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Wai Kee french toast
Photograph: N.Chiu

20 best uniquely Hong Kong dishes you need to try at least once

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

By Time Out Hong Kong
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Hong Kong is a true food paradise. From cheap eats and street food to Michelin-starred restaurants. But what makes Hong Kong’s dining scene truly unique is undoubtedly its local dishes. Whether it’s traditional Cantonese dim sum or beverages influenced by British culture, these restaurants and cafés capture our city's east-meets-west heritage in the most authentic and delicious ways

RECOMMENDED: Spice things up and take your pick from our roundup of the best Sichuan restaurants found in Hong Kong.

The best food in Hong Kong and where to find it

Tim Ho Wan
Tim Ho Wan
Chris Chan

Dim Sum

Restaurants Chinese

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.

West Villa 西苑酒家
West Villa 西苑酒家
West Villa 西苑酒家

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.

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curry fish balls
curry fish balls
Shutterstock

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.

Egg tarts-Shutterstock-2020-03-04.jpg
Egg tarts-Shutterstock-2020-03-04.jpg
Shutterstock

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. Visit local bakeries such as Hoover Cake Shop or Door Door Bakery for some top-notch egg tarts.

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PineappleBUn
PineappleBUn
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.

Mak Man Kee
Mak Man Kee
CS

Wonton noodles

Restaurants Jordan

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. Try a bowl for yourself at Mak Man Kee.

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More Eggettes
More Eggettes
N.Chiu

Egg waffles

Restaurants

Egg waffles – or ‘gai daan jai’ – 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 one of our all-time favourites is More Eggettes, which offers a wide variety of fangled creations – including an IG-worthy star-patterned egg waffle – as well as the delicious tried-and-true classic rendition.

The best Hong Kong milk tea - featured image
The best Hong Kong milk tea - featured image
CC Image courtesy of City Foodsters on Flickr

Milk tea

Restaurants Central

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.

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Luen Fat 聯發茶餐廳 - egg sandwich
Luen Fat 聯發茶餐廳 - egg sandwich
Photograph: N.Chiu

Egg sandwich

Restaurants

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.

lok yuen beef french toast
lok yuen beef french toast
Ann Chiu

French toast

Restaurants

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. Lok Yuen in Kowloon City also does a pretty mean beef satay french toast that's worth a try.

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Kwan Kee bowl pudding
Kwan Kee bowl pudding
N.Chiu

Bowl pudding

Restaurants Sham Shui Po

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 youll see what we mean.

Sister Wah beef brisket
Sister Wah beef brisket
CC Image courtesy of Buddy8d on Flickr

Beef brisket

Restaurants Tin Hau

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.

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Claypot rice

Restaurants

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.

Ho Hung Kee - beef noodles
Ho Hung Kee - beef noodles
CC Image courtesy of leeyu_flickr on Flickr

Stir-fried beef noodles

Restaurants Chinese Causeway Bay

Greasy, carby, but oh-so-delicious, stir-fried beef noodles are not for those watching their waistlines. A well-executed plate should be dyed to 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.

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Yummy Cart Noodles
Yummy Cart Noodles
Yummy Cart Noodles/Deliveroo

Cart Noodles

Restaurants Kowloon City

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. 

ah yuk tofu pudding
ah yuk tofu pudding
Cara Hang

Tofu pudding

Restaurants Sham Shui Po

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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Loyal Dining
Loyal Dining
Loyal Dining

Hong Kong-style steaks

Restaurants Chinese

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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Loaf On
Loaf On
Loaf On

Seafood

Restaurants Seafood

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.

For Kee
For Kee
Annette Chan

Pork chop rice

Restaurants

Just like the other HK classic, char siu rice, pork chop rice is one of our city’s fundamental dishes. There are many variations across town and the quality is equally varied. We highly recommend heading to For Kee, one of Sheung Wan's most popular lunch spots is this decades-old family diner. Reportedly opened by a health-conscious Chinese medicine practitioner, this hole in the wall is best known for its no-frills ‘gold medal pork chop rice’, which consists of two basic components: white rice, and impossibly tender pork marinated in sweet soy sauce. We like ours with an egg on top, sunny side up. 

Still hungry?

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