News / Asia

In Hong Kong, Beef Over Sammy Kitchen's 3D Cow

Sammy's Kitchen restaurant in Hong Kong (Photo: Steve Herman / VOA)
Sammy's Kitchen restaurant in Hong Kong (Photo: Steve Herman / VOA)
— There are no chopsticks on the table at Sammy's Kitchen in Hong Kong. And that is not the only way this restaurant stands out in a neighborhood clustered with Cantonese fare.
 
Sammy's trademark is a large three-dimensional billboard of a cow. It juts out over Queen's Road West in the Sheung Wan district, a neighborhood where the odor of dried squid mingles with the aroma of herbs from nearby traditional medicine shops.
 
An elderly, heavily inebriated Caucasian man, sitting across the street on the stoop of the Chun Sing stationery store, gazes incredulously at the imposing bovine while taking swigs from his large bottle of Skol beer.
 
More sober passersby also do a double-take, and curiosity compels some - me included - to explore what the billboard represents.
 
It was then I learned the unusual sign actually is an endangered species.
 
‘Primordial fusion’ cuisine
 
Sammy's Kitchen restaurant in Hong Kong (Photo: Steve Herman / VOA)Sammy's Kitchen restaurant in Hong Kong (Photo: Steve Herman / VOA)
x
Sammy's Kitchen restaurant in Hong Kong (Photo: Steve Herman / VOA)
Sammy's Kitchen restaurant in Hong Kong (Photo: Steve Herman / VOA)
Sammy's epitomizes Hong Kong's unpretentious side, a throwback to the era before the city became known for extravagant bistros with Michelin-starred chefs and pricey fusion cuisine.
 
Sammy's Kitchen is primordial fusion both in decor and menu, which may give some diners pause.
 
A reviewer rates Sammy's reasonably priced meals as “rather mediocre,” but praises the establishment for friendly and welcoming service. Frommer's Guidebook adds, "It's comforting to see a place that remains virtually unchanged over the decades in such a fast-changing environment.”
 
The restaurant's namesake, owner Sammy Yip, began cooking at the age of 12 and worked as a chef for the five-star Peninsula and Mandarin Oriental hotels.
 
He has adorned most of his tables with orange or violet-colored checkered tablecloths. That was an upscale touch when he opened the restaurant in 1970.
 
The corner booths are laminated tables, bare except for bottles of Del Monte ketchup, salt, pepper, sugar and recycled plastic containers of toothpicks.
 
Food for carnivores
 
One side of the establishment is decorated with faux brick. Tiny white lights have been strung across the top of the walls.
 
The voluminous bilingual menu runs the gamut - from beefsteak through pastas to fried rice - but mostly favors dishes that appeal to carnivores.
Many are smothered in Sammy's secret sauce, which has won a loyal following over the decades. Fans include high-ranking government officials.
 
This may be the only place in the former British colony where one can still find on a menu such hybrid trans-Atlantic fare as Roast American York Ham and Bacon.
 
I settle on the ox tongue curry rice and a cup of tea.
 
To my initial bemusement, the tea arrives piping hot in a small cola glass - so hot that I must grasp it with a paper napkin.
 
Sammy offers a refill poured from a small ceramic pot. His hands are steady but a small puddle of tea leaks on to the purple-stained tabletop.
 
Excellent ox tongue
 
Ten minutes later my meal arrives: ample slices of tongue, steaming rice and a mild sauce inspired by green Thai curry - masterfully made, not overwhelmed by coconut, turmeric or chilies.
 
When I finish, Sammy returns to my table and asks how I liked the dish, which I had primarily ordered as a novelty.
 
“Excellent,” I honestly reply.
 
“Thank you,” he responds enthusiastically, elongating the last word.
 
For a man who has been cooking for 70 years, Sammy Yip appears to have retained his enthusiasm for the culinary arts and what should accompany every restaurant meal – sincere hospitality.
 
Hong Kong authorities, however, have recently turned an inhospitable eye toward Sammy's landmark sign. The giant cow looming over Queen's Road West not only serves as a beacon for diners but also for residents, visitors and taxi drivers.
 
"帶我到母牛"
 
Anyone heading for the restaurant or anywhere close to it can simply tell a taxi driver: "帶我到母牛" - Take me to the cow!
 
Thirty-four years after the illuminated animal first moved into position, the Hong Kong Buildings Department ruled the signboard was an illegal structure protruding into public space and ordered the Yip family to remove it.
 
The Yips' appeals have been unsuccessful, as have customers' hopes the sign can be declared a vintage Hong Kong landmark.
 
“The cow will be removed. ... We must remove it,” says catering manager Iry Yip Fung-yee, Sammy's daughter. “We're just a small business,” she laments, explaining why the Yips are are not going to launch a potentially costly legal fight to save Hong Kong's most famous cow.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid