The Elusive 1,000-Layer Cake

kung fu tea At dim sum, we were served four tiny cups of dark tea.

I'd never seen this particular tea before; I asked Mabel what it was. She said: Kung Fu Tea.

I asked why it was named that, and she said it was concentrated, akin to cappuccino or espresso. I tossed a few down; it was good. I noticed when some people drank it, they grimaced and shivered, as though the tea were kicking their asses.

Speaking of restaurants, I've become used to eating at places I wouldn't have dreamed of eating at when I arrived. Higher-class restaurants in Hong Kong aren't immune to unsanitary conditions. Even McDonald's, with its army of cleaning staff, is affected; I've seen roaches running about there. Not exactly good for the appetite.

The unbelievable took place while we ate a quick lunch in a restaurant in Hung Hom.

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"They rolled a large, filthy, green garbage bin down the aisle ..."

Let me explain how Chinese restaurants work:

When it's busy, it's not unusual to be escorted to a table filled with the dirty dishes of the previous diners. Normally, the staff replaces the linen and sets out clean dishes before you're seated. It isn't abnormal to see carts go by filled with dirty dishes collected from other tables, on their way to the kitchen. I have no issues with this.

But during our lunch, the staff had the temerity to roll a large plastic container filled with live fish on the way to the kitchen by us, then roll the empty container by us on the return trip.

However, the coup de grâce came next.

They rolled a large, filthy, green garbage bin down the aisle, past our table, and then returned again from its visit to — wait for it — the kitchen.

Doesn't this place have a back entrance?!

And finally, on the subject of food, I'm on the search for the elusive 1,000-Layer Cake.

I first tried it in Canada. It is a difficult-to-make dessert; multiple thin layers (not one thousand, but you get the idea) of gelatin in a hexagonal shape, in varying shades of yellow and lightly sweetened with a faint lemon taste.

I have yet to see it in Hong Kong. The hunt continues; I'll let you know if I ever find it.

In the meantime, I'll settle for Kung Fu Tea and a cleaner place in which to drink it.

July 27, 1999

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