Cover As a child, Victoria Chow would spend days sketching in Graham Street Market (Illustration: Stephen Collins)

For the founder of The Woods, the sights, sounds and flavours of the historic Hong Kong market has a special place in her memories

As part of our series celebrating the vibrancy and community within Hong Kong’s dining scene, we spoke to several of the industry’s leading lights about why they love the city’s unique food culture. Here, Victoria Chow—founder of nomadic cocktail bar and creative caterers, The Woods – tells us about her lifetime of memories at Graham Street market and her go-to restaurant for Shanghainese cuisine in Hong Kong.

Tell us about one of your favourite Hong Kong food memories.

I’ve been going to Graham Street Market in Central for as long I can remember. My mom would bring me to shop for our weekly fish, meat and vegetables there, and I feel like I can play a cheesy montage of all the memories I have of it through the years in my head—skipping over puddles along the street, picking tiny green caterpillars from our fresh greens on the way home (before the widespread use of pesticides…), and shopping for live chickens still in their cages (before avian flu…).

My fascination with the sounds, smells and energy of the market continued throughout high school, and I dedicated whole chapters of my GCSE and A-Levels art studies to drawing and painting scenes from the butchers and fishmongers, who became accustomed to me coming by with my camera and sketchbooks.

When I started The Woods, we dedicated our menu to the seasonality of fruits and vegetables, which we could check on daily since the market was only a two-minute walk from our bar; we became good friends with the fruit stall owners, who would always let us know which produce was at its prime. Working late nights on weekends also meant that I was able to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the market in the wee hours of the morning—receiving their deliveries from the farms and their importers, with trucks full of hanging meats and cases upon cases of produce unloading.

So much has changed on Graham Street in the past few years, with buildings getting torn down and streets becoming redeveloped, but I hope the market will always be there in one form or another!

What are some of your favourite local ingredients to use?

I’m not sure if it’s considered local to Hong Kong, but I love jiu niang. It’s essentially a fermented rice pudding—a little sweet, a little vinegary, a little boozy! It’s often served with osmanthus in a soup with tang yuan, which is always the dessert du jour every time we have big family gatherings for festivals—be it Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn or winter solstice. A friend of my mom makes her own and often gifts it to us in large batches.

If you could only visit one restaurant in Hong Kong again, what would it be – and how does it sum up what you love about the city’s food scene?

Liu Yuan Pavilion. My family is Shanghainese, and that restaurant is like their canteen—pre-Covid, you would find my parents there twice a week! They make the best traditional Shanghainese dishes such as river prawns, braised pork, and an array of vegetarian appetisers; it’s always worth going in large groups so we can order more dishes. I love that Liu Yuan is an example of a restaurant that exudes the comfort of traditional home cooking.

Victoria’s Picks

  • Graham Street Market, Central, Hong Kong
  • Liu Yuan Pavilion, 3/F, The Broadway, 54-62 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2804 2000