Weirdest thing I’ve eaten in HK…tortoise jelly 龟苓膏

27 Jul

The pressure of trying all the delicious foods in Hong Kong finally caught up to my stomach this week. (Perhaps my personal let-no-Chinese-bakery-good-go-unsampled campaign might have contributed to it a bit as well…)

So, naturally, when I started to feel sluggish and not hungry, I began to look for a quick-fix solution.

After consulting with a friend, she recommended that I try 龟苓膏,gui ling gao, which is essentially tortoise jelly.

So what is tortoise jelly?

Gui ling gao is a popular natural dessert with Wuzhou origins,  and is typically made  with  secret  recipes that have been passed on from generation to  generation.  It  is  classified  in  Chinese  medicine as having “cooling” properties that are able to cleanse toxins from the body.

It’s a bitter black jelly that is made from basic ingredients such as the turtle’s plastron, smilax (to fook ling, 土茯苓), honey, ginseng, wolfberries, dried rehmannia (gon di wong, 乾地黃), licorice root (kam cho, 甘草), divaricate saposhniovia (fong fung, 防風), and other ingredients. The turtles used by choice were originally the three-lined box turtle (kam ching qwei 金錢龜) because of its superior medicinal efficiency.

However, this turtle was put under the endangered species protection list a few years back, so now other types of turtles such as the Asian box turtle are used instead.

However strange the main ingredient of tortoise may sound, this dessert does provide a lot of benefits:

  • Reduce fatigue and expel heat for a healthier body with a radiant and clear complexion.
  • Flush away toxins from the body
  • Effective for problems like dry skin, pimples, insomnia, lack of appetite
  • Reduce pimples
  • Improve your metabolism rate

Once I heard that it could both speed up your metabolism and cure lack of appetite, I was determined to try it.

Thus, one day after work, I headed over to this place, upon recommendation of my friend: Hoi Tin Tong

(Address: G/F,157 Hennessy Road, Wanchai)

After forking over 55 HK, I was presented with this:

Since the jelly is pretty bitter on its own (I speak from personal experience) you pour sweetener over it to make it more palatable.

Seeing as how I had the bad judgement to try it au natural, I pretty much doused it in honey.

Even so, there was a very medicinal taste about it that I wasn’t that big a fan of. The honey was unable to mask the herb-y bitterness of the jello. The texture of the jello was also kind of weird; it was very firm and springy while maintaining a watery texture that I also wasn’t the biggest fan of.

Basically, I don’t see how you could justify this as “dessert.”

Dessert is supposed to be sweet and delicious, not something you have to choke down.

However, the hefty price tag made me choke down the entire portion.


It worked! Surprisingly, I woke up the next morning feeling rejuvenated from the best night’s rest that I can recall having in recent weeks.

And my appetite is now back in full swing.

So although I will not enjoying gui ling gao as a regular dessert (I hope to never ever eat it again if I can help it), I will definitely use it as a detox tool if the need ever arises.

But I really do hope that its medicinal powers are strong enough to last me the rest of my trip so I don’t have to eat it again.

1 Comment

Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Culture, Food


One response to “Weirdest thing I’ve eaten in HK…tortoise jelly 龟苓膏

  1. ginny

    October 6, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Actually, I am a Westerner living in Hong Kong teaching English. I was introduced to this delicacy by my Chinese friend when I was in Mong Kok shopping. I actually thought the taste was ok as you pour sweetener over it. Being a very brave Westener I thought I would try it at home and had the BEST nights sleep I have ever had. As my profession is actually a Naturopath I thought I would try it again and …another fantastic deep sleep. I now have more energy, and as too much heat was always a problem in my body I think I have found an answer to certain health issues I have struggled with. Not only that but I thoroughly enjoy sitting down in the evening to this wonderful textured jello desert that is cool, chunky, wobbly,very black and quite yummy. And very healthy!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: