On this week’s episode of CNN’s hit series Parts Unknown, globetrotting chef-turned-TV host Anthony Bourdain takes viewers to Hong Kong, which is portrayed as a futuristic city that is turning its back on its past.
Bourdain spends his time in Hong Kong comparing the new and the old: the glittering high rises and the fishing villages; the fine dining restaurants and the dai pai dongs (open-air food courts). With the help of cinematographer Christopher Doyle, one of Bourdain’s idols and a longtime Hong Kong resident who has shot many films in his adopted home, Tony gets a new perspective on the city. The whole thing comes off as a Doyle film at times, with tight closeups, angled shots, and a warm, fuzzy glow. Asia Argento, the actress, director, and Bourdain’s romantic partner, directed this episode, and it turns out to be one of the most visually-compelling Parts Unknown episodes to date.
Here, now is a roundup of the most memorable moments, as well as a few more quotes, from Parts Unknown: Hong Kong.
Most stunning meal: Bourdain explains he may be in the “get off my lawn,” “don’t mess with tradition” portion of his life, but he can still appreciate something new and exciting. At the seven-month-old Happy Paradise, chef May Chow serves her own innovative versions of pan-Asian dishes. There’s a sourdough-and-chicken fat waffle with Taiwanese bottarga; sautéed prawns with pomello pith, fried shrimp roe, and prawn oil; medium-rare tea-smoked pigeon with sea salt on the side; hakka-style chicken with shaoxing wine, oyster mushroom fried rice, and shiitake broth; and pig brain with burnt pear vinaigrette. Bourdain calls that last dish “truly, stunningly delicious.”
The best non-food scene: The second act opens with a street vendor who sells and repairs umbrellas. He explains the ins and outs of fixing umbrellas, and his limits (“If it takes more than three hours to fix, I won’t fix it”). The scene makes a mundane object into something interesting, and it highlights the type of street businesses modern Hong Kong is trying to sweep aside.
Best Bourdain quote: He speaks on the identity of the city: “To feel sentimental about the past is unusual for Hong Kong. Hong Kong has always been about changing. It’s always embraced change. Realistically, can these [street] businesses be protected?”
Best Christopher Doyle quote: Beauty is not as simple as it one might think. Doyle remarks: “So called beauty is not, ‘You know my makeup is so good, and then I lifted my face a bit.’ No, beauty is the darkness and the pleasure of embracing that, and that giving you something more of your experience of life.”
One final thought on Hong Kong: While the city is always racing toward the future, the rising generation of young adults may be more interested in hanging on to certain aspects of the past. “I think the government wants to present an image that is modern and Western, so we’ve got to clean ourselves of these messy street people,” says Douglas Young, creator of the lifestyle brand G.O.D. “I think, actually, our generation, the new generation, is beginning to appreciate what we have because we grew up in a wealthy period, and we have happy childhood memories. So we want to preserve that. I really see it happening in Hong Kong — finally.”
For more on Anthony Bourdain’s trip to Hong Kong, plus dining guides and essays about the local culture, head over to Explore Parts Unknown.