20 October 2018
Madame Chong's dumplings can be cooked in many different ways. Photo: Wanchai Ferry
Madame Chong's dumplings can be cooked in many different ways. Photo: Wanchai Ferry

‘Dumpling Queen’ bids farewell to Wan Chai pier

“Madame Chong” still occasionally visits the place that gave her business its name and initial fame, but soon it could be just a memory.

The Wan Chai Ferry Pier, where Chong Kin-wo, 70, stationed the dumpling cart that would grow into an international brand, will be demolished to make way as early as next month for the Central-Wan Chai bypass. A new pier will be built but the old one will live on in Chong’s business and heart, Sky Daily reported Friday.

“It’s more like an old friend than an old place. When I heard that it was about to be demolished, I was very upset…This is a place that I will never forget,” she said.

Chong arrived in Hong Kong with her two daughters from the port city of Qingdao in Shandong province in 1977. Not knowing a word of Cantonese, she first worked 20 hours a day as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant, until the physical toll became too much.

That’s when she hit on the idea of starting her own dumpling business at the Wan Chai pier, a key transport hub linking Hong Kong Island and Kowloon for half a century before the MTR was built.

But things didn’t go on smoothly in the beginning. Hongkongers didn’t seem to take to her northern-style dumplings and many of her customers just ate the stuffing, binning the dumpling wrapper.

“The wrapper is too thick, just like a cotton quilt,” one of Chong’s customers told her.

So she worked on the recipe and went on to establish the Wanchai Ferry Peking Dumpling Company in 1985. The company has since grown to become a leading brand in Hong Kong and across Asia. It can also be found in Europe and the United States.

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EJ Insight reporter

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