Food, Art and Culture in Hong Kong

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“Have you eaten yet?” (A common greeting, indicating prime concern for the state of fullness of another’s belly). All photos by Linh Chieu Tran and Thien Khanh Nguyen

Linh Chieu Tran and Thien Khanh Nguyen from the 6th semester of the urban design program at A&D have sent me this contribution which is an outcome of the Big Asian Cities Urban Design Workshop 2007. The workshop was made in collaboration between A&D, Aalborg University, and Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Transparency
Owners of restaurants are aware of the importance of showing the quality of the food. The freshness of ingredients are crucial for customers, the display of ingredients must therefore reflect this. Customers often have the possibility to see and choose the ingredients by themselves, and then the chef will cook in front them. Many restaurants are limited by physical barrier, and can therefore not expose the activities in the kitchen.

Some restaurants use modern technology to overcome this issue, by filming the process in the kitchen, as a way to promote the business. This gives the impression of transparency to customers. For the Chinese eating are not just a necessity, but rather an entertaining experience, as well as an enjoyment of the tasty thrill of the plate.

Taste of Hong Kong
Buying and eating food have become a significant part of urban public life.
The ways we buy and eat differ by culture and tradition. Chinese cooking practice differs from western practice. The food experience often involves all five senses. Sometimes it occurs randomly in a context, but at times it is conscious by the mean to enhance the culinary experience.

Visibility is especially in focus in the Chinese society. The focus is not only on the final result, but also in the process. The different stages in preparing the meal are often visible to customers.

In the Chinese society cooking with fresh food is required. Although there may be some who have embraced the methods of refrigeration and freezing, others still go to the fresh-food markets for fresh groceries.

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Late Night Snack
Temple Street is located in Ya Ma Tei and is famous for its open air night market. At night the street attracts locals as well as visitors, and offer varieties of leisure activities. The street is one long and narrow shopping strip and at every corner there are food stalls. Here the street gets wider and are used as an area where exhausted shopper can have a break.

The food stalls are an integrated part of the night life experience. Besides offering foods and refreshments, the food stalls give shoppers the opportunity to sit and socialize with friends or watching other shoppers.

Unlike others cultures, Chinese restaurants are often open until late at night, some even till dawn. As part of their culture, eating has always been a social exchange between family members and among friends. It’s common for Chinese to eat late at night, where they have the time to enjoy their meal in a social context.

In Temple Street the food experience is unique and don’t resemble western society. It is not only due to a different cooking practice, but also due by the context where the food is consumed. The space is narrow and fill all the senses with impressions; movements of people passing by, sounds of lively conversations, the smell of food right beside.

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Fish are usually cooked and served whole, unlike in some other cuisines where they are first filleted. This is because it is desired for fish to be served as fresh as possible. For some the head is the most delicate part.

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