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Wai Kee french toast
Photograph: N.Chiu

22 Best uniquely Hong Kong dishes you need to try at least once

Don't call yourself a Hongkonger unless you've tried these

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong
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Regardless if you’re looking for cheap eats or new restaurants to try out, Hong Kong is never short of amazing cuisine. Whether it’s traditional Cantonese dim sum or beverages influenced by British culture, there are numerous local dishes that represent our city in the most authentic and delicious ways. If you want to eat like a true local, check out this list of beloved dishes that Hong Kongers can’t get enough of!

RECOMMENDED: Catch up on the latest foodie happenings in Hong Kong.

Barbecued meats
Photograph: Ann Chiu

Barbecued meats

From melt-in-your-mouth honey-glazed char siu pork and crispy suckling pig to fatty pork belly and succulent goose or duck, nothing beats some good ol’ Canto-style barbecued meats, aka ‘siu mei’. Joy Hing in Wan Chai offers a solid selection of roasted meats with its pork being particularly popular thanks to its perfect ratio of meat to fat. Alternatively, head to West Villa Restaurant for their famous char siu rice dish.

Cart noodles
Photograph: Courtesy Yummy Cart Noodles

Cart noodles

If you’ve ever wanted to build the perfect bowl of noodles, this is the way to do it. Cart noodles are mix-and-match affairs that allow diners to choose from a bunch of different ingredients, including soup bases, noodle types and toppings. The list of ingredients varies from restaurant to restaurant but common favourites include beef brisket, daikon, fishballs and dumplings. 

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Claypot rice
Photograph: Ann Chiu

Claypot rice

Available during the colder months of the year, this hearty, warming dish is made up of rice and various toppings in a clay bowl that is, traditionally, slow-cooked over charcoal stoves. This process toasts the rice, giving the bowl a crunchy, carby crust. 

Curry fishballs
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Curry fishballs

Curry fishballs are probably Hong Kong’s most iconic street snack. Though they’re mostly made from flour these days and contain almost no fish meat, this has had little effect on the snack’s popularity. Springy in texture, the bite-sized spheres bob about in a strong curry sauce before they’re skewered on a bamboo stick or ladled into a takeaway bowl.

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Dim sum
Photograph: Calvin Sit

Dim sum

No Hong Kong experience is complete without a dim sum meal. Traditionally served in bamboo steamers, these small plates are designed to be shared, allowing you to taste a bit of everything. Must-orders include steamed siu mai (pork dumplings), har gow (prawn dumplings) and the fluffy barbecued pork-filled buns known as char siu bao. 

Egg tarts
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Egg tarts

Egg tarts are a Hong Kong sweet staple. Creamy custard nestles in a golden crust that’s either butter-cookie in style or made from crumbly, flaky pastry. There’s fierce debate over which style of crust is better but either way, these tarts are best eaten fresh and warm straight out of the oven. 

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Egg waffles
Photograph: N.Chiu

Egg waffles

Egg waffles, eggettes, ‘gai daan jai’, or whatever you want to call it, this eggy snack is a quintessential part of our city’s street-food culture. Warm and fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside, these bubble-shaped waffles are the perfect grab-and-go snack. There are plenty of street vendors that offer egg waffles, often with a wide variety of fangled creations – topped with ice cream, different colours, shapes, and flavours, some even have molten centres!

French toast
Photograph: Ann Chiu

French toast

French toast might not be of Hong Kong origin but the local rendition of this dish is an indulgence like no other. Instead of being merely browned in a griddle or pan, the bread is drenched in an eggy mixture and then deep-fried until crisp and golden. It’s then served with a fat pat of butter and a healthy dose of syrup. Oh, we forgot to mention that French toasts à la Hong Kong are almost always plumped with some sort of sinful filling. The mainstay is peanut butter but you can find more creative ingredients such as kaya, cheese, molten salted egg yolk, and even beef satay.

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Egg sandwich
Photograph: N.Chiu

Egg sandwich

The humble scrambled egg sandwich occupies a special place in the hearts of Hongkongers. A good egg sarnie should contain a fluffy, creamy centre between two slices of butter-smeared white bread – it’s simple, yes, but also incredibly satisfying, whether it’s enjoyed during breakfast or as an afternoon snack. There are also other renditions where you can add fillings such as ham, cheese, and our favourite, corned beef.

Three stuffed treasures

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These deep fried ‘treasures’ are a street food classic. Consisting of green pepper, eggplant, and tofu, they all get a generous stuffing of dace fish paste. However, each store has their own variation of ingredients, such as Chinese red sausage, jalapeno, or bitter gourd. You can normally buy them pick-and-mix style, but we recommend sticking to the classics before trying out other variations.

