Proud to be a Hongkonger? So are we. But in this ever-changing world we live in today, it can be easy to forget about our roots. With so much history and cultural heritage behind our city, it's important for us to preserve and acknowledge the significance of Hong Kong's unique culture.
Whether they are local bakeries, architectural beauties, traditional crafts and trades, cultural experiences, or the great people of Hong Kong, there are plenty of things that showcase the lion-rock spirit in its truest form. Here are just some of the very best:
8 dishes that epitomise Hong Kong's East-meets-West culture
For decades, Hong Kong has been internationally known as one of the best examples of a city where East meets West. With its rich history as a strategic shipping port, our city has long been a melting pot of cultures, and nowhere else is this more apparent than in the food. A foodie city through and through, there is no shortage of dishes where the influences from opposite ends of the world can be seen. From piping hot macaroni soup to the delicate egg tart, here is our list of dishes that will get you the best of both worlds with each bite. By Yu An Su RECOMMENDED: For more quintessentially Hong Kong bites, check out our list of the best local bakeries.
Five iconic Hong Kong buildings: Then and now
Our city’s famous skyline has witnessed a wealth of stunning architecture over the past 150 years. Though many have since been demolished for the modern-age of glossy skyscrapers, some buildings remain just as salient in our collective memories – take a look at these lost buildings if you’re feeling nostalgic. From the city’s oldest buildings to arguably the most beautiful, revisit these five architectural gems and see what they’ve now become. RECOMMENDED: Explore more of Hong Kong through nature and experience these beautiful heritage trails in Hong Kong.
10 iconic products that are made in Hong Kong
Hong Kong was once a manufacturing powerhouse with the ‘Made in Hong Kong’ stamp seen as a mark of quality around the world. While rising costs in the 1980s pushed many companies to relocate their production facilities elsewhere, some products have remained proudly made in this city. From plastic pails to cure-all pills, here are a few of our favourite locally made things. RECOMMENDED: Be sure to check out these uniquely Hong Kong experiences, or these local cultural gems that are on the brink of disappearing.
Trading stories: Two barbers from different generations
Traditional Shanghai-style barbershops have long held a special place in the hearts of Hongkongers. For many men who grew up here, sitting in an old barber chair while an electric hair trimmer buzzes is guaranteed to stir up nostalgic childhood memories. While these barbershops were once the bigwigs of men’s grooming in Hong Kong, their numbers began to decline after the 60s as they became unable to compete with new-style hair salons. In recent years, a new generation of barbers have clipped out a new path for this industry while paying homage to the masters of the past. Kelvin Yu, the co-founder of Too Far East Barber & Co., and industry veteran Lam Bo, discuss how this trade has transformed throughout the years. Meet the barbers At 78 years old, Lam Bo has been in the men’s grooming business for more than half a century. After retiring, he was unable to put down his clippers and now works as a barber at the 56-year-old Wah Lai Beauty Parlour in Choi Hung. Image: Calvin Sit Kelvin Yu, 35, returned to Hong Kong from Canada in 2010 to continue his career in IT-Finance. In 2014, he decided to leave his job to learn about the barbershop business. Last year, he and his business partner opened Too Far East Barber & Co., which pays tribute to the Shanghai-style salons of the past. Image: Calvin Sit Trading stories K: How did you get your start in the industry? L: I started working when I was nine years old. Back then, 90 percent of kids my age didn’t have a good education
Hong Kong’s best local bakeries
Hong Kong bakeries are essential to our local culture. Because let’s be honest, most of us don’t have the time to have a sit-down breakfast. Bakeries are the sacred pit stop many of us visit on our way to work for some much-needed sustenance in the form of a hearty bun. Local bakeries are also purveyors of homemade, carb-tastic traditional Hong Kong pastries like wife cakes and cream cones that you can’t find anywhere else. Whether you’re craving a good old fashioned pineapple bun from a local institution like Happy Cake Shop or the legendary egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery and Hoover Cake Shop, these historic Hong Kong bakeries bake up the best bread and buns.RECOMMENDED: If bread is life, consider being regulars at one of Hong Kong’s best bread bakeries. Or if you can manage time for a sit-down breakfast, there’s no better place than one of these cha chaan tengs.
Interview: Chan Lok-choi as Hong Kong’s last remaining birdcage maker
Image: Calvin Sit In Prince Edward’s Yuen Po Bird Garden, surrounded by a cacophony of song birds and traditional Chinese music, you can meet maybe Hong Kong’s last remaining birdcage maker, Chan Lok-choi. Having joined the family business in 1955, Chan was trained at the tender age of 12 under the tutelage of renowned birdcage maker Cheuk Hong. He has since made a name for himself as a master of crafting traditional birdcages. “Owning songbirds is representative of Hong Kong and Cantonese culture,” says Chan. “But the trend has diminished significantly since people can no longer ride public transportation with their birds.” Cultural heritage aside, Chan sees the practice of keeping birds to be indicative of one’s personality as well. “If you’re good with birds, you’re naturally good with people,” he explains. As you might expect, making a birdcage by hand is no easy feat. You must shave pieces of bamboo – the same used for scaffolding – soak them in hot water for hours, bend and mould them under kerosene lamps, and then nail them altogether. The process can take months. Chan likens it to an art form and not everyone is up to the task. “Patience is key to making a cage but creative talent is just as important,” he says. “It’s what makes you stand out from the rest.” Sadly, this could all be moot as the craft is in danger of disappearing from our city. “There’s no-one else in Hong Kong who knows how to make one by hand any more,” claims Chan. “My own children have no interes
Dying trades and practices in Hong Kong and where to find them
Gentrification, urbanisation, Westernisation. Whatever the diagnosis is, the prognosis is the same: once treasured trades and practices in Hong Kong are slowly disappearing before our eyes. Thankfully though, they’re not gone quite yet as we take a look at some once-thriving trades and practices on their last legs and where you can find them. RECOMMENDED: Unfortunately, these aren't the only things on their way out. Join us down on memory lane as we look at disappearing cultural experiences and things we miss in Hong Kong.
