Paula and I have just returned from visiting Tom Li, who has been out of Hong Kong for many months, so we’re completely cream-crackered. Tom has a store in the remote New Territories village of Sham Chung, and every Saturday when he’s in town we cycle down from the north, a round trip of 45 miles, to eat his incomparable pan-fried noodles.
The cycling is an adventure in itself, keeping entirely to country paths, back roads and dedicated cycle tracks, but that’s a subject for another day. Tom grew up in Sham Chung, which has no road access and is now almost completely abandoned, but he left to work in Chinese restaurants in the UK while still in his teens, more than forty years ago. He has a very low opinion of Chinese food in Britain, a judgement that I share, but he eventually moved to the States, where he opened his own restaurant. Nowadays, he comes back to Hong Kong regularly because he enjoys cooking for people who appreciate his food, and he has a lot of ‘fans’. His regular menu is basic country store fare, but in no other store will you find food this good. And if you phone him well in advance he’ll make anything you want.
We arrive in mid-morning, so there are no other diners, and we have time, over a bottle of ice-cold Tsingtao (a Chinese beer), to catch up on what we’ve been doing since we last met. Then it’s time for Tom to disappear into the kitchen. The first two pictures show Tom frying the noodles, and the third shows the end-product: Tom always complains that we polish off the plate in less time than it takes him to prepare it. After a second bottle of Tsingtao, it’s time to take our leave. We need to reach the bridge over the Shing Mun River (the halfway point) before one o’clock to avoid the worst of the crowds on the main cycle track north. A perfect day. We’re already looking forward to next Saturday.