Shrimp Roe Noodles Shop

Walking on Tam Kung Road in To Kwa Wan, you will see Har Kee Noodle Shop. There are different types of shrimp roe noodles put in separate boxes and a big sign which says, “Har Kee Noodle Shop: Fifty years business.” If you look carefully, you can see there is a noodle making workshop behind the shop. This kind of “front shop and workshop behind” production model is very rare in Hong Kong now. The shop was purchased by Mr Chan’s father in the 1970s and has been running ever since, currently kept up by Mr. Chan himself. He said that he insisted on using the traditional way to make noodles as he wants to preserve the traditional shrimp roe noodles’ taste.

經過土爪灣譚公道,你會見到有一間蝦記麵廠,內裡擺滿了各種蝦子麵,更一塊大招牌寫著「蝦記麵廠: 五十年老字號」。仔細一看,更可以見到鋪面後面便是蝦記自己的製麵工場,這種前鋪後廠的生產方式在香港已是買少見少。原來店舖在70年代曾轉手,由現時48歲的陳老闆的父親接手,便一直經營到現在,堅持以傳統手藝做麵,為的是保留傳統蝦子麵的味道。

In the 1950s or 1960s,  Mr Chan’s father was already in the noodle making business. At that time, he made different noodles like He Fan and Lai Fan. It was in the 1970s that the family took over Har Kee Noodle Shop and started to make shrimp roe noodles. Mr. Chan mentioned that he did not start by working in this shop, he’d had different jobs in the past. It was not until his brother told him to help the family’s business that he really started getting familiar with shrimp roe noodles. In the past, he told me, the area around To Kwa Wan and Kowloon City were full of shops producing and selling different noodles.

Asking what knowledge is required in this business, Mr. Chan pointed out that “What matters is how much time you spend practicing making noodles. Like Kung Fu, you need to keep practicing. You become more familiar and skilled if you practice everyday. Then you can make the noodles in whatever shape you want: circular, elliptical and rectangular. It depends how much time you spend on it.”

家族做麵 做麵功夫工多藝熟

在五、六十年代,陳老闆的父親就已經從事粉麵生意,開始時會做很多不同的粉麵都做如河粉、瀨粉等等,後來接手蝦記才開始學做蝦子麵。他提到自己剛開始踏入社會時並不是從事炒麵生意,只是後來他哥哥叫他幫忙,他才在90年代開始接觸粉麵生意。原來當年粉麵生產十分盛行,在土爪灣至九龍城一帶有非常多鋪頭以前鋪後廠的方式生產涼粉、河粉、麵等等。

問到做粉麵最需要什麼知識,陳老闆一針見血指出:「工多藝熟,練習返黎,好似打功夫咁,你日日操咪快啲熟手,疏於操練咪無慢啲。熟手就可以砌到你想要既形狀,你要隻手砌到圓形又得、橢圓又得、起角又得,呢啲咪熟手囉。」

 

Not long after taking over the shop, his family wanted to close the shop as there was no profit. Among 12 brothers and sisters, only Mr. Chan wanted to give it a try. When asked about the reason he said, “There is no reason to give up if you can really produce some good things”. Since then, he bravely keeps running the business by himself with another noodle making chef. Although he says that he does not particularly love making shrimp roe noodle, he started to be more interested in it when knowing more about the work and wanted to make every noodle as good as possible. He wants to keep this tradition. When people appreciate Har Kee’s noodles, it really gives him the motivation to continue the business. “I would not be able to make it so far without this motivation.”

When cup noodles were released in the market, many companies made lots of advertisements and made people forget the Chinese traditional noodles. However, Mr. Chan points out that the price of a shrimp roe noodle and cup noodle is pretty much the same. “At that time, the most expensive one was around $4 HKD. One shrimp roe noodle is equal to a bowl of noodle. The quantity is very similar to that of a cup noodle. But if we put so much effort and time in making one shrimp roe noodle, I think it is worth more than a cup noodle.”

自己獨力頂上蝦記 生意受挑戰

初期接手蝦記後,陳老闆一家想過不再繼續經營,因為沒利潤要虧本的做,12兄弟姊妹中唯有陳老闆想嘗試一下,他形式是「無理由做到啲好野出黎但係要放棄」,便獨力頂上繼續經營蝦記。雖然他說自己並不特別喜愛做蝦子麵,但接觸這個工作較多後開始有點興趣,更想做好每個蝦子麵,保留傳統的東西。他最滿足是他生產的食物多人讚賞、覺得好吃,他直言:「無呢個動力,就未必涯到今時今日。」

當年杯麵剛剛推出市場,不同品牌紛紛進行鋪天蓋地式的廣告宣傳,導致蝦子麵漸漸被忘記。但陳老闆指出其實一個蝦子麵和杯麵的價錢相差不遠,「當時一個麵最貴都係$4到,一個麵等於成個麵,同你食碗杯麵差唔多,即係飽唔飽果個情況,你$4蚊到同一個杯麵,份量都係差唔多。咁樣計呢,如果係用真材實料、咁多功夫去做一個蝦子麵,果個價值都係高啲。」

    

“Actually I will not change my methods. It is a rare opportunity that we accidentally preserved old things like shrimp roe noodles. Once you develop your business, the production mode will come to rely more on machines and become factory-like. Since we could not develop our business in the past, we were able to keep this traditional and classic taste. Now, we intend to preserve this traditional way of making noodles.” Mr. Chan insists on not developing his business into a noodle factory. He further mentioned that the younger generation has started to “return to the simple and authentic” and has become weary of factory produced, chemically processed food. “They know this is the good stuff.”

Asking what he wants to say to Hong Kong people, he laments that the unique “taste” of Hong Kong is disappearing. He hopes that Hong Kong people can treasure and preserve the old things and don’t just favour the new and forget the old. “In the Hong Kong context, sometimes when I look at the photos and clips of 1960 and 70s’ Hong Kong, I love the “taste” of it. This “taste” is disappearing and I hope Hong Kong people can keep the old stuff that they are able to keep.”

堅持傳統功藝做麵 望保留舊有風味

「其實都唔會轉變,難得唔覺意keep到呢D咁舊既野,姐係你好似以前去做大左,咪又去行返去工廠生產呢條路,咁既然我地呢D當時無能力去改變,而到而家就係保存到呢D古典味道,咁咪唔好望做得大,就望keep到呢個傳統。」陳老闆堅持傳統功藝做麵,不走工廠機械化生產方向。他又提到年青一代開始「返璞歸真」,厭倦重口味、工廠野、科學化的食物,「知道呢啲先係好野。」

最後問到有什麼想跟香港人說,陳老闆就慨嘆香港風味正逐漸消失,望港人留珍惜和保留舊有的事物,不要事事貪新忘舊。「姐係係香港黎講,有時睇返六、七十年代啲相阿、片阿,自己會覺得,阿,果陣時啲野好似幾有風味喎,咁依家個香港愈黎愈無呢D野,姐係盡量可以保存呢啲舊式既野就保存。」

Written by Kelvin Wong

  

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