We cannot help but notice passengers lugging boxes of cakes on flights from Singapore to Hong Kong.
Our curiosity piqued, we plucked up our courage to poke our nose into some people’s boxes.
They say they bought the pandan chiffon cake from the Bengawan Solo shop at Changi Airport because family and friends love it and they can’t get it in Hong Kong.
Well, now they can.
Maxim’s Cakes sells pandan cake too. What’s more, it claims its pandan cake tastes better than the Singapore version.
We beg to differ.
But never mind. Hongkongers and Singaporeans can have their cake and eat it too.
For when it comes to food, they have the best of both worlds.
People are traveling more and food is part of the baggage, so to speak.
They can fly from Hong Kong to Singapore or vice versa, have breakfast, shop and do lunch, and then fly back with more goodies in the evening.
As more Hongkongers travel, they have acquired a taste for Singapore food.
They have a good nose for Singapore Hainanese chicken rice, laksa and bak kut teh (pork ribs soup).
But one Hongkonger said, a little wistfully: “We can’t find Tian Tian Chicken Rice.”
At her request, we put pen to paper the location of the chicken rice eatery for her next visit.
Meanwhile, Singaporeans visiting Hong Kong gorge themselves with siu mei (roast meat), wonton noodles, dim sum and then some.
With cafes and restaurants on every street, there is food, glorious food everywhere they go.
Then they bring home boxes of Hong Kong’s famous lo por peng (wife’s cake) and almond cookies.
But Singaporeans can’t have enough of Hong Kong dim sum!
So they flocked in droves to Tim Ho Wan’s first overseas outlet when it opened in the Lion City last year. The Hong Kong restaurant shot to fame when it gained a Michelin star shortly after its hole-in-the-wall eatery in Mong Kok opened in 2009.
The reportedly poor service aside, it is dim sum heaven.
Today, long queues are still the order of the day for lunch at the four Tim Ho Wan outlets in Singapore.
While Tim Ho Wan took Singapore by storm, Honeymoon Dessert’s arrival, in contrast, was unheralded.
But the purveyor of all things sweet and syrupy that has its beginnings in Sai Kung has mushroomed into several outlets in Singapore, proving Singaporeans, like Hongkongers, have a sweet tooth.
Going in the other direction is Singaporean food and beverage group Bread Talk which set up shop in Hong Kong in 2005.
The bread and cake maker has expanded to include several Toast Box cafes and Food Republic food courts featuring a sampling of Singaporean fare.
Hong Kong and Singapore are always in competition. But as food heavens, they are a good fit for restaurants and food companies seeking to expand overseas.
The business and economic environment is good too unlike certain times in the past when one Hong Kong restaurant got its fingers burnt.
Cafe de Coral was in Singapore in the 1980s but soon closed shop. It opened another Singapore outlet in the 1990s only to beat another retreat.
Perhaps it was ahead of its time.
But we would like to see our favourite Hong Kong fast-food chain offering its wholesome comfort food in Singapore again.
As for dim sum, we frequented Maxim’s City Hall in the past and have recently enjoyed nibbles at the Bird and Basket.
Guess it’s time to check out Tim Ho Wan’s Sham Shui Po outlet for our next dim sum fix.
Then we can at last say “yes”, when asked if we have been to Tim Ho Wan.
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