The Hungry Lawyer: Aziza, the Family Run Egyptian Restaurant in Kennedy Town

Okra and Lamb Tagine. Photo: Marc Rubinstein
Okra and Lamb Tagine. Photo: Marc Rubinstein

Much has been written about the burgeoning restaurant scene in rapidly gentrifying Kennedy Town. Personally, I find many of the restaurants in the area to be more of the same uninspiring outlets of large restaurant groups. As a result, I rarely venture to Kennedy Town for food, notwithstanding its ease of access after the opening of the West Island Line.

Aziza on Hao Wo Lane may change that. At just a five-minute walk from Exit C of the MTR station, Hao Wo Lane itself is a classic Hong Kong back alley, rich with small restaurants on the ground floors of older residential towers. Near the middle of the street is the narrow storefront that houses Aziza. The restaurant is cozy and family run. The patriarch greets diners with his big personality while his wife and family prepare a slew of traditional Egyptian dishes in the kitchen and serve customers.

Zabadi. Photo: Marc Rubinstein

The menu is divided between small plates of hot and cold mezze, a selection of tagines and other mains, an interesting list of non-alcoholic drinks and a few desserts. Over the course of two recent visits, I was able to try a good selection of dishes.

Mezze, featuring prominently across the Middle-East, are small plates of hot or cold dishes that can be enjoyed as starters or as a meal unto themselves. At Aziza, I tried some of the classics including hummus (HKD31), baba ghanoush (HKD35) and zabadi (HKD36), accompanied by Aziza’s homemade, freshly baked pita bread (HKD20 per piece). The zabadi stood out. This yogurt-based dip is the Egyptian version of tzatziki, which is common in Greece and Turkey. The yogurt is mixed with cucumber, garlic, fresh mint, olive oil and other herbs. The garlic content is more subtle in the Egyptian version served at Aziza, so the fresh flavors of mint and yogurt predominate. It was delicious scooped up with the flat, piping hot pitas from Aziza’s oven.  

Lamb Kofta skewers. Photo: Marc Rubinstein

The baba ghanoush, familiar to connoisseurs of Middle-Eastern food as the mezze made of baked, pureed eggplant mixed with tahini (sesame) paste, olive oil, cumin and lemon juice, among other ingredients, was also excellent. Aziza’s version is creamy and rich without being too dense or heavy on the citrus. A slight disappointment was my usual favorite, hummus, the classic pureed chickpea and tahini dish known for provoking argument as to who makes it best. Aziza’s was good no doubt but airier, less creamy and more lemony than I typically prefer.

Homemade Couscous. Photo: Marc Rubinstein

For the mains, I tried a mix of tagines and skewers. Tagines are stews prepared and served in earthenware dishes consisting of two parts, a circular bottom in which the ingredients are placed and a tall, pyramid shaped lid that helps the stew retain moisture and ensure the ingredients are tender, with the flavors well-blended. I tried both the chicken vegetable tagine (HKD75) and the okra tagine with lamb (HKD95). Aside from the aromatic mix of vegetables and protein in these slow-cooked stews, what was particularly special about the tagines was the revelatory home-made couscous that accompanies them at Aziza, the only restaurant in Hong Kong where this is available. Couscous is typically machine made with relatively uniform balls of firm semolina being produced on mass. At Aziza, the couscous is prepared using traditional methods producing fluffy and uneven semolina balls that are perfect for balancing the stronger flavors of the rich tagines and absorbing their savory juices.  

The skewers were also well made. The lamb kofta skewers (HKD90) are a combination of minced lamb, onion and herbs served with tahini sauce and accompanied by rice pilaf. The two simple wooden skewers of the lamb mince are well grilled on each side and still tender to bite through — definitely better than your average kofta. The shish taouk (HKD80) are Aziza’s chicken skewers. Bite-size chunks of marinated chicken thigh have been skewered along with a few slices of red pepper. It’s a tasty version of a chicken skewer and good value, though it did not stand out as much as the lamb kofta. The chicken skewers are also served with tahini sauce and rice.

The Kounafa (dessert). Photo: Marc Rubinstein

In addition to these savory dishes, don’t forget to survey the drink and dessert menus. Aziza has mint tea typical of Middle-Eastern restaurants but also serves a delicious, brightly colored hibiscus tea (HKD35) with the hibiscus directly flown in from Egypt. I also recommend the excellent pot of fenugreek tea (HKD40) for its light flavor with just a hint of nutty and bitter components.

The dessert menu is short, with only three items: baklava, an Egyptian pumpkin pie called kar assaly, and kounafa with ricotta cheese (HKD42), which I tried. This cheese pastry soaked in a sweet syrup and covered with wiry shreds of dough was deliciously sweet with a pleasing texture. Given that it is served in two distinct squares, it is also easy to share.

Writing this piece just before lunch time is honestly making me hungry. The food at Aziza is skillful and delicious and demonstrates the care of a family that wants to show customers the best of homemade Egyptian cuisine without cutting corners. On top of that, it comes at a price that is reasonable and in a location that is easy to get to.  If I wasn’t out of town, I might just head there now.

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