When you make the turn from Hollywood Road onto Gough Street, you’re faced with large crowds on your left and a long organised queue to your right. Many a time I’ve fallen into an orderly line leading into Kau Kee Restaurant, but this time the bustle of Sing Heung Yuen was more tempting. The busiest time for this dai pai dong is around lunch, between 12 to 3pm so be prepared to wait (in a rather odd way). When we arrived, we saw the local office workers hovering like vultures around the limited seating areas, so close to the diners they were almost breathing down their necks! In a place like this, it’s the aggressive and strategic who learn to read exactly which people will finish their meals the soonest, and perch themselves mere millimetres behind.
By the time the patrons before us had finished slurping and vacated their seats, we had already browsed the menu several times over and chosen a few items to devour. The more adventurous expats will be glad to hear that in the recent months, the owners have introduced (slightly sticky) laminated bilingual menus with cute little clipart illustrations! We decided to try the Tomato, Beef & Egg Macaroni ($26) and the Tomato, Luncheon Meat & Egg Instant Noodles ($23) to start and the Iced Lemon ($11) and Milk Teas ($11). Rice noodles were out-of-stock that day, but that’s another available option.
The combinations are simple, admittedly, and probably easy to dish up at home but there’s a sense of comfort which transpires from slurping the MSG-filled instant noodles, the tinned tomato and the bicarb-tenderised beef. My only qualm was the overflow of tomato soup which covered my noodles, but looking around I seemed to have drawn the short straw.
We finished up with a Peanut Butter Condensed Milk Toast ($9), roughly sliced up into four dainty triangles, which delivered just the right amount of sweetness post-lunch. Many cha chaan teng and dai pai dongs these days seem to have foregone the thickly sliced bread, so we pleased that the owners had retained it.
Hong Kong culture seems to have embraced the concept of lining up for good food and Sing Heung Yuen is definitely no exception. Although slightly chaotic, the fact that their customers include well-suited individuals willing to wait it out before having to squeeze themselves onto the less-than-hygenic stools, lies testament to the popularity of this little gem. It’s only closed on Sundays and open every other day from 8am to 5:30pm to offer cheap, comfort food with a dash of Hong Kong atmosphere, especially when you’re yelled at to move aside for two boiling bowls of noodles. After all, half the time it’s the experience that counts!