Hong Kong chicken, sarmies toasted on the coals and relish add to our flavour

Gillian McAinsh

 A TOASTED sandwich on a braai, the savoury aroma of “Bisto” and the sweet fragrance of Hong Kong chicken may transport you to a place and time in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The city has a strong sense of community reflected in these dishes.

How did these foods come to be linked to the Bay?

ýHong Kong chicken

“If you go to Hong Kong and ask for Hong Kong chicken there they will not know what you are talking about but it’s not only just a South African dish, it’s also an Eastern Cape thing. If you go to a Chinese restaurant in Johannesburg and ask for it they will ask ‘are you from PE?’,” said Grant Foong, a third generation Chinese South African.

He said the sweet, sticky dish was named after the Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant that used to be in a side street off Govan Mbeki Avenue.

“Do you remember Michael’s Record Bar?” asked Foong, referring to another city centre landmark.

“The Hong Kong was near there, across the road from that multi-storey garage and the local Chinese chefs there started their version.”

The recipe probably dates back to the 1960s or ’70s and lives on in most Chinese takeaway restaurants here.

ýBisto, the tomato and onion gravy popular in Port Elizabeth’s townships.

Just as Cutex in South Africa has come to mean any nail polish, not just Cutex polish, for many township dwellers bisto means tomato gravy and not the boxed gravy powder sold under that name. It is a savoury relish made by frying up onions, tomatoes and – only in some cases – a dash of Bisto gravy powder.

“It is well known and you can eat it any time, even for breakfast with bread,” says Motherwell caterer Nandi Ngoqo, who serves it regularly at her Ekhayeni bed and breakfast.

ýBraai sandwiches

Heritage Day is also celebrated as National Braai Day and just as the Vaalies have pap, the Western Cape has snoek, here in Die Baai you may find toasted onion, cheese and tomato sarmies on the braai.

The most likely explanation is that – a little like “Bisto” – when there was not enough meat for the braai these sarmies stretched the family meal further.

It’s a simple recipe and the combination of raw onion, tomato and a plain cheese like cheddar as “glue” tucked between two slices of bread surprisingly adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

THIS is the recipe for the Foong family’s Hong Kong Chicken.
12 fresh chicken pieces
1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, dry roasted in a wok for flavour
1 cup br own sugar
2 tablespoons Maizena (cornflour)
½ cup Foong’s dark soya sauce
¼ cup Chinese rice wine
1 pinch Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon fresh ginger and garlic mix
1 teaspoon peanut oil to brown the chicken
After cutting the chicken, mix all ingredients except the peanut oil and season. Place overnight in the fridge.
Heat the wok, add oil and brown the meat. Add remaining marinade and cover with the lid. Cook for approximately 20 minutes. Remove the lid and reduce the sauce. Enjoy!

Leave a Reply