I had always been morbidly curious about fugu, the Japanese blowfish delicacy that is potentially lethal if incorrectly prepared. The scene in my head plays out like this: a renowned Tokyo insider brings me to a renowned secret hideaway for fugu prepared by a renowned chef. I am excited; I will blog about it, post soft-lit photos on Flickr. But the chef has an off night (fight with the wife, perhaps.) Back in my quaint Lonely Planet-recommended ryokan, three hours after the mindblowing meal, tetrodotoxin paralyzes me and I fall over. Death by gourmandism is a noble death, but still a death.
Still, there are plenty of more common ways to pass on. (Struck by Hong Kong's warp speed double deckers, for example.) And the brightly lit, white tableclothed dining room of Lei Garden, being surrounded by Cantonese chitchatting relatives, seemed to be an unlikely set-up for the last minutes of my life. So when passed the plate of dried fugu with what looked like a honey sheen, I thought nothing of plopping a few strips into my mouth.
It tasted like the dried cuttlefish snacks, the kind you get in any ordinary Chinese market. But chewier, meatier, and sweet. Either curing it causes the sugars to surface, or there is a thin honey glaze after all. If a plate did not cost over 20 US dollars, I could easily have brought home a kilo for late-night snacking. (But if you're still drawn to fugu's dark side, this New York magazine photo is enough to give you nightmares.)
As for the durian pudding, only order it if you really like durian. The serving dish shown is the size of a margarita glass. The rich yellow color was so enticing at first, promising the refreshing taste of the tropics, like the almost identical mango pudding. But unlike eating mango pudding, your breath will smell like feet for the rest of the night. And even your own mother will inch her chair away.
Lei Garden Restaurant
1/F, Block 9-10, City Garden
North Point, Hong Kong
(852) 2806 0008
Other Hong Kong eats: