I don’t usually trek out to faraway Ap Lei Chau for lunch on a weekday. But when my favorite food writer, KC Gourmet offered to take me on a seafood tour of the area, how could I say no?
To start things off, KC took me to the fishing ships parked out in the Ap Lei Chau waterfront promenade. Two fisher people were diligently cleaning and gutting their day’s catch with lightning quickness. Impressive. After trading in $20 for a big bag of fresh loach fish, we made our way back to the Ap Lei Chau market for the rest of our lunch provisions.
KC took me on a quick round of the seafood market, all the way explaining to me how to tell if an abalone is fresh or not, or where to buy the best pounded cuttlefish in the winter. We ended up with a few more bags of fresh seafood and made our way up to the second floor cooked foods center to drop off the goods at Yiu Kee. While Yiu Kee has its own menu of stir-fried noodles, rice and bla bla bla, most people tend to do what we did. That is, buy some seafood from the market downstairs and bring it up to Yiu Kee and ask them to cook it to your liking for a nominal “oil fee.”
First to arrive was a heaping plate of blanched sea snails. We were ooh-ing over how big and fat the snails looked in the market. Cooked, they were succulently sweet, with a nice bit of chew and bite. Within mere minutes, the two of us had worked up a huge mound of snail shells on the plastic covered fold-up table. Our table was then graced with a half dozen steamed abalone – again, sweet and fresh, albeit with a more deepset flavor and fragrance than the sea snails, thanks to the addition of dried pomelo peel.
The steamed scallops with vermicelli and minced garlic paled in comparison to the first two dishes. Sad, since this dish is usually one of my all-time seafood favorites (well, mostly because of the piled high minced garlic). The scallops were overcooked and tough and stuck to the bottom of the shell. Thankfully, Yiu Kee redeemed itself by doing right by the loach fish. KC had asked for it to be prepared in traditional fisher people fashion known as “oil salt water.” Instead of cooking the fish with direct heat, the fish are submersed in hot water and then a mixture of oil, salt and water is ladled over it. This causes minimal damage to the fish, keeping the flesh soft and tender and locking in all its natural sweetness.
But it wasn’t until the end that the meal reached its ultimate high note when our four mantis shrimps stir-fried in chili and garlic arrived, glistening in its tin pan. We cracked off the shell and took a first bite into the flesh to reveal a big beautiful, bright orange strip of roe. No joke – there was more roe than flesh. I felt like I was eating a mooncake egg yolk. And though mantis shrimp roe is less sweet than, say, crab roe or even lobster coral, it was still pretty effin’ amazing.
What was even more amazing though, was how the two of us managed to polish off everything. The amount of food we had for lunch was pretty obnoxious – it’s the first time I’ve ever downed two whole mantis shrimps and half a dozen steamed scallops and abalone in one go for lunch. But like I said earlier, how could I have said no?
FOOD: 3.75/5 (varies dependent on what you purchase from the market)
ATMOSPHERE: 1/5 (it’s a cooked food center after all)
YIU KEE ($-$$)
Unit CF3, 2/F
Ap Lei Chau Complex
Ap Lei Chai