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)
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid