Hong Kong smells like diesel and frying food and humidity. It’s greasy and hazy and breathes like a heaving, sleeping animal. I love it. I love that it’s a multi-layered city, with power lines and needless light shows and sharp-cornered buildings. Its not-so-secret clubs, its tucked-away alleyways and its constant streams of traffic.
The food is brilliant, and the high teas are better than those I’ve had in London, a relic of old colonial habits – habits, I learnt, in my double major in history (and Spanish, for shits and giggles) – that are hard to break. And there I was, in Hong Kong, for six hours.
I had a stop-over in Hong Kong on the way to the UK early last year, and so, in her typical way, my aunt invited my mother and I over for dinner. And, in my aunt’s typical way, she threw a feast, because she never does anything on a small scale. I can only remember one of the things I ate now, despite that I had one of everything – twice.
And the dish that I remember eating was perhaps the most humble out of all of them. A soup – lamb stock, dill, potato, cabbage, carrot – my grandmother’s recipe. She died shortly after I was born, as did my grandfather, who worked as a racehorse trainer in Happy Valley.
Never having met them, I always tried to relate to their stories, and listened carefully when my parents spoke highly of them. This recipe, then, this comfort food – undoubtedly an old Russian recipe somewhere between poverty and resourcefulness – was a way for them to feel familiar.
And it was nice.