Hong Kong is a true food paradise, with some of the world’s very best restaurants, from cheap eats and street food to high-end Michelin-starred eateries. But what makes Hong Kong’s dining scene truly unique is undoubtedly its local dishes. While most of these dishes are – unsurprisingly – informed by Chinese cooking, many of them also capture Hong Kong’s east-meets-west heritage in the most delicious of ways. Whether it’s traditional Cantonese dim sum or beverages influenced by British culture, there’s something here to please all tastes.
If you’re hungry to try some of these local Hong Kong dishes, here are some of the best places to do so. From wonton noodles at Mak’s Noodles to egg tarts at Tai Cheong Bakery, from seafood in Sai Kung to barbecued meats at Joy Hing, these restaurants and cafés are your best bets for an authentic taste of Hong Kong food culture.
RECOMMENDED: Want to try the crème de la crème? Then be sure to check out our list of the absolute best restaurants in Hong Kong to try right now.
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.
Still hungry for more?
Ah Yat Abalone is what naturally comes to mind when referring to Forum restaurant. Using dried abalone specially selected from South Africa, the claypot stewed abalone made with Forum’s superior broth is a perfect match for aged vintage sake, as its aroma and depth of flavour enhances the richness of the abalone with every bite.
The baked stuffed crab shell, another signature dish, where fried dried scallops and onions are mixed with the meat of sustainably sourced American blue crab is exceptionally rich. Pair it with the slightly fruity Junmai Daiginjo-shu, whose fragrance will help elevate the flavour of the crab.
For fans of succulence, the baked lobster with soy sauce is a must-try. Fresh lobsters are flash fried with a thin layer of corn starch and house-made soy sauce. Junmai Daiginjo-shu’s unique combination of nutty, salty and seaweed-like aroma is a perfect match for the meaty lobster.
Grilled on high heat and topped with the premium Russian Malossol Caviar, the sashimi-grade scallops are tender on the inside and perfectly charred on the outside. It is recommended to pair this with the sour pear and peach-flavoured Japanese Soshu. This sake has a strong mineral taste as it is made from hard water, and it can defuse the slightly salty taste of scallops and caviar while bringing out the essence of the shellfish.
While a staple spirit in Japanese culture, Sake has grown in popularity worldwide and specially as a match with seafood. Sweet, sour, salty and bitter, these four main markers of Thai cuisine that fusions with seafood make it an excellent pairing with aromatic sake. Using it in cocktails is a great way to introduce it to new drinkers. Baan Thai presents three sake-based cocktails to go along with their new seafood appetizers.
The vermicelli prawn salad which is tossed with spicy and tangy house dressing is paired with the refreshing Saketini. A twist on a martini, it mixes sake and vodka, adding cucumber juice and simple syrup to balance out the dryness of the sake.
Sora Thai, made with the citrus- flavoured sake, Thai basil, elderflower liqueur, Japanese yuzu, acts as a zesty companion to the spicy tiger prawns. Marinated and grilled to perfection, the umami of the prawns is brought out two-fold by the citrus and the sake. Sora means ‘sky’ in Japanese, which is appropriate as this effervescent cocktail topped with Prosecco shines bright like the Thai sky.
To bring out the sweetness of the almond-like sake, the Kokokobe includes Flor de Caña rum, Ogreat liqueur, chocolate and Angostura bitters and served over the rocks. The name is a play on ‘cocoa’ and the city of Kobe, which was a former major chocolate exporter. Pair this with traditional fried Thai fish cakes served with spicy nam chim sauce.
Until Dec 30, the sakes used in the cocktails are all available by the glass and by the bottle. The bottles are 50% off when ordered along with an item from the a la carte menu. While the Sake Cocktail Combo allows guests to choose one sake cocktail to go with one of the new seafood appetizers at a great value of $168.
Whether it’s a sea cucumber the size of your arm, a tower of shellfish, or abalone air-freighted live from New Zealand, the seafood here is always fresh and so are the ideas. The light umami of these delicacies, or 'treasures of the sea', is enhanced by sake. The simple flavours and aroma of sake pair well with pretty much anything, but particularly with simple or subtle flavours. It brings out the inherent flavours of the star ingredients used in this seafood and sake pairing menu including Alaska king crab prepared two ways (steamed with egg white and pan fried), geo-duck prepared two ways (pan fried whole and deep fried liver) and pan fried Australian green lip abalone.
Located in the fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan, the restaurant has over a thousand seats with a seaside view, offering an array of freshly caught seafood items. Steamed catch of the day and black bean clams are the usual suspects, but the sake pairing menu makes for a fun evening of island dining. Not only does sake bring out the flavours of fresh seafood, it can also temper fishy aromas. The robustness of the award-winning chilli crab and deep fried salt and pepper squilla pair perfectly with an equally umami-rich sake. The lactic acid-derived milky qualities of this sake have a strong affinity with more buttery dishes.
Classic Cantonese fare with contemporary flair is brought out with a sake pairing menu at Hexa. Sake’s real trump card is that it is high in amino acids, which enhances the umami in seafood. Fried tiger prawn with green peppercorn sauce pairs well with a rich sake, while the lighter steamed grouper with crabmeat and red ginger partners best with something equally as delicate. Steamed Australian crystal crab in Huadiao wine and egg yolk sauce is served alongside citrus-forward sake, which has an affinity for dishes that are a match in acidity.