Candy Wong’s family is from Po Tai island in Hong Kong. Every year the islanders celebrate the festival of Tin Hau, goddess of the sea who protects fishermen and sailors. Candy’s uncle has a well-known restaurant on this small, nearly uninhabited island. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns
By Candy Wong
Po Toi Island, an island belonging to Hong Kong, is my homeland. It is the most southern part of Hong Kong. Most of the islanders are fishermen.
Being fishermen, they believe in a Goddess named Tin Hau. People on this island thank Tin Hau for blessing their lives. They celebrate Tin Hau’s birthday on March 23rd every year.
The leaders of the island ask every resident in the island to donate money to pay for four days and three nights of opera performance. The opera performance is very intricate and requires a lot of preparation.
First, they need to build a temporary theater, which can seat 500 people. Then, they invite a Cantonese opera group to come to the island to perform opera in front of Tin Hau Temple.
During the Tin Hau festival, every islander stops working and joins every gathering. Tin Hau festival is so much fun for everyone. It is like a carnival on the island.
My uncle, Leund Chi Ming, is one of the leaders in the festival and he’s a leader because of his involvement with tourism on the island.
While I don’t live there anymore, my uncle is a famous cook who still lives on the Island. My uncle is able to survive on an island with less than fifty occupants through building a restaurant called Ming Kee.
It’s an open-aired restaurant with a small stage for dancing. Working only four days a week, from Thursday to Sunday, his salary stems from the tourism business. Most of the tourists venture onto the island for its hiking trails in hope of catching a sunset facing the Pacific Ocean.
Thursday is his business preparation day. In the morning, he drives his small truck to the organic farms in Aberdeen to buy seasonal vegetables. In the afternoon, he chats with fishermen at the Aberdeen pier and makes deals with them. Usually he orders lobsters, shrimps, mussels, clams, fishes, crabs and, of course, my favorite eels.
After all of the food is delivered to his restaurant, he works with the workers to clean and chop until midnight. He then awaits his first customer to come the next day. He keeps a close eye on the pier to greet the first customer coming onto the island.
Guided by two rows of hanging orange lights, customers slowly file in, and my uncle greets each one of them with the biggest smile. Usually, customers like to sit in the front part of the restaurant. It is because the restaurant is built on the beach; and they can take a walk after dinner or dive into the sea and swim in the unpolluted sea water. The meals at my uncle’s restaurant, in my heart, are priceless.
Gradually, many people in Hong Kong began to know about the restaurant. Recently, he was interviewed by a journalist from the travel guide, Lonely Planets. After the article was published, the business of my uncle’s restaurant increased 30%.
He is planning to work one more day a week, and he hopes to use it to create new dish and do extra business preparation. I hope my uncle really enjoys his career because his passion to serve great food and provide an unforgettable experience to Po Tai Island is cherished.
You can find a picture of Po Tai island and Ming Kee restaurant on Google Maps.