Feb 14

Travel Guide to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is a little off the beaten tourist trail as it is located on a steep hillside. As you make your way uphill, thank your lucky stars that you weren’t part of the construction team. Work began on the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery project in 1949. The monastery was the brainchild of the venerable Reverend Yuet Kai. Together with his disciples, they carried all the building materials up to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery personally by hand!

10000 Buddhas Monastery Pagoda - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

History of Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Reverend Yuet Kai’s story is unusual, to say the least. Born into a wealthy family, he studied philosophy at a well-known university in China. At age 19, Reverend Yuet Kai converted to Buddhism. His religious zeal knew no bounds. To demonstrate the depth of his faith, he cut off two fingers on his left hand as well as a piece of flesh – which was the size of his palm – from his chest. Thereafter, he burnt them in order to light 48 lanterns as an offering to the Buddha. Reverend Yuet Kai was an old man by the time the idea for the monastery was conceived. However, he still joined his disciples in carrying those materials up the hillside!

Eight long years later, the exterior building work was finished but it took another decade before the rest was done. Reverend Yuet Kai died, aged 87, in 1965. Following his wishes, eight months on, his disciples removed his body from the coffin. Reverend Yuet Kai’s body was in almost perfect condition, just as he had predicted! The disciples then embalmed the body with Chinese lacquer and gold leaves. To this day, the immortal body of Reverend Yuet Kai occupies a prominent position in the main hall of the monastery where devotees can come to pay their respects.

There are about 12,800 statues of Buddhas at the monastery and each has a different posture. If you’re wondering about the discrepancy between the number of Buddhas and the monastery’s name, there’s a simple explanation. In Cantonese, the phrase for ten thousand really means “a large number”. So, the name is not a mistake. We’d suggest you count them, but only after you catch your breath post climbing all those steps!

Step-by-Step Guide to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

There’s no disputing that the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is worth a visit, but it can be tricky to find. If you follow our step-by-step photo guide, you won’t get lost. Be prepared for quite a climb though. There are a lot of steps! But everything has a silver lining and the climb is going to put some tourists off – meaning there’ll be less of a crowd to share it with. Here’s where you need to go.

Firstly, take the MTR to Sha Tin Station. You need to take the East Rail Line. Don’t confuse this station with Sha Tin Wai Station on the Ma On Shan Line! When you arrive at Sha Tin Station, take Exit B, labelled Grand Central Plaza.

Sha Tin Station, Exit B, Grand Central Plaza - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Make a left and aim for the ramp. Alternatively, you can follow the signage for taxis and pedestrians.

10000 Buddhas Monastery - Sha Tin - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Once outside, please follow the pedestrian path for a short distance. At this point, you are still heading in the general direction of Grand Central Plaza.

10000 Buddhas Monastery - Sha Tin - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Next, bear left and cut through these village houses.

10000 Buddhas Monastery - Sha Tin Village Houses  - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

You’ll also walk past these stalls selling paper offerings, incense sticks and fruits for worshiping.

10000 Buddhas Monastery - Sha Tin Village Houses  - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

10000 Buddhas Monastery - Sha Tin Village Houses  - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Shortly after, you’ll notice this pathway on the left marked with a cluster of signs. Follow the path and you’ll find a white sign for Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. This means you are on the right track!

10000 Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

10000 Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

This is a close-up of that same sign.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

From here, keep heading straight. The path is lined with a metal fence – the hillside to your left and the village to your right.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Continue straight on. You’ll pass more buildings and a few turn offs, but don’t deviate.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Keep right; you don’t need to go up the steps.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Head straight and you’ll find yourself walking past the public toilets. You’re steadily making your way uphill towards the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. Keep going!

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Walk past this small red gate. Keep right.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Keep climbing and go past this culvert.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Remember to keep heading in the general direction of the trees.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

The path’s long but well maintained. Here, bear right and follow the path, aiming for the yellow sign in the background.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Keep following that yellow sign!

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Soon you’ll arrive at the monastery. You’ll know you’re almost there when you see a huge golden Buddha statue to the left of a series of steps.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Go up these steps, which as you ascend, are lined with more golden Arhat statues.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Hurray! You’ve finally arrived at Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery; it’s red with golden adornment. This is the main area, where you’ll find those 12,800 Buddha statues on the walls, each with different posture. But we’re not done yet – there’s more!

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Head right, skirting around the building where you will find the brown sign. It leads to other sections of the monastery, such as the Amitabha Hall, Jade Emperor Hall and Tai Sui Gallery.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

There are now three routes to choose from. First, take the lane on the far left to visit the Jade Emperor Hall, Amitabha Hall, Avalokitesvara House, Cundi House, Ksitigarbha House, Sprinkler Guanyin, YueXi Pavilion and Naga-puspa Court. The middle lane brings you to Tai Sui Gallery while the far right lane will bring you back to the city.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

This is the path to look for when you make your way back to the Tai Sui Gallery – the middle lane of the three.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

When you arrive at this junction, you are at the end of the Tai Sui Gallery. Follow the lane where the people are in the photo and you’ll find yourself in the right direction to get back to the city.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Ready to head back to the city? More life size Arhat statues await on your journey home!

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

Finally, you can see the city. Watch out for that Sheung Wo Che Road sign. The Sha Tin MTR station is just north east of this picture.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery - Big Foot Tour - Hong Kong

We hope you will have fun exploring the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery! The opening hours are from 9am to 5pm everyday (except on days with heavy rain, or with typhoon signal 8 or above).

For an in-depth tour of Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery or if you are interested in one of our private walking tours of Hong Kong, visit our Big Foot Tour website today!

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Feb 03

Top Ten Hong Kong Desserts

Do you have a sweet tooth? Read on – because here are our picks of the best Hong Kong desserts!

Mango Pomelo Sago

This much-coveted favourite among Hong Kong desserts was created a little over three decades ago. It migrated with the Singaporean Lei Garden when it opened its first branch in Hong Kong. Boiled sago is added to a blended mix of diced mango, coconut milk, evaporated milk and regular milk. Sliced pomelo is used as a decoration. It’s a refreshing dessert, chilled before serving to form the perfect antidote to the oppressive tropical heat and humidity that can be a challenge in Hong Kong’s wet season. Try your luck at Lucky Dessert in Sham Tseng and Hui Lau Shan in Mong Kok!

Egg Waffle

Known locally as gai daan jai, egg waffles are a popular Hong Kong dessert choice. Oval in shape, some say they took this form because after the war, eggs were a luxury item in short supply. The egg shape mould was a nod to the dessert they truly wished for. However, others say the batter has historically always contained egg. These days, on top of the traditional mix, flavourings such as ginger, green tea or purple sweet potato are used to create a modern twist to a Hong Kong classic. If you’re looking for the best Hong Kong egg waffles, we recommend checking out Lee Keung Kee in North Point and Mammy Pancake in Causeway Bay.

Sweet Red Bean Soup

Soup might not be the obvious choice when it comes to Hong Kong desserts but you will want to try sweet red bean soup. As the name suggests, it’s a sweet treat and can be served hot or cold. It gets its flavour from the adzuki beans which form its key ingredient. Dried tangerine peel is added to add a hint of tangy citrus. The addition of Chinese rock sugar completes the trilogy, creating a subtle flavour. This soup will leave you begging for more. We recommend visiting Yuen Kee Dessert in Hong Kong’s Western District and Kai Kai Dessert in Jordan!

Tofu Pudding

Tofu is quintessentially Asian and in Hong Kong, this pudding is commonly paired with the aforementioned sweet red bean soup. The main ingredient has been around for over two thousand years. Liu An first came up with the idea during the Han Dynasty. This traditional bean curd secured a spot on Hong Kong’s inaugural list of living heritage, published in 2014. Smooth and silky, pair it with sweet ginger or serve it with syrup and savour the taste as it slips down your throat. You can find this, one of the all-time classic Hong Kong desserts, at Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong in Sham Shui Po and Kin Hing Tofu Dessert on Lamma Island!

Glutinous rice balls

Some Hong Kong desserts are savoured during special occasions. This one is often eaten during the Lantern Festival and you’d also be unsurprised to be offered it at a Chinese wedding. Known locally as tong jyun, which translates as round balls in soup, that’s exactly what you’ll get. The round shape symbolises togetherness, so the dessert has emotional significance as well as great taste. Balls of rice flour dough are filled with sugar, sesame seeds, sweet bean paste or sweetened tangerine peel. Head to Fook Yuen in North Point and Chiu Chow Hop Shing Dessert in Kowloon City to see what the fuss is about!

Grass Jelly

Grass jelly is another of our favourite Hong Kong desserts; though it has a slightly bitter taste. When it’s served chilled and topped with fresh fruit, it really hits the spot! It’s made by boiling the stalks and leaves of a special plant and cooling the mix until it sets to a soft jelly. Purists will order it with sugar syrup but it’s great with fruit such as melon or mango. If you go to Kei Kai Dessert in Yuen Long, ask for their B Boy Grass Jelly. We’d also like to point you in the direction of Honeymoon Dessert in Sai Kung.

Steamed milk pudding

Steamed milk pudding, also known as double-layered milk, is the ultimate naughty but nice must-have Hong Kong dessert. Its origins can be traced back to the era of the Qing Dynasty. It is thought that a farmer accidentally invented it as a way to preserve his milk. We’d recommend the steamed milk pudding from Yee Shun Dairy Company in Causeway Bay and the Australian Dairy Company in Jordan.

Mooncakes

These sweet pastries are typically gifted and consumed as part of the celebrations for Hong Kong’s Mid-Autumn Festival. Whole duck eggs are encased in thick lotus seed paste and sweet pastry. Look out for inventive fillings devised by the big hotels who seek to outdo each other in their attempts to tempt Hong Kong people’s taste buds.

Egg Tart

If ever a dessert is a reminder of the melting pot of cultures that characterises Hong Kong, then it’s the egg tart. It draws its influences from the Portuguese Pastéis de Belém and the British custard tart. However, the Hong Kong egg tart has the creaminess of the former and the smooth uncaramelised taste of the latter. This delicious hot pastry is commonly consumed in teahouses known as cha chaan tengs as an accompaniment to tea, though you’ll find it in bakeries as well. If you’re looking for some of the city’s most flavorful egg tarts, then head on over to Tai Cheong Bakery and Happy Cake Shop!

Shaved ice dessert

Shaved ice dessert is the perfect solution to a hot day, refreshing yet tasty and of course, sweet. It originated in Roman times in Italy but is now popular throughout Asia. It’s one of the best Hong Kong desserts in our opinion. The dish has different names depending on where you source it. In Taiwanese cuisine, ask for Baobing. If you are in Japan, it’s called Kakigori; in Korea, Patbingsu. Our favourites are the Hanbing Korean Dessert Café which you’ll find in Harbour City. It serves its snow ice in a wide range of flavours including green tea, mango and even Oreo! If you’re in Causeway Bay, Chung Kee Dessert is an alternative we’re also happy to recommend!

Are you a foodie and looking for a personal gastronomic experience in Hong Kong? Join us on our Hong Kong Food Tour today! For more information, please visit our main website, Big Foot Tour.

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Jan 23

Our Favourite Chinese New Year Traditions

It’s finally here! Our favourite time of year brings a whole host of favourite traditions. While the highlight of the festivities will be the chance to celebrate Chinese New Year with our friends and families, there are a lot of other things we look forward to as well.

Shopping at the Flower Markets

Shopping at Hong Kong’s flower markets is a popular occupation at this time of the year. The annual Flower Market at Victoria Park has already begun! From January 22nd until 6am on New Year’s Day, there will be plenty of opportunity to stock up on some of the plants and flowers traditionally associated with the holiday. Look out for mandarin trees, a symbol of prosperity, cherry and plum blossom which represent new beginnings as well as lucky daffodils and bamboo.

Spring Cleaning

It’s important to make sure homes are free of dirt before the clock strikes midnight. On New Year’s Eve people are busy sweeping up any last vestiges of dirt. But woe betide anyone who’s tardy with their housework: it’s considered unlucky to clean on New Year’s Day. If the dustpan comes out after midnight, then all the good fortune that has been accumulated will be swept away with the dust. For the first five days of the New Year, people place any rubbish in the corners of their living rooms. The superstitious believe that if dirt is swept across the threshold, then a member of the family will be lost as well. On the fifth day, that rubbish goes out the back door, so that good fortune can’t be lost from the front.

Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner

Much as we love the company, New Year is as much about the food as it is the getting together with family. It’s a time when we enjoy some special foods, and each has a symbolic meaning as well as being valued for its delicious taste. Fish is served to represent abundance, as the Chinese name sounds like the word “surplus”. Carp and catfish are commonly found on the table, with their head pointing to the most distinguished guest; don’t move it! Also key dishes are Chinese dumplings and spring rolls, which signify wealth. For a long life, it’s best to look out for longevity noodles, longer than the usual variety.

Those hoping for a promotion at work should dig in to the glutinous rice cake, which traditionally symbolizes a higher income or position. Nin Gou, as it’s called, is a delicious combination of dates, sugar, sticky rice, chestnuts and lotus leaves. Sweet rice balls are associated with family togetherness while certain fruits are chosen for both their appearance and name. The Chinese word for tangerine, for instance, is similar to that for “success”. Anything golden in colour is considered lucky.

Lai Si

We’re hoping for a glut of red and gold envelopes this New Year – are you? Lai Si are the little packets that, if you’re lucky, will come your way filled with cash. Signifying prosperity and fortune, you’re most likely to be given them if you’re a kid, as it’s customary for an elder to give them to someone much younger than themselves. However you’ll also witness them being given from bosses to employees, married couples to singletons and as tips to waiters, doormen and others providing a service.

If you do decide to dish them out, then make sure you include brand new notes (never coins). The amount should have nothing to do with the number four, as that’s considered unlucky. The word sounds like “death” in Cantonese. But make sure that it’s an even number, as odd numbers are associated with funerals. Once you’ve got your head around that, you’ll be pleased to know that both the donor and the recipient share the good luck.

Lighting joss sticks at Wong Tai Sin temple

Wong Tai Sin Temple is busier than ever during the run up to Chinese New Year. On New Year’s Eve, queues will form as people wait outside. On the stroke of midnight, they’ll pour inside to light sticks of incense. Why such a rush? Well, many believe that the earlier those sticks are glowing, the greater their luck will be in the upcoming year. The temple itself is one of the most famous in Hong Kong. Constructed in 1921, as the name suggests, it is dedicated to Wong Tai Sin. He was known as the Great Immortal Wong. It’s typically Chinese in appearance, with red pillars supporting a golden roof. Yellow latticework and multi-coloured decoration complete the colourful picture.

Lunar New Year Night Parade

One of the most colourful events on the Hong Kong social calendar has surely got to be the Chinese New Year Parade. The procession consists of elaborately decorated floats, bands of musicians, acrobats, drummers and dancers. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a sprinkling of dragons and lions too. This incredible street party welcomes visitors from across the world. Participating in this year’s event are performers from across the globe, representing nations as diverse as Peru, Japan and the Czech Republic. If you’d like to catch the event, it’s free to watch. Come early to secure a spot; we recommend stationing yourself along Canton Road, Haiphong Road and Nathan Road. The fun starts at the Hong Kong Cultural Center at 8pm on New Year’s Day.

Lunar New Year Fireworks

Who doesn’t love a great fireworks display? Hong Kong Harbour forms the ideal backdrop for a 23 minute display of pyrotechnics kicking off at 8pm on January 29th. The sky will light up in a riot of colour, the fireworks launched from a fleet of barges and pontoons moored up in the water. Whether you’re in Kowloon or on Hong Kong Island, the view’s guaranteed to be fabulous. If you’re on the Tsim Sha Tsui side of the water, a popular vantage point is the Hung Hom Bypass, closed to traffic for the duration of the event. Alternatively base yourself along the promenade anywhere from the Star Ferry Terminal to the New World Centre. Across the harbour, try Bauhinia Square near the Convention Centre or along the Central Waterfront Promenade.

The Lion Dance

Lions bring good luck and thus the Lion Dance will always be an integral part of any self-respecting Chinese New Year celebration wherever you are in the world. This energetic dance is accompanied by the beat of drums, gongs and cymbals. The result is a cacophony of noise to equal the riot of colour found in the elaborate costumes.

The dance is thought to originate from the days of the Han Dynasty. A few lions had been introduced to Chinese society via the Silk Road. This was a big deal considering that lions weren’t found in the wild. Performances started to take place, with two humans in costume mimicking the movements of these semi-mythical creatures. The practice became both more common and more popular. By the time of the Tang Dynasty, the Lion Dance was established as one of the dances seen at court. Now, you can still see similarities. Watch closely and you’ll observe cat-like traits such as scratching, licking fur and shaking the body.

Chinese New Year Lantern Festival

The Spring Lantern Festival heralds the end of the New Year celebrations. Throughout the month, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre is the location for a fantastic lantern exhibition and it’s free to enter. Although of course, you’ll see lanterns adorning buildings all over Hong Kong, the sheer number in one place make this an unmissable sight. Visit at night when the lanterns are lit; it’s magical.

Informally known as Chinese Valentine’s day, February 11th 2017 marks the 15th day of the new Lunar Year and this is when the Lantern Carnival will take place. The action’s likely to kick off at 7.30pm and last until around 10pm. Performances take place at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre throughout the day. You’ll have the chance to see folk singers, dancers, musicians, acrobats and more. If you can’t get there, consider heading along to one of the other venues which are hosting events, including Sha Tsui Road Playground in Tsuen Wan and also the North District Park.

Getting our fortunes told at the temple

There’s one thing left to complete our run through of Lunar New Year, and that’s to get our fortunes told at one of Hong Kong’s many temples. Even the government participates in the ritual known as kau cim. On the 2nd day of the Lunar New Year in Sha Tin’s Che Kung temple, a member of the government shakes a tin of fortune sticks, waiting for one to fall. The fortune of Hong Kong for the upcoming year rests on the outcome. The city holds its breath as they wait to find out what the verdict will be. Yes, Chinese New Year is an opportunity to take stock. We’ll look back at the past twelve months, trying to learn from our mistakes and build on our successes. We wish you good fortune, health and happiness for the Year of the Rooster!

Love to find out more about Hong Kong and its fascinating culture? Join us on our Real Hong Kong Tour today! We offer the perfect overview for first-time visitors, including plenty of fun facts and insider stories. For more information, visit Big Foot Tour – Hong Kong Walking Tours.

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Jan 17

Cheung Chau: Past and Present

Known for its bun festival, Cheung Chau Island is the oldest continually inhabited part of Hong Kong. Its long and fascinating history deserves a closer look.

Walk or cycle on this quaint island – no motorized vehicles allowed, except for emergency vehicles!

The islanders of Cheung Chau have always maintained a very close relationship with the sea. Many have earned a living from the sea for generations, many of whom resided on junks rather than on land. It’s thought that there may have been human life here many thousands of years ago. People have found rock carvings that seem to bear this out.

The Tanka, or egg people, came here from China. Hoklos, who were fishermen from eastern Guangdong and Fujian, joined them. Later, Punti, Hakka and Chiu Chau followed. These distinct groups kept themselves separate. Inter-marriage was rare, preserving traditions. By the time the Europeans arrived, the area was a thriving commercial hub.

