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膏蟹 Roe Crab (雌蟹 (内子ある)) @ Ap Lei Chau Fish Market, Hong Kong (10.8.2017)
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On paper roe crab sounds super delicious and ours was so full of orange roe. But the thing is, roes are good when they were soft, creamy and melt in your mouth yet matured orange roes are too often overcooked and turn hard and firm. Ours were quite cooked and it was why I usually prefer virgin female crabs with soft roes and more crab miso
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薑蔥炒奄仔蟹x2 + 膏蟹x1
Stir fried Virgin Female Mud Crab x2 + Roe Crab x1 (「處女蟳」(処女蟹) x2 + 雌蟹 (内子ある) x1)
@ Ap Lei Chau Fish Market, Hong Kong (10.8.2017)
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After a series of bivalves and fish, here came the crustaceans. Starting with my favorite seafood, crabs! Although flower crabs are my favorite of all crabs, right now it is the (ending) season of virgin mud crabs which only come in small period of time in a year. So we went with the more rare treats, plus one roe crab. The latter is basically grown up female crabs and no longer “virgins” 😄)
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In Pic 2 you can see we got lucky and had a double shelled virgin crab!
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(SWIPE FOR MORE PICS)! 涼瓜豆豉炒龍躉頭 Stir Fried Giant Grouper’s Head with Bitter Melon and Black Bean Sauce (大きなハタの頭とゴーヤの豆チ炒め)
@ Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong (10.8.2017)
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We went from the smallest fish to the biggest fish, giant grouper 龍躉’s head which is the most expensive part of giant grouper. Of course! Because the thick gelatinous skin is the most sought after part of such a big fish and the head had the highest skin to meat ratio, and less chewy than the skin on the body.
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The fish itself is too big for steaming, stir fry or braise are the common ways to cook it.
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Stir fried with chili and black bean sauce is can be easily found but this version with bitter melon is a nice twist, and the bitterness turned out to be so good with savoury black beans (Pic 6). _
But, I just couldn’t get enough of the skin! You can see from Pic 3-5, skin on bones, we all want the gelatinous skin. It is a texture that Chinese love and praise a lot. If you know how to work your way through the bones, you can even suck on grouper’s bone marrows (Pic 2). So yum!

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豆醬蒸獅頭魚 Steamed “Lion Head Fish” with fermented soy bean (「獅頭魚」の発酵豆ソース蒸し
@ Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong (10.8.2017)
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This tiny lion head fish looks very similar to small yellow croakers but they are even better! Because the flesh is even more delicate and smooth, so very highly addictive. Small ones like these can be very boney which is why a lot of the people at the table gave up and I got extra share 😆. If you deep fry them, you can eat the whole thing with bones except for the heads which have some “stones” in them.
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In this restaurant they prepare it with fermented soy beans, a classic in Chiu Chow cooking. The sauce with the fish jus and the beans is again what makes you want to refill your rice bowl three times! One of my all time favorite fish / dish!
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Of course as the person who doesn’t stay in HK often, I exercised my right to claim the best part of the grouper: the head! Not all fish heads are worth the trouble to get through all the bones and work, but for groupers, totally YES!
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Because the heads tend to have thicker and very gelatinous skins. And the best of the best? The lips and jaw (Pic 2)! The jaw with the chin is basically kokotxa in Spain (Pic 3), but we don’t let the rest of the head go (Pic 1). _
The back of the eyes, the skin on the top of the head, the brains, I don’t even care about the cheeks and let my friends had it, but they were nice enough and let me take the bigger head of the black saddle coral grouper. So good!! When I eating the two fish I kept saying how happy I was how much miss this, my friends said do you know how many times you have said this? 😆
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蒸老鼠班 Steamed Highfin Grouper (「老鼠班」(ハタの一種)の姿蒸し)
@ Ap Lei Chau Fish Market, Hong Kong (10.8.2017)
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The second grouper we got with black spotted skin came soon after and it was great to eat them side by side to compare. This highfin grouper has thicker and even more gelatinous, the flesh was bouncier and less “soft” , with a meatier tender chew. The fish flavor, very specific grouper flavor, was stronger. Eating it after the coral grouper is the right sequence I think.
