Hong Kong – an incredible international food paradise. Too much food, too little time.
Hong Kong doesn’t actually have “night markets” because the city itself never sleeps. Either you want a quick meal or a fine-dining experience, great food is just minutes away from your door. Delicacies from all over the world are here: Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, American, Indian, French, and Malaysian… the list goes on and on and they were all made so affordable and accessible. If you are hungry, places like Soho, Lan Kwai Fong, Temple Street, Kowloon City, and Tsim Sha Tsui are where you should be going.
To me, Italy has great Italian, Japan has great Japanese, Mexico has great Mexican, and the US has great Western. In Hong Kong, the city served a great selection of different “authentic” cuisine and they are so accessible. If you have a craving of good Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asian, European and western cuisine, a good place is always right next to your door. But If you are looking for something more local, though, read on:).
Hong Kong cuisine is mostly originated from the neighboring Cantonese Province. But after years of separation of sovereignty and cultural development, the city somehow added its own twist to the dishes and made it their own. In fact, “Hong Kong Style” or “Hong Kong Restaurant” could be found everywhere around the world now, representing a certain kind of culinary genre and culture that is different from the typical Chinese cuisine.
Starting off as a fishing village, the city of Hong Kong is embraced by the ocean and mountainous terrain. Until today, quaint and picturesque fishing villages is just a ferry ride away to the outlying islands such as Lamma Island, Cheng Chau, Peng Chau, Tai O… where Stilt houses are lined up along the inner harbor and the locals sell traditional dry goods and delicacies. Strolling through these stalls and alleys is a feast for the eyes and the nose.
For fresh and a vast array of Chinese seafood dishes, go to Sai Kung, Lei Yu Mun or Sam Shing or even further, to Lau Fau Shan – choose seafood from the live seafood tanks and have them cooked to perfection any way you want.
Lei Yu Mun is closer to the city center but the restaurants are more “touristy” and commercial, I did love the old-fashioned ferry ride from Lei Yu Mun back to the Hong Kong Island while I got to see the amazing Hong Kong Skyline crossing the Victoria Harbor.
Sai Kung is closed to the Hong Kong GeoPark – I would definitely recommend joining a Geotour Routes during the day before heading to the Seafood restaurants by the seaside for a feast afterward.
Hong Kong GeoPark: http://www.geopark.gov.hk/en_index.htm
In the mood venturing to further places, visit Sam Shing or Lau Fau Shan for a more exotic experience and dishes at a lower price!
Hot Pot is not exactly a trademark for Hong Kong but “Hong Kong Style” Hot Pot culture has its place in the Chinese community (now even spreading to foreigners) all around the world. It is getting popular in many Chinatowns in Australia, Canada, or Chinese cities like Beijing or Shanghai.
High graded beef, fresh vegetables, lively seafood, and a vast array of ingredients are dropped into special soup bases (broth). Now, the typical Chicken broth, Satay, or Sichuan soup base is not enough to satisfy the picky diners anymore – so restaurants offer a list of 20-30 kind of soup bases for diners and I had a headache just to choose one.
Now, “steam pot” has emerged as a new trend in the last couple of years. A specially designed steam pot was connected to a distilled water supply and seafood and beef are cooked by steaming instead of boiling. At the same time, the steam water is recycled back to the base and add flavor to the porridge (congee) or herbal soup that warm up your stomach in the end. (If you have any space left in your stomach!)
Colorful and yummy waffles, ice cream, cakes, shaved ices, and soufflés are popular among the young generations. There is always a long queue outside local dessert cafes after dinner time where a group of friends could enjoy their night out.
It doesn’t mean that the traditional “sweet soup” doesn’t deserve any attention, and dessert cafe have also added their own twist by adding fresh fruits (watermelons, cantaloupes, strawberries, mixed berries, mango, even durians) to traditional desserts (Sago, red bean soup, herbal jelly, green bean soup, bean curd pudding and so on…). For me, I still love the taste of traditional dessert and sweet snacks, either sitting in an old-fashioned, local “ice house” like Kai Kai in Yau Ma Tei or grabbing a stool at a food stall like Leaf Dessert on the side of the road in Hollywood Road.
Try a ground sesame, walnut or almond sweet soup! Tang Yuan (glutinous rice dumplings), or Sweet potato sweet soup with ginger! Tasty and amazing!
Hong Kong is a place where the east meets west. Milk tea, in Hong Kong style, is probably their love child after the rendezvous. Like coffee, many Hongkongers could not start their day without a cup of nicely mixed milk tea on their way to work.
The legendary Hong Kong-style milk tea is a mix of several types of black tea and milk (and I would definitely recommend condensed milk), and it’s been an important part of Hong Kong food culture. Hot water was poured into a sackcloth bag with black tea leaves that filtered out the tea leaves and create a smooth, silky texture. It is often described as “pantyhose” milk tea among the Chinese community all around the world.
The blend of the black tea leaves is always regarded as a commercial secret and so it is difficult to make your own Hong Kong-style milk tea at home that had the same smoothness and richness. Luckily, Hong Kong-style milk tea is widely available at many local “cha chaan teng” (Hong Kong tea restaurants) at a low price.
One couldn’t find the authentic taste of Hong Kong-style milk tea at a hotel using tea bags! Venture out to a local place in the city, like Lan Fong Yuen in Central, and experience the beauty of this drink with the locals!
Buns and bakeries!
It is absolutely wonderful waking up in the morning with the smell of freshly baked bread or bakeries. Old businesses like the Happy Cake Shop in the Queen’s Road East, or big brands like the Tai Cheong Bakery has some great local bakeries that go perfectly with the milk tea for breakfast.
Egg tarts, Chinese paper-wrapped chiffon cupcakes, cream puffs, sugar doughnuts, and pineapple buns are my absolute favorite.
Egg waffles and Hong Kong-style pancakes are a great snack that the locals can’t say no to. Usually, they are freshly made-to-order and it’s crispy on the outside, with spongy and light fillings on the insides. I just love the egg waffles from the Master Low-key Food Shop in Shau Kei Wan East Street but do expect a line outside of the shop day or night…
Clay pot Rice!
Clay pot rice is a beloved Hong Kong tradition in the winter and many food stalls in the Temple Street still cooking the dish with Charcoal! The magic of clay pot rice, on top of the juicy and tasty toppings, is a layer of crispy, brownish scorched rice. Only by cooking with a clay pot and charcoal that allows the rice cooked evenly, and the rice remains slightly burnt but not overcooked.
The rice is often topped with Chinese sausage, Char siu (roasted pork), freshwater eels, chicken feet or pork ribs…
Lastly, for this blog but not my list, is the dim sum that is so diversified and profound. Although dim sum is rooting from the Canton region Hong Kong has developed its own identity.
Actually, dim sum is not simply dumplings and spring rolls. It has a lot of authentic and innovative recipes that people might venture like Ma La Go is named the world national cakes by CNN, and I personally love deep fried taro dumplings and glutinous pork puff. More, Char siu (roasted pork rice noodle roll), chicken feet, and turnip cakes.