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Hairy crabs
Photograph: Courtesy Wait Wait Hea

Hairy crabs

While most of us might associate mooncakes as one of the key things to eat during autumn, another crowd favourite has to be hairy crabs.Typically in season during September to late November, these crabs are an autumn delicacy that can be enjoyed anywhere from the comfort of your own home to some of Hong Kong’s most luxurious restaurants. Known for their sweet flesh and buttery golden roe, the value of these crabs can easily go over triple digits, but they’re definitely worth their hefty price tags.

Hong Kong-style steaks
Photograph: Instagram/@kurrts

Hong Kong-style steaks

Nicknamed ‘Soy Sauce Western Restaurants’ due to our city's very own adaptation to Western cuisine, Hong Kong steakhouses are best known for their sizzling hot plates and unbeatable prices. While the quality of meats at Chinese steakhouses is most likely going to be on the more cheap-and-cheerful side of things, the affordable set meals and the bustling environments make it a one-of-a-kind experience. 

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Lo ding
Photograph: Courtesy cc/wikicommons/WiNG

Lo ding

Instant noodles are a staple in Hong Kong-style fast food. Although cooking the noodles in soup is a tried and true method, draining the noodles and tossing them in a sauce – be it soy, cheese, or curry sauce – is another way to spice up what are essentially bland noodles. You can even dress up the noodles with extra toppings such as pork chops and veggies.

Milk tea
Photograph: Calvin Sit

Milk tea

If Hong Kong was a drink, it’d be milk tea, seeing as how we drink 900 million cups of it a year. This combo of black tea served strong with condensed milk is a brilliant bevvie hot or cold. If you're a fan of milk tea, try Hong Kong's very own ‘silk stocking milk tea’ – a version of the popular drink that gets its signature smoothness from being strained through a fine, pantyhose-like mesh.

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Doggie's noodle

When it comes to Hong Kong street food classics, a lot of people might forget about doggie’s noodles. Popularised during the 50’s and 60’s, this noodle dish made from glutinous rice gets its name from its similarity to a dog’s tail. Served together with a rich gravy-like broth and topped with mushroom, minced meat, and fried lard, this dish is packed full of flavour and textures.

Maltose cracker

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Like the saying goes, less is more. This humble snack is made with just two ingredients – maltose syrup and saltine crackers. Particularly popular with kids (or those with a sweet tooth), this nostalgic sweet treat can be easily made at home. While you might not find it on every street corner, you can find it at mom-and-pop shops on the streets of sleepy towns like Tai O.

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Pineapple bun
Photograph: Calvin Sit

Pineapple bun

Despite its name, a pineapple bun contains none of its namesake ingredient (although some chefs now add pineapple to the bun for novelty’s sake). Rather, it’s named because of its supposed resemblance to the spikey, tropical fruit. The sweet streusel-like crust on top is made from sugar, eggs, flour and lard, baked until golden-brown and crumbly. This delicious treat is best eaten right out of the oven with a thick slab of cold butter stuffed in the centre – it’s not healthy by any means but that’s what makes it so good.

Tofu pudding
Photograph: Cara Hang

Tofu pudding

Hongkongers know how to bring out the best in beancurd. Take these puddings for example. Also known as ‘dau fu faa’ in Cantonese, these are essentially servings of silken tofu sweetened with syrup or brown sugar (or both!). A lot of dessert shops also offer other add-ons, such as coconut milk, osmanthus syrup and even hunks of durian.

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Wonton noodles
Photograph: Calvin Sit

Wonton noodles

Wonton noodles can be found in many other parts of the world, but in our opinion, the Hong Kong variety ranks the best. Served in a light and delicate soup, this dish features thin and springy egg noodles that are topped with delicious prawn-filled wonton dumplings in smooth wrappers (some restaurants may add a bit of pork to their wontons). Topped with garlic chives for a fresh and aromatic punch, these noodles are the ultimate feel-good food for Hongkongers. 

Flower of love

Who would have thought that there would be a type of sushi that was invented in Hong Kong? With its name literally meaning ‘flower of love’, this type of sushi was invented in the 1990s by a local sushi chef who wanted to cheer his wife up after an argument. Using salmon sashimi to wrap around a portion of rice, and topping it off with fish roe and mayonnaise, the final product looks like a blooming flower. 

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Macaroni soup
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Macaroni soup

Typically served alongside egg sandwiches in cha chaan tengs, macaroni soup is a cha chaan teng staple. Served in a light chicken broth, this dish can be topped with ham, luncheon meat, or char siu. This main dish is a great option for any time of the day, but most choose to eat it as a breakfast or brunch option. It’s also great for recovering from a raging hangover.

Topped rice

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Typically served in low-cost establishments that are frequented by blue-collar workers, topped rice is one of the simplest, yet diverse dishes. In essence, it consists of a rice dish topped with one or multiple side dishes. Ranging from simple stir-fries to roasted siu mei, the possibilities with topped rice are endless. Some classic rice toppings include char siu omelette or tofu with roast pork. Despite not being glamorous, it typically comes in hearty portions that leave you full and getting the job done.

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