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Hard to say which one I liked better because they are so different. This one was also around $1000HKD ($130 USD), though much smaller than the previous coral grouper we had.
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蒸皇帝星班 Steamed Wild Black Saddle Coral Garoupa (Grouper) 「皇帝星」(ハタの一種) の姿蒸し
@ Ap Lei Chau Fish Market, Hong Kong (10.8.2017)
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Here we had a fish / food/ wine guru cutting up the a $1000 HKD (~$130 USD) for us. You see the very white flesh? This black saddle coral grouper had very soft and tender flesh, and the skin was thin yet velvety with oil. The fish taste was mild but because I am the kind of person who always goes for the parts with a lot of skin not the meat such as the fins and side belly, the tail and head etc, the velvety skin with gelatinous mouthfeel is what it needs to win me over.
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In HK these days wild or rare fish is just somewhat crazily expensive but because it is such an integral part of Cantonese meals, we are still willing to accept the absurdity, and like now we have 12 people sharing a feast then we can order more big fish to sample.
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蒸皇帝星班 Steamed Wild Black Saddle Coral Garoupa (Grouper) 「皇帝星」(ハタの一種) の姿蒸し
@ Ap Lei Chau Fish Market, Hong Kong (10.8.2017)
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This was the golden orange grouper with back stripes and spotted tail, done classic Cantonese steamed fish approach, scallions, ginger, cilantro (optional), seasoned soy sauce and hot oil.
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Because it is at the fish market food stall, the presentation is a bit sloppy but did not take away the taste. Steamed fish always appears to be so simple yet it is one of the Chinese cooking skills that is hardest to master. Because each fish varies in size AND thickness at different parts, and water content fat content skin thickness all differ, to steam fish precisely so it is just done and not overcooked consistently is much harder than imagine.
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Fish gurus say you need to have the flesh just off the bone (the very very split second) and there is still one thin line of blood on the spine bone. That’s considered just right and it is literally a fine line between perfectly steamed fish vs overcooked fish.
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More to come on this coral grouper!
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蒜蓉粉絲蒸扇貝 Steamed Scallops with Minced Garlic and Vermicelli (ホタテ貝のにんにくと春雨蒸し).
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One more bivalve! Same as razor clams these scallops were steamed with garlic and vermicelli, a little scallions, soy sauce and hot oil. Because of the size, these were meaty though I don’t mind the small ones that often come with roes (the moon shaped coral) and the skirts. Either way, the best is still the vermicelli and garlic with all the sauce and scallop juice. Slurp again!
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蒸象拔螃 Steamed Geoduck Clams (みる貝の姿蒸し) @ Ap Lei Chau Fish Market, Hong Kong (10.8.2017)
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More shellfish this time geoduck clams (mirugai) steamed whole in shell, with chopped scallion, ginger juliennes, soy sauce and a splash of hot oil. These are the small size ones as the big ones you need to do a whole lot of preparation and usually sliced thin for sashimi or hotpot (Cantonese style shabu shabu).
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The best way to eat it is, of course, to slurp! 😆 BUT, before you do that, please do this first: take a spoon and scoop all the soy sauce which now has all the geoduck clam juice from the steaming process. Put back everything they give out into them first, and now, you can slurp!
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And then say, “ So Sweeeetttt”!
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蒜蓉粉絲蒸蟶子皇 Steamed Giant Razor Clams with Minced Garlic and Vermicelli (Ap Lei Chau Fish Market, 10.8.2017).
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Classic preparation of razor clams, it’s my preferred way to stir fried with black beans and chili sauce as I don’t want any of the juice from the razor clams to be lost during the stir fry process. I want to slurp all the juice from the shell 😋. _
Of course the best part of the dish was the vermicelli that soaked up all the razor clam juice and soy sauce and eaten together with the garlic. More slurps! So good!
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(SWIPE -> FOR MORE PICS) We started our meal with the classic fish market’s fish soup, made with lots of small fish and also small flower crabs, and tomato. We joked and called it HK style bouillabaisse 😆 . It is very straightforward seafood and crustacean flavors, more like a seafood stock, and all we wanted was the soup as the fish were all melted and the crabs gave everything to the soup already.
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So this was the status of the seafood when we brought to the food stall to cook for us. Lobsters with moving legs and fish with moving tails (got expert David Lai ‘s approval and snapped pics for record).
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I was quite surprised when some people left comments saying “many dead animals on the plate” when I posted a pigeon dish and “they are all alive. So awful” when I posted the alive fish and seafood in the market. So they expect living animals on the plate and dead animals in the fish market? If anything I found meat and seafood wrapped in plastic in supermarket much more awful.
(Sorry have to vent)
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老鼠班 Highfin Grouper. This is a more common and popular type of grouper in HK, they eat small fish and shrimps so the meat has more intense fish flavor than coral grouper and more bouncy flesh. The spotted pattern is its signature.
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The wild ones are around $600 HKD per catty so this one should be around $1000 HKD (~$ 130 USD)
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(SWIPE -> FOR MORE PICS) 皇帝星班 Wild Black Saddle Coral Garoupa (Grouper). Now THIS is a special treat. It was still swimming in the tank before we bought it and the food stall slaughtered it instead of the fish mongers.
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This beautiful coral garoupa is easily recognized with it orange golden color, the big zebra pattern on the body and spotted tail. It is always wild, no farm raised, and quite rare especially of this size (around 2-2.5 catties), may be one or even less per week. Because of rarity it is one of the most expensive garoupa (wild coral garoupa always tends to be more expensive), around $450-500 HKD (around $60USD) per catty so this fish cost about $130 USD or more already
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Perhaps you found the previous posts very boring and all you want is to see what we ate. Then I have to show you where we ate first, not at a restaurant but at the dining food hall upstairs of the indoor fish market we bought our seafood.
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I don’t think I can even call those shops “restaurants” as they share this common dining area. These shops usually sell toasts and milk tea or simple noodle soup. But when customers bring in some seafood that they purchase from the market, they will be ready to fire up the wok.
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The eating area is anything but fancy, you have plastic cover for the table, you chair (if lucky enough it is not a stool) will hit the back of that of the next table, the view is tables and tables surrounded by locals and plates and plates of seafood on the table.
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Obviously not every stall is the same quality of cooking and so the best is to follow a local friend who is a regular and knows the real deal
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瀨尿蝦 Mantis Shrimps (Shako / 蝦蛄).
Don't even need me to say, these are giant mantis shrimps in the size of small lobsters, and you see with the long and wide red “line” on the two mantis shrimps on the right, that’s their roe lines. 😱😱😱 Definitely, very pregnant
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Mantis shrimps can come in small size (like the ones you often see in Japan) but those are so mealy. But the price of mantis shrimp increases exponentially, meaning double the size usually mean triple or 4 x the price. Hence eating jumbo mantis shrimp is an extravagant treat, and in Hong Kong they are usually done “salt and pepper” deep fry, poached 白灼, or steamd 清蒸. I actually really like it raw and marinated Chiu Chow way (with garlic, chili, fish sauce, sugar and such), or drunken (marinated in Chinese rice wine, soy, sugar etc). Either cooked or raw, I think it is one of the sweetest shrimps in the world
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扁/短蟶子 Flat / Short Razor Clams (揚巻貝 Agemakigai).
The long razor clams are common all around the world, but these short and flat ones are much more rare. In China they are found mostly in Fujian area and cooked in various methods such as stir fried with scallion 清炒, boiled to make soup, or even double boiled, or as topping on Fujian noodles 福建麵線. In Hong Kong, most places still go for the long ones (especially the giant ones) but they will most likely stir fry these with black bean and chili sauce.
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Interestingly enough they also serve these flat clams in Japan, mainly in Kyushu and they are called agemakigai. You can find it in some of my Kyushu’s sushi posts #littlemeg_kyushu
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