At this time last year, you would have been touching down at your local airport, returning from a wonderful vacation, sporting a fresh tan and an additional few pounds from gorging yourself on exotic dishes.
But instead, you now find yourself returning from yet another trip to the supermarket a few hundred meters away, and settling down on the couch for yet another weeknight pasta dish with Netflix.
Despite our best efforts to brush up on our cooking skills at home, it seems impossible to recreate the feeling of walking through food markets of Malaysia, or the experience of sitting on the cobbled streets of Italy, nibbling on a fresh slice of wood-fired pizza.
As sad as this is, there is a bright side. While we are essentially stuck where we are, our palates do not have to be. Luckily for us in Hong Kong, we have access to an incredibly diverse and bustling food scene, making it possible to experience the cuisines of far-reaching countries at the convenience of a single MTR trip.
So if you ever feel like you want a change from your regular cha-chaan-teng (as much as we love them), here are some places to go to if you’re feeling something more out there (pun intended).
Hotel Colombo (Sri Lankan)
On your trip around the (food) world, there is no place more fitting than Hotal Colombo. Named after the casual eateries littered around Sri Lanka which locals lovingly refer to as hotels (pronounced ‘hotals’ phonetically), it is one place that is sure to transport you away.
The space itself is quirky and bright, with its pastel blue and pink shaded walls making it seem like you’ve stepped into a Wes Anderson movie. Contrast that to the fiery yellows and reds of their karis (curries) and you’ve got a visual feast before the magical first bite.
Filled with fragrant and fiery dishes such as the deviled shrimp (HK$128) and bone marrow varuval (HK$158), their menu is not for the faint-of-heart. A must try for any newbie is the restaurant’s hoppers – light, bowl-shaped pancakes made with rice flour. This paired with any of the chutneys, karis, (or any saucy dish, really) will guarantee you a very good time.
Address: G/F, 31 Elgin Street, Soho, Central, Hong Kong Number: +852 2488 8863
Café Malacca (Malaysian)
Despite only being a three hour flight down, Malaysian cuisine is one that is comparatively more elusive than that of its neighbor Thailand. That being said, if you ask any of the Malaysians living in Hong Kong, they’re sure to give Café Malacca their stamp of approval.
At this joint, you’ll be able to find kopi tiam classics like the staple nasi lemak(HK$118) and the aromatic Penang char koay teow (HK$98). However, the star of the show is definitely the Penang assam laksa (HK$108), one of the region’s most notorious soup noodle dishes. The tangy, sour and slightly sweet broth makes for a delightfully moorish meal. They even import the same brand of hae ko (black shrimp paste) used in hawker stalls in Malaysia for that extra touch of authenticity.
Address: 2/F Hotel Jen, 508 Queen’s Road West, Shek Tong Tsui, Hong Kong Number: +852 2213 6613
Aziza (Egyptian and Mediterranean)
In the trying times of the pandemic, what could be better than supporting small, family businesses? Even better when those businesses offer delicious food at affordable price tags (tick, tick and tick), and not to mention incredibly veg friendly (tick, again).
Be instantly won over by the endless charm of Aziza, owned and run by Chef Mohsen Gaber Ibrahim along with his wife and children. The food here is always prepared fresh, with Chef Mohsen undertaking the painstaking task of preparing couscous from scratch.
But as much as we love a sweet origin story – the food is what matters and trust us when we say, the food here speaks for itself.
Treat yourself to their selection of warm and cold mezzes, which includes a delightfully creamy baba ghanoush (HK$56) and crispy falafel (HK$59). Their homemade couscous is also fluffy, wheaty and a huge upgrade from your usual packaged variety. Order this with tagine(as Chef Mohsen personally recommended) and you will not be disappointed.
Another family business for the list is Ivan the Kozak, run by Hong Kong local Ivan Wang and his Ukrainian wife. The entrance is unmissable, guarded by a life-size plaster statue sporting a handlebar mustache that any hipster would dream of having.
Their quintessentially Eastern European menu leaves little to be desired and includes all the meat, fish, dairy and potato dishes you would expect to find. Crowd favorites include the Ukrainian borscht (HK$68), which is strikingly red because of its beetroot base and traditional pirogidumplings (HK$88). In addition to their hearty dishes, Ivan the Kozak also boasts an extensive menu of imported wines, beers and ciders for you to wash down your meal.
An additional insider tip: if you time your visit right with Hong Kong’s reopening, you could even pop down to the nearby Lan Kwai Fong and Soho area for an after-dinner drink or boogie.
Address: Ivan the Kozak, 1/F Parekh House, 63 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong Number: +852 2851 1193
Club Rangoon (Burmese)
Last but not least is Club Rangoon, which opened last month in July. While it just made it onto the list, it is far from an afterthought.
Club Rangoon offers traditional comfort food with a rich history packaged in a sleek, contemporary establishment, making it one of the most talked about openings of the season. All the lucky people who have managed to get seats have raved about their take on Myanmar’s national dish mohinga (HK$170), which features thin rice noodles in a fragrant lemon grass catfish broth (mmmm, am I right?!).
Purportedly the only authentically Burmese restaurant in Hong Kong, it is not a place to miss.
Address: 33 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong Number: +852 2503 3077
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