Hong Kong folks are a lucky bunch: We enjoy some of the finest street food in the world. For the cost of a can of soda in the U.S., you can gorge yourself here on a huge range of street treats; how about fish balls in curry sauce, skewered pig intestines (trust us, it’s delicious), roasted sweet potatoes, some pork dumplings, and crispy egg waffles to finish? The list of snacks goes on and on, especially due to the dim sum staples that have now migrated to the streets and are served on sticks from carts. The real beauty of the situation is that the stunning range of Chinese food across the country is increasingly reflected in the offered snack carts in a single city from which you can grab and go.
Sichuan province in northwestern China is a vast area where spice is king, but not just any spice — a unique lip-numbing, palate-tingling buzz from the hua jiao peppercorn. Put together street food and Sichuan flavors and you have a winning match. One case in point is a hole-in-the-wall Sichuan noodle joint, a couple subway stops from Hong Kong’s central business district. They dish up some of the finest food I’ve eaten in Hong Kong, more than I can finish at lunch for $30 HKD, which comes out to roughly $4 USD.
The boss, dressed in red t-shirt, is friendly and speaks English as we reach the front of the early lunch line. By the time we leave later, it’s tripled in length, and we know why: The cold Sichuan noodles are sensational; heady, smoky, gently-numbing Sichuan hua jiao pepper comes through the layers of vinegar, scallion, chopped coriander, oil, and sugar liberally but thoughtfully applied to the dish.
I make two bowls of the noodles disappear before hitting the dumpling soup. Here the heat is different, the spice more subtle, the dumplings more slippery than ever with a plastic spoon. This is a takeaway-only stand without seats, so as rain falls I eat sitting on a park bench around the corner. They close up shop when they run out of food, which is usually around 1:30 p.m. To finish, I mix in the remaining chili oil from the cold noodles with what’s left of the soup, raise the Styrofoam bowls, and drink it all down.