In Cantonese cuisine, dessert serves as the perfect ending to a full feast or even a quick dim sum meal. And the local cuisine in Hong Kong is nothing if not varied. Forget ice cream , scrumptious cakes and spongey puddings, traditional desserts here often – though not exclusively – come in the shape of warm, sweet soups. Here are the must-haves when you’re in town and looking to eat like a local.
The best Hong Kong desserts and where to find them
A Hong Kong sweet staple, the buttery pastry crust of an egg tart paired with its creamy egg custard centre is a heavenly combo. These humble treats can be found at most local bakeries and cha chaan tengs including Tai Cheong Bakery, which happens to be a favourite of former governor Chris Patten.
This popular local street snack is handed to you crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It can come in many different flavours like chocolate, matcha and in certain places, with salted egg or ice cream. One of the best spots to sample an egg waffle is at Tai O Egg Waffle Uncle, where the owner famously makes them over a solitary battered charcoal stove.
Tofu pudding is essentially a bowl of the smoothest and softest bean curd served in clear syrup and sweetened ginger. Its melt-in-your-mouth silky texture makes it one of the most beloved desserts in Hong Kong. Kung Wo Tofu Factory’s offering is top draw, with a rich soy bean flavour.
Tong yuens are small and round white dumplings filled with a variation of sweet pastes including black sesame, peanut, red bean, or fruit preserves. Traditionally eaten during Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year, they are made by mixing a small amount of glutinous rice flour with water then filled with a sweet paste and formed into balls. They are then cooked and served in hot water or sweet syrup such as ginger. Fook Yuen Desserts is hailed by many as making the best tong yuen in town.
Simple yet delicious, ‘double skin’ milk pudding is a creamy treat typically made using only egg white, milk and sugar. The trick lies in getting the double layered skin to form on the surface. Though not the most appealing in name, a taste of this warm and smooth pudding immediately warms the belly. Yee Shun Dairy Company is famous for its milk pudding. The restaurant has been making the sweet, tasty mixture with finesse for many years.
Red bean soup is slow-cooked to create a thick, creamy texture, and can be found in most Hong Kong dessert shops such as Luk Lam Dessert in Sham Shui Po. The beans are packed with iron and, according to Chinese medicine, they’re full of yang-replenishing nutrients, too. Luk Lam allows you to mix-and-match any extra ingredients you want including glutinous rice balls, ice cream, sweet potato and fruits.
Though it may look ominous, this thick, charcoal-coloured sweet soup is the perfect treat to combat any chills. A slurp of its hot, sticky broth can warm you down to your soul. It’s particularly enjoyable for fans of black sesame. Restaurants like the lauded dessert joint Gai Gai Dessert give you the option to add glutinous rice balls for extra texture.
This delightfully sweet and refreshing dessert is particularly popular during summer. Packed with flavours, scoop up thick mango and pomelo chunks – which provides a nice citrusy tone – nestle in a bed of cool, creamy puree. Honeymoon Desserts is king when it comes to mango desserts. Head there for a mouth-watering portion.
Another local delight with tofu, this dessert utilises tofu skin boiled with white rock sugar. It’s a light and smooth treat, often prepared with ginkgo nuts and barley, and occasionally with a boiled egg depending on preferences. Chiu Chow Hop Shing Dessert makes a killer version, served either hot or cold, and can be a welcome relief for any dry throats.
For those in search of a real local Hong Kong dessert, sang ji sheung sweet soup is a must-try. The literal translation of its name is mulberry mistletoe, lotus seed and egg tea, which gives you an inkling of its unique flavour. It’s known in Chinese medicine as having many health benefits. Try some and your body will thank you. Yuen Kee Dessert in Sai Ying Pun is the king of traditional desserts but their sang ji sheung sweet soup is tops.