste.

I used to stop at this one cafe in Geneva, opposite Plainpalais, and have their mille-feuilles until their pastry chef left.

Mille feuilles birthday cake sounds wonderfully decadent.


bindu said...

hello! You have an interesting blog here. Thanks for stopping over from Barbara's and leaving a comment. I'll be back to learn more about life in Hong Kong!

Sepiru Chris said...


High praise indeed.
Thank you very much, and likewise.


Reader Wil said...

Thank you for treating us to a delicious meal! I love Chinese food. Hongkong is an interesting place. Before and also after the war my father, who was a sailor often came in Hongkong. This summer we stayed one day in Hongkong and rented a day room in a hotel near the beach.. We took a lot of photos. You can find that in my post of ABC Wednesday letter H in September.

Sepiru Chris said...

Reader Wil, I read your post of September. That is a trying experience, to say the least. As I commented on that entry, you ought to come back, even if only for the food.


Reader Wil said...

Me again! thanks for your visit to my Hongkong experiences. We went to Australia. On our way to Oz we had to wait 18 hours, so we booked a day room in that hotel near the bridge. It was beautiful. On our way back we should have had to wait 8 hours but instead they became 24 hours. And of course we had no hotelroom.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Hello Chris. Thank you for visiting and following my giraffe ramblings via Barbara Martin!

I am also glad to have discovered your very interesting blog - I too will be back this evening to peruse your archives.

I am looking forward to becoming acquainted with Pommes - he has taken an excellent photograph for your header!

Sepiru Chris said...

Hello Reader Wil (again),

I suspect I'll see you a few times, because I am sure I will be visiting a few times. I (and this will surprise some) am trying desperately to write less on the web, including comments, partially because I want to read more and I have a fixed amount of time to expend.

Hello Raph,

I would be careful about the archives, it is a bit of a morasse, but I love the idea of people looking at them.

Personally, I love archives, e-archives and the classic sorts; people go to such efforts to create things, they ought to be looked at again. I think of archive hunting/rummaging as turning the soil to let new light shine down, allowing perennials to burst into life again (and again if I can refer them on!).

Welcome back, I look forward to my return.


Lauren said...

That food looks amazing! It's making me

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Lauren,

I am not surprised; writing a book, world building, being an IT Director and trying to get a piano by posting as many home-cooked meals as Scheherazade, the Vizier's daughter, had night-time stories to tell...

Yes, I would have built up an appetite by now, too. Welcome back.


RuneE said...

I'll remember that if I ever get there!

PS Thank you for the comment! To get wider pictures you need first of all a template that uses the whole screen (it uses relative seizes). I use a modified Minima Stretched). Thereafter you can either:

1. Upload the image in the size you want (e.g 800*533) via a third-party site where you get an URL to paste into the uploading-window

2 Upload a page in the same size in the usual way, but edit the HTML code. If uploaded as large, you will find the size as 400 times something or other. Change these to for instance 800 times whatever. In addition you will have to change the "word" s400 to s800. Otherwise the picture will not be sharp.

Good luck!

Barbara Martin said...

Wonderful looking desserts to try, yum. I'm with Barrie on the mille feuilles, most favourite dessert ties with pumpkin pie and whipped cream.


You've just ruined my diet

Anonymous said...

Wow, the food looks so delicious! I can hardly wait to visit Hong Kong.

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear RuneE

Wow, RuneE, I was going to check back on your site to see if you had noticed my comment, and now you have brought the answer over here. Thank you very much.

I should have thought that this is partially a template issue; I am constrained by the template I am using. I will play around with this and see what I get.

Thank you very much for your trouble and attention to help me with this issue. I very much appreciate it.

Dear Barbara

I hear you on those choices, but I am a sucker for the 3 day creme brulée I make (it takes 3 days to make), and both pecan pie et une bombe de chocolate make me salivate... Actually, there are many desserts that I willing spend time with. Its too bad that they all have the pernicious habit of shrinking my pants when I am not looking.

Dear Archavist

Diets are meant to be ruined; [Oh frabjous day!] there is always oats boiled in milk for breakfast [Callooh! Callay!] with a big mug of tea, especially in Wales, as preparation (penance?) for the evening caloric splurge. [He chortled in his joy.]

Dear GigiHawaii

There many good reasons to visit Hong Kong including hikes like the one you did as a university girl with sandals are common here and there is much fine food. The locals also enjoy shopping; that is their national sport but not my cup of tea or square of chocolate.

Tschuess all,

Junosmom said...

Ah, Chris, you leave me feeling so insulated, wrapped up in flannel. There are so many things and foods I've not experienced.

Anonymous said...

I need to go to Hong Kong!! That food sounds delicious!!! :D (Like you, I love all food (even orange marmelade))

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Junosmom and Bea both,

Come on over and visit.

Junosmom: good food, eyepopping urban vistas, great museums, a break from it all... you ought to come...

Bea: Great hikes in the Asian wilderness combined with some truly tall towers too. Vast arrays of food. And new monsters to see and tame in wool...