The best food in Hong Kong and where to find it
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 steamd siu mai (pork dumplings), har gow (prawn dumplings) and the fluffy barbecued pork-filled buns known as char siu bao. Many dim sum restaurants do solid renditions of these classic items but if you want to try one of the best places in town, nab a table at Tim Ho Wan, the Michelin-starred eatery known for its expertly crafted and freshly prepared – not to mention tremendously affordable – dim sum.
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.
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 for on-the-pavement enjoyment. Almost every savoury street vendor, including Chuen Cheong Foods, offers fishballs and you can also get them at those 7-Eleven stores with a hot foods section.
Egg tarts (called ‘dan taat’ in Cantonese) 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. Find them at cha chaan tengs (traditional HK-style cafés) and local bakeries such as Tai Cheong – a shop that famously served egg tarts to Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong.
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.
Wonton noodles can be found in other Cantonese-speaking towns and cities, but in our opinion, the Hong Kong variety ranks as 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. Try a bowl for yourself at Mak’s Noodles.
Eggettes – or ‘gai daan zai’ – are 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 this classic item but our favourite at the moment is More Eggettes, which offers a wide variety of new-fangled creations – including an IG-worthy star-patterned eggette – as well as the delicious tried-and-true classic rendition.
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. One of our fave brews can be found at Lan Fong Yuen. Established in 1952, this local institution is said to have invented ‘silk stocking milk tea’ – a version of the popular drink that gets its signature smoothness from being strained through a fine, pantyhose-like mesh.
The humble scrambled egg sandwich occupies a special place in the hearts of Hongkongers. A good egg sando 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. Everyone raves about the eggs at Australian Dairy Company but we recommend giving Luen Fat’s still-runny three-egg sandwiches a crack.
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 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 at places like Wai Kee, which does a kaya-smeared variety.
The common bowl pudding, named because it retains the shape of the bowl it’s steamed in, usually comes in white or brown versions (depending on the sugar it’s made from). Both types are studded with red beans. The result is a sticky, glutinous mess that carries just a faint hint of sugary sweetness. It may be simple, but that's enough to keep it a street snack favourite. Head to Kwan Kee in Sham Shui Po and you’ll see what we mean.
Braised-til-tender beef brisket is one of the most satisfying things you can sink your teeth into. Just as delicious as the meat though is the beefy broth that’s made from cooking it, which doubles as an excellent base for noodles. Try the much-lauded, MSG-free version at Sister Wah.
Perfect for big groups, this cook-it-yourself meal involves dipping various ingredients into a big vat of boiling soup. There are plenty of renditions of it across Asia, but Hong Kong’s hotpots stand out for their no-holds-barred style. No ingredient is off limits, be it a simple soup base to one spun from coffee, or basic meatballs to sausages filled with cheese – as long as it tastes good, it all goes in the pot. For one of the most innovative hotpot menus in town, head to The Drunken Pot, which offers some items spiked with alcohol.
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. For our money, Kwan Kee (not to be confused with the bowl pudding spot above) is king of claypot dishes with its signature beef and egg with Chinese sausage being one of our favourite things to eat come winter. Remember to make a reservation if you want to eat at this popular restaurant, otherwise, you could be waiting an hour or two.
Those who are unfamiliar with the concept might shudder at the thought of eating pigeon, but true Hongkongers know just how delicious these birds can be. They’re prized for their tender and fatty meat, slightly gamey flavour and skin that crisps up when roasted. If you haven’t already, give these a go at Sha Tin’s Lung Wah Hotel.
Greasy, carby but oh-so-delicious, stir-fried beef noodles are not for those watching their waistlines. A well-executed plate should be dyed an even soy-sauce brown and should be served steaming hot off the wok with the beef tender and every strand of hor fun rice noodle retaining a distinct al dente bite. It’s easier said than done and while most cha chaan tengs offer this dish, only a few can do it well, with Ho Hung Kee being among these select few.
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 and dumplings. Man Kei, one of the most popular cart noodle spots in the city, offers more than 70 ingredients, including more than a dozen different noodles.
Hongkongers know how to bring out the best in beancurd. Take these puddings for example. Also known as ‘dou 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, but for the most classic rendition, head to Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong, which serves a perfectly smooth tofu pudding that’s made from scratch.
Made with glutinous rice flour, these dumplings are eaten year-round as desserts but are also served during family gatherings, especially during festive occasions, since their name sounds like ‘union’ in Chinese while their round shapes symbolise togetherness. They’re sticky and delightfully chewy, and are filled with a variety of sweet pastes, the most common being black sesame and peanut. Purists enjoy them in hot ginger-spiked sweet soup but a lot of dessert shops, including the much-loved Fook Yuen, allow you to add tong yuen to other traditional sweets, such as black sesame or almond soup.
Hong Kong was formerly a small fishing village, so it’s not surprising that it knows a thing or two when it comes to seafood. Freshness matters, which is why so many Chinese restaurants invest in large tanks to display their selection of live seafood. Hongkongers enjoy their catch prepared various different ways, from stir-frying with pungent and flavourful black bean sauce (especially recommended for clams) to the more delicate approach of steaming with garlic and vermicelli (great for scallops). If you really want to put a restaurant to the test though, order a whole steamed fish – a dish that may seem simple but is incredible difficult to master. There are plenty of great seafood restaurants in Sai Kung but make a beeline for our favourite, the Michelin-starred Loaf On.
These dark and sticky chickens wings are another local culinary specialty. Urban legend has it that a Hong Kong waiter, who may not have spoken perfect English, served this dish to a foreign customer and explained that they were ‘sweet wings’. The customer misheard this as ‘Swiss wings’ and the name stuck. Whatever the origins of the name, these wings are delicious and are marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, Chinese wine and spices. Try this uniquely Hong Kong dish at Tai Ping Koon.