The first season of Dan Hong’s SBS Food TV show The Streets With Dan Hong was filmed during the pandemic so, instead of pounding the pavement sampling street food around the world, he was cooking in a studio. This season is different. The executive chef of Merivale’s Ms G’s, Mr Wong and Mumu travelled to Hong Kong to sample its classic street food.

Broadsheet caught up with Hong to talk about the cafe sandwich that is one of the best things he’s ever eaten, and where he goes to get real-deal Hong Kong noodles, dumplings and barbeque meats in Australia.

Hey Dan, how familiar are you with Hong Kong? Had you already been to the eateries you visited on the show?
I go to Hong Kong every year for inspiration for my own cooking, but I usually go to the Hong Kong [Island] side. This time I was more inland, on the Kowloon side. It was awesome to discover all these new places and see all these old-school spots that dedicate their lives to perfecting one thing.

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How did you choose which places to visit?
We started with a list of iconic Hong Kong dishes, like wonton noodles, roast goose, curried fish balls, barbeque meats, congee, and then we worked with the Hong Kong Tourism Board and a fixer who came along with me everywhere I went.

What’s the most surprising dish you ate on the show?
This sounds simple, but I went to a cafe in Sham Shui Po called Sun Heung Yuen (Kin Kee) to have their beef and egg sandwich. It’s just beef with scrambled egg, but it turned out to be one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. This place is a really well-known Hong Kong cafe and, when I had the sandwich, I could understand why it was so popular – the beef was tender and tasty, the egg perfectly fluffy. It really hit the spot.

You went to a stall where you ate offal on skewers, and you said the offcuts of meat from restaurants go to these stalls. Do you think we could do something similar in Australia?
All those offcuts get eaten by the Chinese and Asian communities in Australia. But if you’re talking about me putting organ meat on a menu, probably not. I’ve put tripe on the menu, but pig’s ear, chicken liver, tongue, or intestines, hearts and lungs? No way. We’ve got a long way to go.

Tell me about a street food dish that chefs have elevated.
Sweet and sour pork is a really classic Cantonese dish, and every restaurant has its version – from street food to casual dining to three-Michelin-star restaurants. There’s a restaurant called The Demon Celebrity and the chef, Alvin Leung, has his own version that he makes from the pig neck. The batter is super crispy. It’s the attention to every detail that makes the dish really special.

Do you think Australia could have a street food culture like Hong Kong’s?
If you grew up in Australia, you might have an issue with seeing raw chickens hung up at room temperature, or in the street. You might assume you’ll get salmonella. But the difference is, in Hong Kong, they don’t eat old chickens. The bird is freshly slaughtered that morning, but we have in our heads that it’s not hygienic. That worry is what influences the character of street food in this country. I just don’t think Australian culture has the right mentality to really accept street food because we don’t have the history of it. That’s why we love going to Asia and having street food. That’s what they’ve been doing for generations and that rich culture is so unique to all the different countries.

Where would you go in Australia to get a Hong Kong experience?
Royal Palace in Haymarket has some of the best trolley-style dim sum in Sydney. My favourite is a (cheung fan) spring roll wrapped in rice noodle, as well as their braised dishes like chicken feet, beef tendon and tripe.

Golden Century BBQ in Darling Square has really good roast meats like char siu pork, roast duck and soy chicken, served with white rice and greens. Eastwood in Sydney has amazing Cantonese-style places like grocery stores, barbeque shops, dumpling places and noodle shops. It really feels like you’re in Hong Kong.

The closest high-end Chinese that is the same standard as the Michelin-starred restaurants in Hong Kong would be Flower Drum in Melbourne. It has the best service in Australia with fine Cantonese cuisine using the best ingredients. I love the stir-fried pearl meat and steamed seafood dumpling soup.

After years of being behind the scenes in kitchens, what’s it like to be in front of a camera?
I had to work up to it. It’s quite awkward talking to a camera rather than talking to a person. It does get quite exhausting being on camera. Being a chef is physically draining, but being on camera is mentally exhausting because you have to be “on” all the time. But I loved getting to go to Hong Kong for the show. The first season was filmed during lockdown and it was all filmed in a studio. I was really excited to get out there and do the second season in Hong Kong.

What’s your favourite part about travelling overseas?
I’m always looking for inspiration for my restaurants wherever I go in the world. And I especially look at street food. I always try to see what elements I can bring back with me, put my own spin on, and how I can make it better.

The Streets Hong Kong premieres on June 3 on SBS Food.