One of the area’s most well-known landmarks, Pak Tai Temple, honours the Supreme Emperor of the northern Heaven, Pak Tai. The structure is thought to be about 200 years old. Eagle-eyed visitors might spot an iron sword from the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279). Another of the temple’s highlights is the addition of gold-plated wood features which date from the later Qing Dynasty.

This temple is the focus for one of the island’s most important events: the Bun Festival. Falling on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month, islanders construct a bamboo tower and get to work baking buns. At midnight, men race up the tower to grab the buns. They have just three minutes to gather as many as they can – the higher they reach, the better the fortune to befall their family. Fishermen believed their catches would be abundant and that the pirates that bedevilled the seas would leave them alone.

 

The origins of the festival are rooted in tragedy, however. Over a century ago, disease spread through Cheung Chau. In desperation, the islanders built an altar in front of Pak Tai Temple. They hoped to appease the malevolent spirits that wreaked such havoc. A parade of papier-mâché effigies passed through the streets. People beat ceremonial gongs and drums to drive away forces of evil. For more than a hundred years, these rituals have been repeated and the plague has never returned. The pirates, too, are a thing of the past.

Another temple important to the fishing community on Cheung Chau is that of Tin Hau. It’s dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea. Inside visitors will find a beautiful bell cast in bronze which dates back to the Qianlong era (1736 to 1796). The views from the rear of the temple that overlook the sea are well worth a peek.

Cheung Chau’s pirate heritage is represented on the tourist trail by the Cheung Po Tsai caves. Cheung Po Tsai was an infamous pirate who plagued the South China Sea at the end of the 18th century. He was skilled at what he did, too, securing a fleet of 600 ships and commanding an estimated 50,000 men. Eventually, he decided to work for good rather than evil. This led to his appointment as an officer in the Chinese Navy. As a pirate, though, he needed somewhere to store his ill-gotten gains. One of his favourite hiding places was what’s now known as the Cheung Po Tsai caves. You’ll need a torch to explore in the dark, but don’t come expecting to find treasure – this is a well-trodden path and the loot is long gone. For a scenic route to the Cheung Po Tsai Caves, we recommend taking the sampan ferry service from the public pier which will cost you just 5HKD each way.

Secret entrance to Cheung Po Tsai Cave. Watch your step!

Nearby, you’ll find Reclining Rock, its distinctive shape and photogenic beauty are a major draw for those on the Cheung Chau Family walk, an easy two-hour trail. Alternatively, walk the part of the path known as the Mini Great Wall. Lined with granite railings, it takes hikers past iconic landforms such as Human Head Rock and Vase Rock. Of course, if you don’t want to walk at all, the island is blessed with many beautiful beaches. Surfers will appreciate the swell that characterizes Kwun Yam Beach, perhaps hoping to emulate Lee Lai-Shan, Hong Kong’s first Olympic gold medallist who won big in Atlanta in 1996. Nearby, another favourite is Tung Wan Beach, popular for its turquoise hue and views across to Aberdeen and to Lamma Island.

If you’re looking to add a day trip to Cheung Chau to your Hong Kong itinerary, make sure to catch the Fast Ferry from Central Pier 5 rather than the Ordinary Ferry, as to give you more time to explore the island. Our final recommendation is that you plan your visit during a weekday, to avoid the hectic weekend crowds. Enjoy and have a safe trip!

Pick the Fast Ferry!

Looking for a tailor-made Hong Kong tour experience? Our Hong Kong Private Tour offers high flexibility and autonomy as we create an itinerary entirely around your tour interests. We welcome changes at any time, even during the tour. Contact Big Foot Tour for an unique touring experience of Hong Kong!

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Jan 09

The History of Egg Tarts

Hong Kong’s egg tarts pack a whole lot of history into just a couple of bites. These flavoursome pastries owe their existence to both the Portuguese Pastéis de Belém and the British custard tart. Though different to both, this was a fusion of culture and cuisine that is uniquely Hong Kong.

