Cover Chef ArChan Chan

Hong Kong-born chef ArChan Chan of Level 33 in Singapore on the Hong Kong classics she misses most, what she always eats when she returns to the city, and where she finds the flavours of home in Singapore

If it wasn’t apparent from ArChan Chan’s debut cookbook, Hong Kong Local, which was published in September 2020 and features more than 70 recipes centred on classic Hong Kong cuisine, that the chef has a deep appreciation for Cantonese cuisine, then her picks of the foods she misses and the restaurants she yearns to visit further emphasise the fact.

Based in Singapore, where she is executive chef at Level 33, Chan has lived outside her home of Hong Kong for more than a decade, first in Melbourne, where she worked at now-defunct Cantonese eatery Ricky and Pinky before moving to Singapore three years ago. While she doesn’t make it back to Hong Kong very often––even when there isn’t a global pandemic––there are many dishes she longs for. From milk tea to claypot rice, egg tarts and, of course, yum cha, she shares some of her favourites with Tatler Dining.

What do you miss most in terms of food and drink when you are away from Hong Kong or haven’t been back for a while? 

Beef brisket noodles (牛腩麵) is one of dishes I miss most. You can find this dish in Australia and Singapore, but in Hong Kong there are so many options and the quality is so high; it’s a speciality in Hong Kong. I also miss yum cha, fresh seafood at Tuen Mun Sam Shing Hui Seafood Market (屯門三聖村海鮮檔), milk tea, and puff pastry egg tarts (酥皮蛋撻). I love bamboo steamed shrimp rice (籠仔蒸蝦飯), too. It’s rice steamed in bamboo with lotus leaf and served with prawns or crab meat, soy sauce and garlic. It’s something quite special that not a lot of people know about. I included a recipe for it in my cookbook. There are a lot of places in Tai Kok Tsui where you can find this classic dish. Hong Kong also has some really good traditional Korean barbecue restaurants.

What is the first dish you eat when you return and where do you go for it?

Usually breakfast with my Dad at a congee place close to where I live in Prince Edward, and freshly fried donut at 坤記粥店, also in Prince Edward.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in Hong Kong, for fine dining and for more casual experiences? 

For fine dining, I like Belon. I went last year with May Chow when chef Daniel Calvert was still there and it was really good. For more casual experiences, I like Ho Lee Fook and Yardbird; they are both easy, fun places to dine out.

If you have visitors or guests with you, where do you ensure you always go to give them a real taste of Hong Kong?

I like to bring visitors to places where you can still get a feel for old Hong Kong, so places that are very traditional and deliver that taste of Hong Kong from my memories: dai pai dong (大排檔), and cha chaan teng (茶餐廳), curry fishballs (咖哩魚蛋) at 油麻地通達 in Yau Ma Tei, Lin Heung Tea House (蓮香樓) for yum cha, tofu pudding at Kung Wo (公和) in Sham Shui Po, and claypot rice (煲仔飯).

Where do you like to meet up with old friends for food and/or drinks?

Every time I go back to Hong Kong there are so many new places that have opened up, so we will try to find somewhere new for coffee or craft beer. But usually, I make sure I go for chicken pot (雞煲), and yum cha at Lin Heung Tea House.

Do you have a favourite bar or café in Hong Kong?

I have a good friend who used to be the restaurant manager at King Ludwig when I was a part-time server there about 15 years ago. She went on to open her own place, Moreish & Malt, which now has outlets in Hung Hom, Kwun Tong and Wan Chai. It has delicious food, friendly service and great coffee and drinks.

Is there anywhere else that you never miss visiting when you are back?

Ah Lung Pakistan Halal Food (亞 龍 咖 喱). But you have to be careful which one you go to: not 阿龍 next door, which is different. I used to go to Ah Lung for curry with my dad when I was young. It was always very popular. We would go regularly and as I got older I was able to move up the scale of spicy dishes. But one day, the owner decided he wanted to open his own curry place and ended the lease. The founder of the store was forced to open up next door. So now there are two stores next to each other. I always support the original boss who serves the curry of my childhood, which is the newer store. That’s the one I recommend.

What do you always take with you when you leave Hong Kong?

You might think this is silly, but I used to take Yakult from Hong Kong back to Australia when I lived there, because the Yakult in Australia was so much more expensive. Nowadays I usually buy Black & White evaporated milk (黑白淡奶) so I can make Hong Kong-style milk tea. The Black and White brand is from the Netherlands and is produced mainly for Hong Kong. Traditional milk tea places use this brand, and it’s very hard to find it overseas.

Where do go to find authentic flavours of Hong Kong when you are back in Singapore?

Yum cha is something you do with family. We always went as a family. Yum cha is in our blood. I’m happy to have found a place in Chinatown in Singapore that does decent dim sum. It's actually called Yum Cha and it even does paper-wrapped chicken  (紙包雞), an old-school item that’s hard to find in Hong Kong nowadays. It reminds me of my childhood, so whenever a restaurant has it, I will order it. I go to TamJai SamGor (譚仔三哥), too. I really like sour and spicy food, which is what you will find here, and it also holds childhood memories as it started becoming popular when I was at high school. A branch recently opened in Singapore and I was really happy; that was probably one of the best things to have happened in the crazy year that was 2020.

Related: A Taste of Home: Emmy The Great On Where To Eat In Hong Kong

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