Shun Kee, Typhoon Shelter, Hong Kong

This is one of the most incredible restaurants in Hong Kong. It’s a floating restaurant in the typhoon shelter in Causeway Bay. The kitchen is on a ramshackle boat, and the only way to get to it is on another boat. The restaurant operates several of these little boats outfitted with dining tables and chairs; each boat can accommodate anywhere from two to 10 or so diners. You have to call ahead and reserve a boat, which you’ll board from a sketchy, very grungy section of the pier. Then a really old Chinese woman with the strength of 10 rugged men rows the boat over to the kitchen and ties the boats together.

These are not a fleet of beautifully restored antique boats or modern floating dining rooms. They’re grungy and dirty. Our boat had an open-air toilet right next to the dining table; I’m guessing it wasn’t plumbed but rather dumped straight into the water below. It’s all very ghetto and surreal, as the sparkling spectacle of modern Hong Kong rises in the background. But, damn, the food is good! The food is based not on traditional Cantonese cuisine but rather the unique fisherman cuisine of the old floating villages of the region. The harbors around Hong Kong used to be filled with hundreds of fishermen and their families who lived on their boats. There was an entire community on the water, but it’s a lifestyle and culture that has all but disappeared as Hong Kong has become a thriving modern metropolis. The chef who runs this boat/kitchen only recently opened here–after years of negotiating a permit, he was finally allowed to open for business. He’s basically singlehandedly keeping alive this amazing culinary tradition. There’s no menu. You’ll simply eat whatever the chef decides to cook—and in my case that included huge sea snails, noodle soup with roasted duck, stir-fried pig intestines, and the most incredible wok-fried lobster with mountains and mountains of fried garlic.

Fair warning: You must love garlic to eat here. And it’s critical that someone in your party be able to speak Cantonese. Nobody at this operation speaks English.

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