20 March 2019
Chan Yee Jai's beancurd roll with shrimp roe: Have a bite while it's still hot. Photos: Open Rice Hong Kong
Chan Yee Jai's beancurd roll with shrimp roe: Have a bite while it's still hot. Photos: Open Rice Hong Kong

Heavenly snacks of my childhood years

After our visit to Lin Heung Tea House (蓮香樓), my friends and I were quite filled with nostalgia for the old good days.

So when a friend lured us to Chan Yee Jai (陳意齋) on Queen’s Road Central, how could we possibly say no?

Established since 1927, the gourmet outlet offers a wide range of traditional snacks and confectionery. 

It’s absolutely a paradise for me when I was a child, but my mom didn’t approve of it. She said I’d become so physically unfit; I ate so much snacks I didn’t have the appetite for her wholesome meals.

Well, mellowing in middle age with quite a belly, I wondered if I should test my mom’s theory again by taking in more snacks to lose weight.

Pickled fruits, marinated gluten puffs, beancurd rolls (扎蹄) and similar snacks used to be readily available from hawkers outside movie theaters.

Each beancurd roll would be slightly thicker than a finger, with a mixed taste of soy sauce and oyster sauce.

The rolls from Chan Yee Jai taste so delicious because they are embedded with shrimp roe. I discovered this delicacy only shortly after I started working.

Now the same lovely beancurd roll with shrimp roe costs HK$15 each, but back then it was no more than a few cents.

Never mind, it’s priceless to wallow in nostalgia. Don’t forget to get a bite while it is still hot; if you delay, the taste will become less than supreme.

To my surprise, Chan Yee Jai is still offering oyster-sauce soybeans, which was the number one hit at the tuck shop of my secondary school.

It’s so cheap because soybeans are cheap; the other thing you need is a spoonful of oyster sauce and it’s ready to go. Nowadays they use soy sauce, instead of the more expensive oyster sauce.

The tiny, yellow seeds were also known as “Vitasoy beans”. The household nickname helped boost sales.

As a student, I liked this snack so much as I could stuff more than a dozen inside my small pocket.

It was so easy to pop one or two without getting caught by the teacher during a boring lesson.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 30.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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