To me, beef brisket noodles (牛腩面) is one of those heart warming dishes that just hits the happy spot. There is something about tender, fatty braised beef brisket in a warming bowl of rice noodles that is just so comforting.
So who makes the best beef brisket in Hong Kong?
I visited two outlets famed for their beef brisket – Kau Kee (九記牛腩) in Sheung Wan and Kwan Kee (群記清湯腩) in Tai Po.
Kau Kee’s (九記牛腩) beef brisket is legendary. And the lines show it. Arriving at 14:00pm on a Monday afternoon, the line was at least 20 people long. Luckily dining solo I was seated fairly quickly but the line does move fast.
Crammed on a small table with 5 others, my order was taken literally 5 seconds after seating. For standard beef brisket, patrons have the option of noodles (flat rice, vermicelli or e-fu) and either a curry or clear stock base. The restaurant had run out of the prized song nam cut of brisket (爽腩) so I ordered a regular beef brisket in clear broth with rice noodles (上湯牛腩湯麵) HKD$36.
The broth is a rich, beef bone stock with a slight hint of herb. The beef has great flavour but to me was slightly chewy. I wouldn’t go so far to say tough, but it did have a slight bit of resistance which is something that I don’t expect from braised beef brisket. At least the brisket was fairly lean.
Catch the train 30 minutes north to Tai Po Market and you will find another famed beef brisket institution. Kwan Kee (群記清湯腩) has an equally long line, but inside they don’t seem to cram you in as much which makes a more pleasant dining experience.
Kwan Kee offer a huge range of beef cuts all served in clear broth. There isn’t a curry broth option for those who crave it. The restaurant is is most famous for it braised beef cheeks and also the tender song nam cut of brisket (爽腩).
My song nam clear broth rice noodles (HKD $42) was deliciously tender with a melt in your mouth, very thin fat flap layer on the brisket. Miles ahead of the brisket at Kau Kee. The broth was rich, deep in flavour though slightly fatty. Unlike Kau Kee you could taste the pure beef in the broth without it being overly reliant on salt for flavour.
There are probably a few more brisket places that I need to try before I can declare a clear winner, Sister Wah (華姐清湯腩) being one of them. So far however, Kwan Kee is by far my favourite.
Kwan Kee (群記清湯腩)
26 Dai Ming Lane,
Tai Po Market, New Territories
Kau Kee (九記牛腩)
21 Gough St,
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong