My dear friend Jeanette and I — two women who have been driven by our stomachs in the 20 years that we have been the best of friends — we wake up in the cool grayness of Hong Kong bleary-eyed and starving.
Even in the fog of sleepiness, our mission is clear — we stumble out into the dusty bustle of mid-morning Hong Kong and make our way toward Central. On a corner of narrow Wellington Street lies our destination: Lin Heung Tea House, a dim sum place that has been around since 1928 and is packed most mornings with regulars who head there for a morning dumpling fix, strong pu erh (or po lei as it is known in these parts) and some quality time with the day's newspaper …
There is a deep belief in these parts that the dead may be dead — but that little detail shouldn’t get in the way of serving them a good meal.
And so in Singaporean wet markets, alongside stalls selling vegetables and plump pigs’ trotters, you’ll find little places that hawk food of a different kind. Shelves will be filled with boxes of paper dumplings, chicken feet and other dimsum treats — the idea is to burn them as offerings so your deceased loved ones will get them on the Other Side.
I hadn’t seen one of these in a while, mostly because when I’m in these markets I tend to race over to stalls that sell food that I can actually eat.
Like, now. Not when I’m in the Big Upstairs shamelessly flirting with River Phoenix.