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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More