Hong Kong is rightfully famed as a nation of food-lovers. Taking the best of Cantonese cuisine, mixing it with the many foreign cultures and developing it to suit the island’s drastic climate changes and seasonal ingredients has created a unique food culture that draws people to Hong Kong as much as the shopping or nightlife.
In the spring, seafood is given special emphasis in Hong Kong. In the summertime, Hong Kong diners get to choose from a remarkable range of fruit, in addition to the usual vegetables. Crab — green, soft-shell, hairy, and giant — is the top choice each autumn; used in everything from soups and salads, appetisers and entrées. In winter, the ever-popular hot pot is the key to keeping friends and family groups comfortably warm and well-fed.
If you haven’t already, make sure you look out for these best Hong Kong dishes to try on your next trip!
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Who would visit Hong Kong and not sample its famous dim sum? Bite-sized portions of ha gao (steamed shrimp dumplings) are among the most popular Sunday treats. Au yok (lightly seasoned, minced beef balls) and cha siu bau (soft buns filled with barbecued pork) are among the favoured indulgences. Simply select what you want from the trolleys that are slowly rolled around the dining area. Reasonably priced, and always delectable, dim sum restaurants are a ubiquitous presence throughout Hong Kong. Served in little bamboo steamers or on small plates, dim sum is best savoured with a pot of Chinese tea.
Congee is the name given to rice porridge; a mainstay of most Hong Kongers at breakfast, or even a quick and easy snack throughout the day. This boiled rice soup is cooked with a base of fish stock giving the broth a rich taste, with a variety of fillings including chopped spring onion, minced pork, mushrooms, ginger, and even century egg. Not the most extravagant dish, but congee encapsulates Hong Kong food and served piping hot sets you up for the day.
Bakeries are found throughout Hong Kong and many buns and cakes have becoming world-famous, but we can’t look past a steaming egg tart as the king of Hong Kong pastries. The short crust pastry shell is filled with a mixture of whipped egg whites and egg custard, which is baked until the soft filling gently chars on the top. The best egg tarts are sweet, just a little salty – and when brought out steaming from the oven are absolutely moreish. This sweet pastry with a buttery aroma is known as ‘daan taat’ in Cantonese.
Roast goose restaurants are easy to recognise due to the custom of hanging the meat in the window for all to see. This is one of Hong Kong’s favourite types of meat, coming to the table freshly chopped into bite size pieces layered on top of each other with a crispy skin hiding pink succulent meat. Roast goose is often served with blanched bok choi, which adds a slight bitterness and crunchy texture to complement the oily meat. Most restaurants marinate goose in soy and sesame oil before being slow cooked to ensure the meat stays tender.
Mango pudding is a colonial dish that was a favourite of the British officers in India and especially Hong Kong. It consists of soft, creamy jelly with fresh pieces of mango hidden inside. Served chilled, this dessert is best during the hot humid summer. Somewhat surprisingly it is not as sweet as many other desserts, with only a delicate use of sugar complementing the fresh fruit.
The original inhabitants of Hong Kong were fishermen, and the fertile waters around the island are home to a fantastic variety of seafood. Almost species every fish, crustacean or mollusc plucked from the sea ends up in a restaurant in Hong Kong, with particular favourites being the meaty grouper fish, many types of crab, king prawns, and pricey abalone.
Char Siu is the name given to a range of barbequed pork. Red pork, crispy pork belly, and oily pork neck are all firm favourites in char siu restaurants. These meats can be served as a meat platter, with rice or noodles. The smoky meat is often marinated before cooking with soy sauce, honey, rice wine and more experimental seasonings. In modern Chinese restaurants, you will often find char siu served in ever more elaborate dishes.
The Chinese really love to eat, drink and be merry. What better way to do this than with friends or family over a cook-it-yourself hot pot? Place thinly sliced pieces of beef, chicken, fish, and pork and vegetables into a gently bubbling broth of your choice. The broth can be herb-based or meat-based and other ingredients, such as shellfish, meatballs, noodles, and certain vegetables can be added to the stock. When everything is cooked, simply ladle out the items you want to eat and enjoy them either as they are, or dipped in a sauce. Be careful not to burn your tongue!
What could be more synonymous with Chinese tradition than tea drinking? Historically, teapots and tiny cups were specially made to bring out the best flavour and aroma of the various teas. Sipping Chinese tea, whether it is Oolong, Jasmine, or Pu Erh, tea is a wonderful way to conclude a satisfying meal. Tea drinking is an important aspect of the culture of Hong Kong, where some kind of tea is almost always served. A resounding favourite is Hong-Kong-style milk tea, stemming from the days of British colonial rule: black tea mixed with evaporated or sweetened condensed milk. High Tea at The Lobby in The Peninsula Hotel is another of Hong Kong's famous afternoon delights.
Beef Noodle Soup
You can’t possibly visit Hong Kong and not try at least one type of noodle soup dish, and of all the variations our favourite is beef brisket noodle soup. Made with stewed beef which is gently boiled until flaky, the broth is dark, rich, and served with yellow egg noodles, Chinese cabbage. The best restaurants make beef stock by boiling cow bones for hours. Picky eaters should be aware that some restaurants add beef offal into the soup.