There is little more comforting, particularly on a gloomy day, than a bowl of steaming soup noodles. Often, however, there is very little goodness in these noodles, they’re laced with MSG and, as tasty as they are, you often walk away feeling horribly unhealthy. The owners of Nam Kee Spring Roll Noodle (which initially started as a little cart in Aberdeen and has grown, over more than 30 years, to have 14 outlets across Hong Kong) are hoping to change all this. Whilst the traditional, ever-popular Nam Kee continues to serve its signature dishes to hoards of customers every day, its newer little sister restaurant Nam Kee H aims to give diners a healthier option.
The ‘H’ stands for ‘health, hope and happiness.’ At Nam Kee H there is no MSG, the menu is veggie-centric (you’ll find 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, Nam Kee H is a fun, colourful, inviting space, with cute sketches on the walls, iPads for solo diners and generally a more 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: you choose which soup base you’d like, you choose from a selection of toppings and finally which kind of noodles you’d prefer, allowing for a wide variety of possibilities. 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; the vegetarian curry fish balls at Nam Kee H, however, made with Japanese seaweed to give them the necessary texture, 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 were similar, in a way, to a croquette, and thankfully not in the least bit greasy, had a comfortingly delicate flavour, with just a hint of sweetness. 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 and omitted the first word, I would not have doubted that they were actually chicken. The texture and taste were just like the real deal, except these were made with a soya substitute.
We also tried the marinated chicken wings stuffed with orange from the a la carte menu. Although the orangey flavour was lovely and fresh, this was not my favourite dish, as I found the chicken a little gritty and oily.
Of the five kinds of soup base, we tried four, beginning with the laksa. Although ours was not, Nam Kee H prides itself on its vegetarian version of this popular dish, with vegetarian shrimps and tofu (ours also included scallops and beef – although this could have been due to confusion on the part of the staff). The laksa paste is made in-house using ingredients imported from Thailand. It was nice and spicy and not nearly as oily as other laksas I have tried. Unfortunately, however, it was just a little too strong, where the predominant flavour was 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 we adored the soft porcini and vegetarian chicken dumplings, which truly had the texture of meat.
Nam Kee 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 vegetarian beef, vegetarian spam and vegetarian fish cakes made with shiso leaves. 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 was surprisingly the tomato broth. Nam Kee 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 I must say they were a nice addition, alongside the tender beef shin and chewy udon noodles.
As with all Chinese noodle joints, at Nam Kee H 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. They’ll soon be open for dinner too, when I’m sure it’ll also be a case of having to go early or late to avoid the crowds.
There is currently very little signage on street level to indicate the location of the new restaurant, yet the place is packed every lunchtime, showing that people definitely are becoming more and more conscious of what they’re eating. I wouldn’t say that Nam Kee H is entirely ‘healthy,’ but it’s good to see an effort being made, and it’s certainly healthier than other local eats!
Nam Kee H
1/F, Kai Tak Commercial Building
66-72 Stanley Street
Tel: +852 2536 0221