Exploring Hong Kong’s local food – a guide for the uninitiated

Exploring Hong Kong’s local food – a guide for the uninitiated
Source: Alamy Stock Photo; Photo by Karel Tupý

Hong Kong is home to one of Asia’s most diverse and vibrant food scenes with a seemingly infinite selection of traditional delights, international favorites and everything else in between.

Everyone who has stepped foot in Hong Kong has been won over by the wide array of local classics – dim sum that comes in piles of steaming baskets, juicy shrimp wontons with chewy noodles, or the wonderfully glazed char siu (barbecue pork) rice.

For the uninitiated, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer density of the city; the people brushing elbows in the streets, the endless and undecipherable lists of Chinese menus, and the sassy, no-nonsense cha-chaan teng ladies.

But worry not, we’re here to help. While this doesn’t even begin to uncover all the joys of Hong Kong’s local food, hopefully this guide serves as a starting point for your venture into typical Hong Kong cuisine.

Here are our highlights for top local classics everyone should try, as well as the best local spots to add to your list.

Dim Sum

Source: Hungry Onion

There’s no way we can have a Hong Kong food guide without dim sum. More than just a meal, dim sum is a whole experience with its own unique culture and practice. Commonly known as yum cha, the local lunchtime experience always starts with hot tea. Shortly after comes the main event, the iconic piles of steamed baskets filled with dumplings and bite sized delights.

Dim sum is all about sharing, so it is common practice to order lots (and lots) of small dishes to share. Classic choices include har gow (shrimp dumplings), siu mai (pork dumplings), char siu bao (steamed pork buns), lo bak go (pan fried radish cake) and lo mai gai (sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf with meat filling). For the adventurous – try the fong djau (steamed chicken feet). We promise it’s not as scary as it sounds!

There are dim sum restaurants everywhere in Hong Kong, so you’ll be sure to find one wherever you are. However, we recommend visiting Lin Heung Tea House for a truly immersive, traditional dim sum experience. Here you’ll find communal seating, Chinese aunties darting between the tables with carts of dim sum, and a loud, chattering ambience.

Lin Heung Tea House: 162 Wellington Street, Sheung Wan

(4-minute walk from Exit E2 Sheung Wan MTR )

Cha chaan teng

Source: Food Republic

If you’re looking for the real deal, look no further than a local cha chaan teng. Meaning “tea restaurants” in Cantonese, these joints are as iconic to Hong Kong as All-American diners are to … well, America. Known for serving up local comfort food for rock-bottom prices, residents flock to these places for no-fuss, every day meals.

Dishes like French toast, macaroni in soup, milk tea and the “regular set” (basically, an all day breakfast fry up) are all popular choices. The instant noodles with luncheon meat and egg make for a simple but incredibly satisfying meal.

If these dishes sound familiar that’s because they are, sort of. Quick history tidbit – cha chaan tengs were born out of the British colonial era as a place for residents to enjoy Western food at affordable prices, resulting in this eclectic fusion that is entirely unique to the island.

If you’re having trouble finding a place, Cheung Heung Yuen is on the top of our recommendation list with its old-school décor that transports you back to 1960s Hong Kong. They also have an outdoor stall which sells the most lovely egg tarts.

Cheung Heung Yuen Tea House: 107 Belcher’s St, Kennedy Town

(3-minute walk from Exit A Kennedy Town MTR)

Siu Mei

Source: Culture Trip

All you meat lovers out there take notes. You don’t want to miss this next local favorite. We’re talking about Hong Kong’s signature roasted and barbecued meat, also known as siu mei. While the image of large slabs of meat or even whole chickens and ducks dangling in the window fronts might not be appealing to everyone, we promise that once you give it a shot you won’t be disappointed.

Pick your character. There’s char siu (barbecued pork) with its signature red hue and sweet umami flavor. Or roast siu yuk (roasted pork belly) with its crackling skin and tender meat. The perfectly succulent siu ngo or siu ngaap (roasted goose and duck, respectively) are other strong contenders. And who can forget the steamed si yao gai (soy sauce chicken), which is still part of the siu mei family despite not being barbecued, topped with the most gorgeous ginger, scallion sauce.

As with all the other foods on this list (and arguably even more so), it isn’t difficult to recognize one of these joints as you wander around the city. However, some places might specialize in some meats over others, so bear that in mind. One place that does well across the board is Kwan Yu Roasted Meat in Tin Hau.

Kwan Yu Roasted Meat: 102 Electric Road, Tin Hau

(3-minute walk from Exit A2 Tin Hau MTR)

Soup noodles

Source: Sassy
Source: Weekend HK

We can’t talk about local food staples without mentioning soup noodles. It’s no secret that Asian people love noodles – you’d be able to find a place that sells some form of noodle dish on just about every street in Hong Kong. Although they might not be as distinctive of a cuisine compared to the previous suggestions, two noodle dishes worth mentioning are wonton noodles and fish ball noodles.

Wonton noodles are most typically made with thin egg noodles that are perfectly al dente, served with hot broth and big, juicy wonton dumplings made with shrimp and pork. On the other hand, there are several noodle choices for fish ball noodles, but the reigning champion has got to be hor fun, a thick flat noodle. Your chosen noodle will get served up in a lovely clear broth along with bouncy fish balls, slices of fish cake and spring onions. Happy slurping!

Mak’s Noodle in Central is notorious for their wonton noodles, and walking around the city, you might find a number of other wonton noodle joints also named Mak after Hong Kong’s OG wonton noodle master. All of these places would be a good bet. For fish ball noodles, we suggest you pay a visit to Wong Lam Kee Chiu Chow Fish Ball Noodles. Their famous fish balls are always fresh and seriously to die for – trust us.

Mak’s Noodle: 77 Wellington St, Central (6-minute walk from Exit D1 Central MTR)

Wong Lam Kee Chiu Chow Fish Ball Noodles: Shop A, 10 Shau Kei Wan Main Street East, Shau Kei Wan (5-minute walk from Exit A2 Shau Kei Wan MTR)

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