Ocean Empire Congee Shop 海皇粥店 – Yau Ma Tei

Ocean Empire's storefront
Storefront facing Nathan Road

Our first full day in HK, we ventured out to Yau Ma Tei to get some congee. The congee shop in question was none other than Ocean Empire Congee Shop [link] (海皇粥店, Hoi Wong Juk Dim), smack dab in the middle of Nathan Road. After a brief 15 minute wait, we were seated. This once relatively obscure congee shop is now a veritable restaurant chain and a tourist destination for Mainlanders and other Asians alike (the menu also features Japanese translations). In fact, after being seated, I realized most of the customers were speaking Mandarin, not the local vernacular, Cantonese.

Inside the famed Ocean Empire Congee Shop
Inside the famed Ocean Empire Congee Shop

The tiny shop was densely packed, a bunch of round stools gathered around a few plastic tables. Business was brisk, as was the wait service. My introduction to Hong Kong service: just tell me what you want, end of story.

Cooks deep frying the Chinese crullers (油炸鬼, yau zha gwai)

The shop’s kitchen was surrounded by glass on three sides, featuring middle aged cooks cooking up yau zha gwai (the Chinese donut) and other breakfast items.

Zha leung (炸兩)
Zha leung (炸兩), Chinese crullers encased in steamed rice sheets

One of the items of note was the zha leung (炸兩), curiously called 炸腸 on the receipt, fried Chinese donuts wrapped in sheets of steamed rice roll (if cut into strips, you have rice noodles or he fen 河粉), of course, served with some soy sauce. The Chinese love foods with a variety of texture, and it was nice to chew into the delicate exterior to reveal the crunchy dough inside.

Congee
The #1 congee at Ocean Empire

The Ocean Empire Congee (海皇一品粥, Hoi Wong Yat Pan Juk), number 1 on the menu, served with pieces of donut, squid, pieces of fish filet, minced meat, fish balls, and lightly garnished with green onions and peanuts. It was delicious (even for a congee agnostic like myself), milky in consistency. Congee cooked well, really unlocks the fragrant aroma of cooked white rice.

We also ordered pumpkin rice congee (南瓜粟米粥), one of Ocean Empire’s specialties, alongside fried egg noodles (炒麵) topped with some pickled carrots and sesame seeds, and hot soy milk (熱豆漿).

Ocean Empire Congee Shop 海皇粥店
九龍油麻地彌敦道497A號地下
G/F., No. 497A Nathan Rd, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon

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