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HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Cheap noodle shacks and a famous shark's fin restaurant were among a diverse range of Hong Kong eateries given coveted Michelin stars on Thursday in the third edition of the guide for the southern Chinese city.
Hong Kong's renown as a food paradise, with its melting pot of international and Chinese cuisines -- from humble "daipaidong" style street fare to stylish French restaurants nestled within luxury hotels -- was again underscored in Michelin's 2011 guide for the city and neighboring gambling hub of Macau.
"Hong Kong is a very good place in worldwide gastronomy," said Jean-Luc Naret, global director of the Michelin guides.
While Hong Kong lies far behind Tokyo for the number of stars awarded, three of its restaurants were given the highest three-star Michelin ranking including French restaurant Caprice, Lung King Heen for Cantonese cuisine, and newcomer, Sun Tung Lok.
The new establishment, under veteran chef Joe Chan -- among a handful of Chinese chefs to hold the three-star accolade -- is a new joint venture with the Sun Tung Lok group whose name is often associated in Hong Kong with high-end shark's fin dining.
In the 1970s during the capitalist haven's stock market boom, the popular expression "mixing shark's fin with rice," emerged to describe the giddy mood of newly minted wealth as people gorged on the costly delicacy at Sun Tung Lok's booming eateries.
Michelin, however, stressed that it wasn't endorsing shark's fin consumption -- a Chinese tradition denounced by conservation groups for driving certain shark species to extinction through unsustainable and often brutal fishing practices.
"Many places here could actually offer shark's fin and we're not recommending any of those," Naret told Reuters
"We're just saying that of the specialties he (Chan) is doing, there are a lot of different things besides shark's fin. We're not anytime in the guide recommending a restaurant offering shark's fin or recommending shark's fin at all."
Hong Kong was also singled out for offering perhaps the world's cheapest Michelin starred dining.
Ho Hung Kee, a joint serving shrimp wonton dumpling noodles ($2 per bowl) and fish gruel garnered a single star; as did Tim Ho Wan, a hole-in-the-wall Cantonese dim sum shop; and Hin Ho Curry for its aromatic curries prepared by Nepali chefs.
The red-cover guide was first published by the French tire company in 1900 for early motoring trips across France.
The company, which sells around 1.2 million guides annually, only ventured out of Europe for the first time in 2005 with its guide to New York. It now has guides for several Japanese cities, Hong Kong and Macau, and will publish a new Asia guide next year.