There is little more comforting, particularly on a gloomy day, than a bowl of steaming soup noodles. Often, however, there is very little actual goodness in these noodles – they’re laced with MSG and, as tasty as they are, you often walk away feeling horribly unhealthy. However, the owners of 30-year old Nam Kee Spring Roll Noodle (which started as a little cart in Aberdeen and has grown to 14 outlets across Hong Kong) are hoping to change this! Whilst the traditional, ever-popular Nam Kee continues to serve its signature dishes to hoards of customers everyday, its newer little sister restaurant Namkee H aims to give diners a healthier option.
The ‘H’ stands for ‘health, hope and happiness.’ At Namkee H, there is no MSG, the menu is veggie-centric (with plenty more exciting veggies than just bean sprouts and choi sum!) and you’ll walk away feeling satisfied and healthier.
Designed by local brand Chill Creative, Namkee H is a fun, colourful, inviting space with cute sketches on the walls, iPads for solo diners and a youthful, happy vibe.
The set lunch menu is priced at only $59 to $69, including an appetiser, a bowl of noodles and a drink. The menu allows for flexibility and variety: you choose which soup base you’d like, pick from a selection of toppings and finally, decide which kind of noodles you’d prefer. The a la carte menu has sweet little anecdotes about the health benefits of certain ingredients too.
We began with a selection of appetisers, none of which sounded particularly appealing… yet all of which were absolutely delicious! The braised bitter melon with garlic, a vegetable I have never enjoyed, took me completely by surprise. I’m also never usually a fan of fish balls, but the vegetarian curry fish balls at Nam Kee H (made with Japanese seaweed) were divine. Once I’d eaten mine, I proceeded to eat the delicious curry sauce on its own!
The deep-fried Chinese yam with goji berries, which reminded me of croquettes, had a comfortingly delicate flavour with just a hint of sweetness – and were thankfully not the least bit greasy either. The deep-fried tofu balls with coriander and shrimp paste had a satisfying, almost meatball-esque texture and a fresh, pleasant flavour. Lastly, if you had given me the vegetarian chicken satay without telling me the first word, I would have believed that they really were chicken! The texture and taste were just like the real deal, except these were made with a soya substitute.
From the a la carte menu, we also tried the marinated chicken wings stuffed with orange. Although the orangey flavour was lovely and fresh, I found the chicken a little gritty and oily.
Of the five kinds of soup base, we tried four, beginning with the laksa. Nam Kee H prides itself on its vegetarian version of this popular dish, with vegetarian shrimps and tofu – although we tried the meat version, with scallops and beef. The laksa paste is made in-house using ingredients imported from Thailand; although it was spicy and not nearly as oily as other laksas I’ve tried, I found it a little too strong, with the predominant flavour being curry powder.
The “OMG” porcini mushroom soup noodles with asparagus was a completely vegetarian dish. The flavour of the porcini mushrooms was intense and comforting and I adored the soft porcini and vegetarian chicken dumplings, which truly had the texture of meat.
Namkee H uses a mushroom broth instead of beef stock for its Vietnamese pho, again making it suitable for vegetarians. Although you can choose to have it with sliced beef, we tried the vegetarian version, with shiso leaves and vegetarian beef, spam and fish cakes. The “beef” was tasteless and sponge-like, but I was seriously impressed with the “spam” – particularly as I wouldn’t normally go near the real thing! The broth had a lovely rich flavour, but personally I would prefer an authentic beef broth in my pho. That said, if you don’t eat beef, this is probably the next best thing!
Our favourite soup was surprisingly the tomato broth. Namkee H uses only fresh tomatoes for this broth – no pastes and no additives – giving it a fresh, natural and hearty flavour. We couldn’t resist trying the fish spring rolls (for which the old Nam Kee is famous!) and they were a nice addition, alongside the tender beef shin and chewy udon noodles.
As with all Chinese noodle joints, it’s a case of taking a number and waiting your turn – so if you’re hungry for some noodles with a healthy twist, try and go before or after the mad lunch rush.
There is currently very little signage on street level to indicate the location of the Namkee H yet the place is packed every lunch, showing that people definitely are becoming more conscious of what they’re eating. I wouldn’t say that Namkee H is entirely “healthy”, but it’s good to see an effort being made, and it’s certainly healthier than many other local eats out there!
Namkee h 1/F, Kai Tak Commerical Building, 66-72 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong
2536 0221 www.facebook.com/…
Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!