On a recent trip to Hong Kong I set out to buy an infrared kitchen thermometer, as I could not find any here in Manila, so I visited the department store nearest my hotel to see if they had any in stock. I was probably misunderstood by the poor store clerk I inquired with, as I was directed to a display of oven-proof casseroles instead. At any rate, I wasn’t able to find any too.
I next tried to locate a specialty kitchen store inside one of the many shopping malls in the HKSAR but I had no luck either. An anomalous situation, I thought, in a city whose denizens enjoy eating and do so avidly. I then turned to researching on the Internet and an expat’s forum finally led me to what I believe is Hong Kong’s kitchen utensil, flatware, and food service equipment center: Shanghai Street in Yau Ma Tei.
A little history lesson: Shanghai Street was once known as the area’s main commercial strip until this role was taken over by Nathan Road.
I was astounded at the sheer variety of kitchen goods kept on hand by the many specialist merchants I saw lining this historic street, and to think I only walked through a short portion thereof, starting at the corner of Waterloo Road and heading south up to Public Square Street. I also walked through a portion of Reclamation Street. I am not aware though if there are any kitchenware shops to the north of Waterloo Road.
There were stores that sold Chinese as well as Western household kitchen tools, as well as shops that stocked enough equipment to outfit a restaurant. Knives and forks, dough cutters, cleavers, mixers, steamer trays, chiller cases, meat grinders, gas rings – they had it all and much more besides. There are also a few shops that specialize in traditional Chinese furniture, as well as one shop that sold camping and outdoor equipment.
Passers-by, like I was, are most welcome to enter these shops and browse to their heart’s content. A store clerk – in all probability a member of the family that owns the business – will approach you and inquire about your needs, but will otherwise not pressure you to make a purchase. Unlike the clerk I encountered at the department store, the staff here tends to be more knowledgeable and helpful.
Don’t be fooled if you see some of the smaller items displayed with a price tag, implying that their prices are fixed. They are certainly not. Be prepared to exercise your bargaining skills. For example, the infrared thermometer I was interested in, a Cooper-Atkins Dual Temp Infrared with Probe was tagged at HKD 578. When I asked for a discount, the clerk marked it down to HKD 570, but I was still dissatisfied, and I then asked if she would accept a price of HKD 550. She whipped out her calculator, made some computations, and accepted my offer. True, I could have bargained for less but I was satisfied at the price I paid.
To reach Shanghai Street, take the MTR and get off at the Yau Ma Tei MTR Station and walk to Exit B (Portland Street), then take the staircase to Exit B2. You will emerge on Waterloo Road but the corner leading to Shanghai Street will be just a few steps ahead. Cross Waterloo Road to the opposite side to commence your adventure.
For those with GPS receivers or GPS-enabled mobile phone handsets like the Nokia N82, the waypoint for the southwestern corner of Shanghai Street and Waterloo Road is 22.31256° N, 114.16943° E.
Here are the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of a pair of kitchen stores I visited on Shanghai Street:
- Asia Stainless Steel Engineering Ltd.
G/F, 302 Shanghai Street
Phone: +(852) 2384-9980
Fax: +(852) 2384-1893
Contact: Econa Yuen
- Full Tech Stainless Steel Engineering Co.
G/F, 306 Shanghai Street
Phone: +(852) 2332-6686
Fax: +(852) 2336-6986
Contact: Janette Chau