Take some dough, break some eggs and grab a bamboo pole.
Then ride see-saw on the pole, making sure you get the ingredients to just the right mix and leaving a thin bed of perfectly pressed dough as you go.
That might sound imminently doable to many of us but it’s a craft that needs time to master.
Kwan Kee, the noodle shop made famous by jook sing noodles, has perfected the process and made a showcase out of it.
It’s a big part of its success.
Kwan Kee made its name as a street vendor in Macau in the 1920s.
People living in tong lau (tenement buildings) would call out to its owner to make dough, a process that involved mixing flour with eggs and pressing them with a bamboo pole using his own weight.
When his grandsons took over the business in Guangzhou in the 1990s and Hong Kong in 2010, jook-sing noodles took off and spread across Macau to Hong Kong and many parts of Guangdong.
The new owners decided to open the making of jook sing to their customers, faithfully recreating their grandfather’s recipe and dough-making techniques.
It was a hit and remains so to this day.
In 2013, a CCTV documentary called A Bite of China featured Kwan Kee, sparking widespread interest in the restaurant and leading to long lines of customers wanting to get in.
In Hong Kong, Kwan Kee operates in Cheung Sha Wan — and it has an equally interesting attraction.
The owner’s 20-year-old son, back from work in Australia, rides the bamboo pole.
Give him dough and he will give you a show. You can eat it when it’s finished.
The young man is a fourth-generation descendant of the Kwan Kee founder who got his start in the business like everyone else thanks to rice, the main staple of the Cantonese people.
But Guangdong, the largest of China’s Cantonese-speaking provinces, is best known for its noodles.
Small noodle stalls mushroomed in the provincial capital Guangzhou during the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1912) and gave rise to street hawkers who went on to offer home delivery.
Some of the noodles were sold fresh to household customers who would later cook them.
But most were served out of stalls and hawker’s baskets, ensuring noodles belonged in the streets.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 17.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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