You can’t call yourself a Hongkonger until you’re familiar with the best local food brands, the top local bakeries and the correct etiquette at your local bar. When it comes to eating at local restaurants, as a territory made up of 263 islands and a peninsula, there’s naturally a tradition of cooking and eating the local catch.
Hong Kong’s seafood restaurants are dynamic places. Giant circular tabletops are rolled out to accommodate hungry diners while rowdy fishermen gather to celebrate the day’s catch over endless bottles of Tsing Tao. Crabs and clams, scallops and sea snails, and, of course abalone, are a spectacle in themselves, mooching around in aerated tanks. Then there are the giant groupers, snappers and eels, who relish any opportunity to splash diners in a spirit of watery revenge.
Whether you prefer your seafood stir-fried with chilli and a heap of garlic or cooked whole in a traditional bamboo steamer, you won’t find any fresher. By Sam Sinha
RECOMMENDED: If you need a refresher on how the locals do it, take a look at our comprehensive guide to the best food in Hong Kong.
Best local seafood in Hong Kong
With the closing of Aberdeen Fish Market’s excellent canteen, you might be looking for another place to enjoy the local catch. Hop on a boat to Jumbo Kingdom’s floating restaurant from outside the market, but be warned, this place isn’t cheap. It’s more about the experience than the quality or value on offer. The iconic Hong Kong landmark took over four years and millions of dollars to build. Celebrities far and wide have made a visit to the floating restaurant including Queen Elizabeth II, David Bowie, John Wayne and Gong Li. Jumbo was featured in several movies, most notably, in the James Bond flick The Man with the Golden Gun.
This eatery specialises in the traditional cuisine of the Tan Ka ‘boat people’ who lived on junks in the safe haven of nearby Aldrich Bay, before they were forced to come ashore in the 1980s. With its large round tables, Kam Tung Kitchen is a great spot for a family gathering. There’s plenty of seafood on offer here, both in the form of dim sum – the shrimp dumplings are excellent – and larger plates of whole baked fish and grilled shellfish.
Size matters. And some of Hong Kong’s biggest and best fishballs can be found at this legendary stall on the island of Cheung Chau. The friendly crew know what they’re doing – they’ve been serving up giant, chewy fishball skewers for more than 40 years. Choose from the assortment of delicious hot sticks made with minced fish, squid, meat or tofu. If these giant balls of fishy goodness don’t satisfy you, head to the waterfront restaurants near the ferry pier for a riot of local seafood, kept live in tanks and cooked to order.
Loaf On sits just metres from the sea out in Sai Kung and holds the honour of being the only restaurant on this list with a Michelin star. Quite the achievement for a local Cantonese seafood spot. Try the mantis shrimp, razor clams and scallops with glass noodles – all must-order dishes. But the salted fried chicken and seafood soup are also popular choices.
Nestled in Picnic Bay on Lamma Island, Rainbow Seafood Restaurant is a free boat ride away from Central. This outdoor, live seafood restaurant, which has been around for 30 years, remains a fun place to sample the freshest seafood with a sea view. Try the catch of the day, steamed whole, or the black bean clams. And if they’re in season, order up the ‘pee-on’ shrimps – they’re better than they sound – and ask for them to be fried with salt and pepper. If you’re really hungry, opt for the seafood banquet to try a bit of everything.
Sing Kee is yet another Michelin-rated seafood restaurant in Sai Kung, and it’s just down the road from Loaf On. Awarded the Michelin Plate in recognition of the commitment to carefully prepared, fresh ingredients, it’s certainly worth a trip. The star of the show here is the meaty abalone, which you can enjoy any way you like: steamed, deep-fried or stewed in oyster sauce.
The fishing village of Tai O on Lantau Island is one of the last places to get an idea of old Hong Kong. Before the skyscrapers, inflatable unicorns and craft breweries arrived, villages on stilts like this dotted the coastline. This seafood shack serves Cantonese stir-fries and bamboo steamer classics. Order the daily catch, steamed whole, the pan-fried cuttlefish patties and the steamed rice wrapped in lotus leaves. Or just sack off the fish and go for the house favourite charcoal-roasted goose. Every dish incorporates Tai O’s speciality produce of shrimp paste, dried seafood and pork.
It’s rare that a restaurant can receive equally legendary status for its party atmosphere and its food. After a visit from Anthony Bourdain, Tung Po became so popular it managed to take over the entire top floor of North Point’s Java Road Cooked Food Centre. Owner Robby Cheung is a karaoke-obsessed, Michael Jackson wannabe who makes sure everyone has a good time. Be prepared for booming Canto and Western pop tunes, bad singing and by turns surly and exuberant service. You will drink from a china bowl, open beer with chopsticks and probably take a selfie with the main man. Oh, we forgot the food. Take it from us, they cook up a mean plate of seafood.
Sequestered amid flyovers and high rises between Happy Valley, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay, this market and cooked food centre is well known for its fresh seafood. Upstairs, you’ll find a lively atmosphere from a full-house of locals tearing into all manner of fresh fish, squid, scallops, razor clams and much more. The catch is kept live in boxes so you can choose your own dinner. They’ll wok-fry it with toppings like crispy garlic and sides of fresh veg from the market. Tables are covered in wipe-clean plastic so don’t worry the mess as you get stuck into your favourite shellfish.