It’s hard to imagine a more gastronomically varied city than Hong Kong. Hundreds of years of foreign influence, whether it be from China next door, Japan, Thailand or further afield across the oceans, has created a melting pot of tastes and smells that sets this city apart from all other major international destinations. However, sometimes it may be a little difficult to discern the endemic from the imported. After all, a city renowned for its fantastic Dim Sum restaurants is also home to a few brilliant Italian, French, Japanese and Thai restaurants. If you’d like to make sense of the head-spinning choices in Hong Kong, just follow our guide to Hong Kong food and the most authentic epicurean experiences this city has to offer.
Along with Dim Sum, hotpots would have to be one of the most sociable meals in existence; huddle a few friends around a clay pot of bubbling broth and you’ll know what we mean. The meal always starts with a soup base, and various ingredients like meat, seafood and vegetables are served raw alongside it. All you do is pick a prawn with your chopstick and pop it in the pot for a minute or two; when it’s ready, simply fish it out, dip it in a delicious side sauce and voila’. Yumminess is served!
Hotpots are a wonderful winter tradition in Hong Kong when locals tend to shy the cold outdoors for great nights in with friends, cooking up a storm. Wanchai’s Megan’s Kitchen is a brilliant restaurant where you can savour some truly unusual hotpot combos, like Satay soup; but if you want a more subdued introduction to hotpot heaven, then head to Katte ShabuShabu on the Causeway, where those who have an aversion to sharing their meals can get their own personal hotpots.
Noodles & Congee
The humble noodle is a one-pot wonder, and Hong Kong is simply bursting at the seams with a myriad of restaurants dedicated to preparing and serving this one and only dish. But there are also restaurants which specifically serve only one type of noodle dish, and that’s noodles and congee. Congee is a type of sticky rice porridge, and it is used as a base for many noodle dishes, all of them also containing meat, seafood and/or vegetables. It may seem like a strange concoction to some, but this is one of Hong Kong’s most beloved gastronomic treats; meats and vegetables left stewing in the broth cook to perfection and melt in your mouth.
The curiously named Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Shop is one of HK’s favourite hubs, and boasts three restaurants (Happy Valley, International Airport Departure Hall and the IFC building downtown), where the frog leg congee is said to be excellent.
Cha Chaan Teng
Oh don’t fret; we won’t insist you order the frog’s legs. Far too bony for some.
Anyway, when it comes to fast food in Hong Kong, cha chaan teng is the way to go. This is actually not a dish per se, but a style of eatery. ‘Tea houses’ abound in Hong Kong, and they are the closest thing you’ll get to an authentic Chinese fast-food outlet. At a cha chaan teng, you’ll be served hot tea upon arrival, (hence the name), and you’ll have a choice of everything from curry dishes, to stir fries, instant noodles, wonton soups, sandwiches and more. The idea here is that this is as simple, fast and inexpensive as eating in this city gets; so dive straight in and experience the fast and furious side of dining out in Hong Kong.
You’ll find tea restaurants scattered about town, most not even bothering to have signage or much seating, as they are not places one is meant to linger in for very long. You come, you order, you eat, you go!
Asian sweets in western countries have a wonderful reputation for being sweet and moorish, yet eat the same egg custard in Hong Kong, and you may be in for a bit of a surprise. As much as most locals rave about their sugar addiction, there’s no denying that when it comes to sugar consumption per capita, there’s no Asian country which could possibly compete with their European or American counterpart. It all comes down to the fact that culturally and historically, Asians do not start their day with a sweet breakfast. In fact, one of the most popular breakfast traditions in China is Dim Sum! Local taste buds are extremely perceptive to processed sugar, so sweets here are prepared accordingly, with what some foreign visitors consider barely a hint of sweetness.
Having said that, there are a few delectable Asian desserts which are rather sugary and most are found in local bakeries. Stock up on piping hot pineapple buns whilst here and you may never eat another kind of sweet bread again. These delicious buns actually contain no pineapple (the top is supposed to look like one) and they’re usually served with a knob of melting butter in the middle. We think the ever popular egg tart originated from Britain, but we don’t much care! It’s utterly delightful, and sold here by the millions so we consider it a Hong Kong staple.
Of all the sweet treats here though, we think the saqima deserves top spot! This crispy, caramelly, noodle-based fritter is said to have evolved in China over 300 years ago and, when served hot, is a scrumptious way to beat the mid-afternoon munchies. If you want a particularly sacchariferous saqima, then opt for the ones smothered with honey, rather than just dusted with icing sugar.
Augapfel via Flickr
Avlxyz via Flickr
Chumsdock via Flickr