Shanghai Street


I spent several happy hours last weekend rooting around in one of my favourite areas of Hong Kong. Shanghai Street is overflowing with everything culinary tool you could possibly imagine, from mass produced spatulas  to beautiful artisan bamboo tools. Every shop has it’s wares spilling out onto the street, making the area a true feast for the eyes.


Come out of Yau Ma Tei Station, turn onto Shanghai Street  and you will be met with the Red Brick Building, a building that looks very out of place among the surrounding the towering apartment blocks that surround it. Built in 1895 as the Engineer’s office of a pumping station, this is the oldest surviving waterworks building in Hong Kong. In 2012 it took on a new identity and began a new life as a theatre and performance space. For me though it reminds me of home, the red bricks reminding me of my house back in England.


Go past the Red Brick building and you find yourself somewhere with a distinctly more local feel. Heavy wooden chopping boards are piled up outside of shop doorways. Inside are carved molds, the sort that I would associate with stamping beautiful patterns into shortbread. Wooden bamboo pots hold countless chopsticks. Delicate Dim Sum steamers are piled high to the ceiling and small wooden stools are stacked up in doorways.



Further down the street are shops selling every kind of metal utensil you could imagine. Piles and piles of bowls in every size from the tiny to the enormous. These shops cater for everyone, from the home cook stirring soup on a single burner in a room no bigger than a cupboard, to top chefs in industrial kitchens. Down one aisle shuffles an old lady, her basket containing spoons, a small pan. In another, a man in catering overalls writes out an order for hundreds of glasses, dozens of plates. Knives hang from every available wall space, cleavers dangle from ceilings. An empty unit opens all it’s doors to the street. Snoozing men lazily peddle strings of Chinese sausage, suspended on red twine. Fat drips slowly down, catching on sheets of grease soaked newspaper.


 Bakers should head to I Love Cake for cake supplies so hard to track down in Hong Kong. The range is far from exhaustive, and sometimes obscure, This is though the place to find food dyes, icings, big blocks of chocolate for curls, and fantastic range of silicon cartoon tins you never knew you wanted. Turn away any notions you may have of natural colourings and organic ingredients, the bright colours and boxes of sweet fillings offer another insight into Hong Kong taste and, if this can really be said of cake, stand as a metaphor for the city. Ancient tools and techniques, made by weathered, learned hands, contrast with the imported, technological artifice of the modern world.


In a dubious smelling back section of a neighboring shop I route through piles of assorted dusty crockery. I buy ice cream dishes for $15, just over 1 pound, each. Wrapped in old newspapers I take them home, the newest addition to my tiny  kitchen.

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  1. Rosalyn Cranham says:

    This looks like a place to visit if I come out to see you again. I am sure I would find something that I ‘need’ or that I think you might ‘need’

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