Afterthoughts – Ghetto Fabulous Beef Noodles at 九记牛肉面
I’ve been hearing about 九记牛肉面 for ages, but was always deterred by the mile-long line outside, (well, deterred) until now. Recently, I mustered up the patience to wait in line for this renowned (and some what, tourist trap) noodle shop.
The shop resonates classic Hong Kong ghetto fabulousness, with little metal stools and sharing tables complete with irritated servers gruffly barking orders while meandering through the crowded seating area. Having lived in Hong Kong for the past six and a half years, I can fully appreciate that often the best foods are served in humble shops like this, so I arrived with great expectations.
The menu is direct and incredibly simple, with options of beef brisket in clear broth, or beef brisket and tendon in a thick curry stew. Then, you choose the type of noodles. I prefer the chewy flat noodles as it packs the most flavour, and reminds me vaguely of the hand-made noodles of northern China. There is also a special kind of brisket called 爽牛腩 which is rumoured to be amazing, but is often out of stock or sold out (so if you want it, you better go early at the 12:20noon opening time!) On the days I’ve attempted to order this, it was not available, but a friend assured me that it is well worth the HKD$80 price tag.
The average bowl of beef noodles will set you back around HK$36, a steal for the pricy Central / Western district.
My first bowl of beef brisket, (pictured below) in clear broth. I wanted to taste the original before trying the curry one. The beef was tender and aromatic, although the broth was a bit too MSG-filled and oily for me to drink. It made a nice dipping sauce for the noodles though.
My favourite is the curry beef brisket with tendon. Only the curry option comes with beef tendon, which is so creamy and soft it melts on the palate. The curry is thick and gloopy, spicy and perfumed with ginger, lemongrass, amongst other spices. I always feel the need to run on Bowen Road after eating this hefty bowl of noodles!
The chewy flat noodles really pick up the robust flavour of the thick curry and make for a worthy accompaniment.
Verdict: The curry beef brisket with tendon is a must-try. The aromatic stew packs mega flavour, and the tender beef and gelatinous tendon matches perfectly with the strong spices. The clear broth version is good, although not a standout. This is a great place to take visiting family and friends for an authentic taste of Hong Kong.
Kau Kee Beef Brisket Noodles
21 Gough Street, Sheung Wan
Hong Kong Island
(No reservations, just show up)