We begin our culinary journey in 19th century Portugal, in the Jerónimos Monastery in the Lisbon district of Belém. The monks that called Jerónimos home were in the habit of baking tiny custard tarts. The sugar of the egg yolk yellow filling caramelised in the oven to create their distinctive appearance and delicious taste. A few decades later, a small factory opened next door and the recipe was handed down from generation to generation. Then, as now, queues formed around the block. Locals and visitors alike were keen to savour the sweet creamy filling and rich crumbly pastry. From 1557 to 1999, Macau was a Portuguese colony. It was no surprise that egg tarts as well as people made the leap from Europe to Asia.

Fast forward to the 1940s and 1950s, there was an influx of immigration into nearby Hong Kong from mainland China. Many migrants came from nearby Guangzhou, a populous city to the north east of Hong Kong, where egg tarts were already popular. Europeans had settled in the area since the time of the First Opium war, a century earlier, siting their opium warehouses in Guangzhou. As settlers are prone to do, they’d brought with them their own cuisine. Although, the egg tart wasn’t documented there until much later – probably the 1920s. Bakeries and cafes commonly unveiled special dishes and new inventions in an attempt to win new custom. It’s generally thought that egg tarts were one such item.

Known locally as dan tat, the egg tart found in Guangzhou consisted of a shortcrust pastry base, made with lard rather than butter. Sometimes, puff pastry was used, which many people say is a more authentic Guangzhou ingredient. Inside, the filling was a rich egg custard, glossy in appearance and silky smooth on the tongue. It drew from both Portuguese and British tarts, though it wasn’t a match for either. There were variations too: coconut tarts, chocolate tarts, tarts flavoured with green tea or ginger and even bird’s nest tarts. However, nothing could quite equal the classic egg tart.

Influenced by its own colonial heritage, as in Guangzhou, the Hong Kong tart fused the creamy texture of the Pastéis de Belém with a British custard tart. The Hong Kong version combined the best characteristics of both tarts to make something approaching perfection. Bakers ditched the nutmeg and served the tart hot rather than cold. They started to appear in teahouses known as cha chaan tengs where they were warmly received as an accompaniment to tea. It was a time when Western influence was de rigueur and the pastry was aimed at a wider audience.

One of the best places to try Hong Kong egg tarts is Tai Cheong Bakery on Lyndhurst Road in Central. The original bakery opened back in 1954. This popular chain has a string of branches across Hong Kong. Among them, it’s estimated they produce over 30,000 tarts every single day. However there are a plethora of places in Hong Kong where you’ll find egg tarts – they even appear on the menu at KFC! The Hoover Cake Shop in Kowloon, located at the corner of Nga Tsin Wai and Fuk Lo Tsun Roads, also wins plenty of plaudits amongst egg tart connoisseurs. Don’t expect a seat – it’s takeaway only – but do expect to wait in line before the hot, sweet tarts make it into your hands.

If you’re not planning a side trip to Macau but can’t bear the thought of missing out on one of the Portuguese-style Pastéis de Belém, then you’ll be pleased to hear that top Macanese bakery Lord Stow has infiltrated The Excelsior at Causeway Bay.

The egg tart was famously a favourite of the last British governor to Hong Kong, Chris Patten. Of course, he’s long gone, but fortunately for visitors to this iconic melting pot city, the pastries remain. Bon appétit!

Tai Cheong Bakery

Love what you’ve read? At Big Foot Tour, we love to introduce you to authentic Hong Kong food. There’s so much to choose from – egg tarts, Dim Sum, Wonton Noodles, or exotic options such as Snake Soup and Turtle Jelly. Join us on our private Hong Kong Food Tour today! Unlike a typical group tour,  we customize your itinerary around your food preferences and sense of adventure. You determine what, how much and how fast you eat! For more details, visit Big Foot Tour.

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