On the last two days of my Macau trip during the Easter holidays, Ho Hoi Kei at Travessa dos Algibebes remained closed.
I thought it was perhaps my fate not to be able to treat my stomach to the delicious offerings there.
Spotting my disappointed face in front of the closed eatery, an enthusiastic passerby told me a new outlet is now operating near the government headquarters, and he delightedly showed me the way.
I have been a loyal customer of the canjase frituras (congee and fried dough) restaurant for nearly two decades.
Every time I visit Macau, I must squeeze in some time to help myself to fish siu mai and white-sugar sponge cake at Ho Hoi Kei.
If I am hungry, I will order plain congee and sweet rice rolls, too.
The white-sugar sponge cake from Ho Hoi Kei is really tasty.
As for fish siu mai, I daresay they are the best in Macau and Hong Kong.
I can guarantee that as soon as you have popped your first fish siu mai from Ho Hoi Kei into your mouth, you will never eat any other so-called siu mai — which are rich in color additives and preservatives — from local stores or street hawkers.
Finally, on Rua de São Lourenço, I found my favorite eatery.
I couldn’t help asking why the owners moved.
It was no surprise to learn that a divergence had arisen between two brothers on decisions about the family business.
The two brothers, who are the fourth-generation owners of the business, used to run the shop together.
The elder brother is good at making fish siu mai, while the younger fellow was in charge of making white-sugar sponge cake.
When their mother died in 2014, the younger brother suggested closing the business and selling the premises for a fat profit, as tourism in Macau was flourishing.
Then, a sudden plunge in the number of visitors from the mainland cast a shadow on Macau’s service and retail businesses, putting downward pressure on prices of commercial property.
So, the sale of the old premises has been put off until the economy is back in shape.
Meanwhile, the elder brother wants to continue the family business, and that’s why there is a new Ho Hoi Kei outlet.
As a longtime patron, I have to say something was missing on my last visit.
Though the fish siu mai tasted as great as always, and while turnip cake, taro cake, rice rolls, sweet rice rolls, congee and fried noodles were all available, the white-sugar sponge cake was nowhere in sight.
“We just no longer serve it,” the elder brother said.
I bet you can understand my bittersweet feelings of lost and found.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 6.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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