Foodie Talk: Ben Tsui of Kung Lee Herbal Tea
Classic metallic countertop, tile-covered walls, pre-war tenement façade – but there’s more to this seemingly mundane herbal tea shop than meets the eye. Opened in 1948, Kung Lee Herbal Tea Shop, best known for its homemade sugarcane juice, first gained popularity in the ’70s, during the ‘golden age’ of herbal teas. However, the business grew cold with the rise of convenience stores, bottled drinks and Taiwanese tea shops opening in town. It wasn’t until recent years when the importance of preserving Hong Kong’s rich heritage came into focus that Kung Lee began to attract the attention of a younger demographic.Having been in business for over 70 years, the shop remains authentic in everything it does, relying on nothing but the finest of sugarcane from Guandong Nanhai. Each stalk is peeled and simmered on low heat for two hours before going into the ‘master’ juicer – a machine that has been in use since the shop opened. This process, though tedious, is what makes Kung Lee’s sugarcane juice stand out from the rest, resulting in a lighter, naturally sweeter and more nourishing beverage.The shop is currently run by its fourth-generation owner, Ben Tsui. Growing up, Tsui always helped out around the shop, doing everything from washing ingredients to making guilinggao (a traditional jelly-like medicinal dessert). After graduating with a degree in interior design, Tsui had a hard time finding a job in the field. Turning to his family business, he decided to temporarily help run th
11 disappearing Hong Kong cultural experiences
With the relentless march of corporate globalisation, trendy, Instagrammable cafés and over-zealous bureaucracy edging out staples of Hong Kong’s societal tent-poles, it’s easy to forget about the traditional spots and pockets of culture that helped make this city what it is. From modest (in size) historical buildings, to Hong Kong traditions and old-style eateries that are still among the best grub in the city, take a look at the top 11 must-see local gems before they disappear forever. By Caitlan Wong RECOMMENDED: Feeling nostalgic? Go down memory lane and reminisce with us over things we miss from the Hong Kong of old.
The best local food and drink brands to try in Hong Kong
When it comes to food options in Hong Kong, we literally have the world at our fingertips. From big openings by overseas chefs to cult-favourite burger chains from the US, the city has everything to satisfy the well-travelled gourmet. At the end of the day, though, there's no taste like home, which is why we’ll always have a soft spot for brands that were born in the 852. Whether you’re hankering for an ice cream cone or baked Chinese pastry, go local and support one of these great brands.RECOMMENDED: Why not check out the best local dishes in Hong Kong, as well as the oldest restaurants in the city?
Trading stories: Traditional tailors and new innovators
Hong Kong became synonymous with the sartorial arts in the mid 20th century, as China’s Communist Revolution led to the relocation of skilled Shanghainese tailors to our city. Since then, suit making has become interwoven into the very fabric of Hong Kong culture, changing with the times whilst retaining many of its traditional roots. We sat down with W.W. Chan & Sons’ Patrick Chu and Arnold Wong, and Cuffs’ Ian Fong to chat about the industry and its evolution over the decades. Meet the men behind the suits Patrick Chu, 52, is a partner at traditional Shanghainese bespoke suit purveyor W.W. Chan & Sons Tailor Ltd. He has been with the company for over 30 years. Image: Calvin Sit Arnold Wong, 36, is currently the shop manager at W.W. Chan & Sons Tailors Ltd., where he's worked for 15 years Image: Calvin Sit Ian Fong, 38, is a Cambridge graduate with a background in food and drink. In 2011, he founded his now award-winning modern bespoke brand, Cuffs. Image: Calvin Sit I: Please tell me about W.W. Chan & Sons Tailors Ltd. I know it has a long history. P: Our founder, Mr. W.W. Chan, was born in 1922 in China, and studied at a famous Shanghainese tailoring college, graduating in 1948. China was going through the turmoil of the Communist Revolution at this time, so after graduating, Mr. Chan moved to Hong Kong and started making suits. In 1960, he opened his original tailor shop in Tsim Sha Tsui. His son took over the business years later, and the company changed its name t
Foodie Talk: Louise Chu of Siu Wah Kitchen
Lifting the lid brings a poof of rousing steam. The surface of the rice crowded with hearty toppings of your choice: maybe a sprinkling of fried garlic over velvety beef cubes, or a succulent combination of lap cheong (cured sausage) and pork ribs. Stodgy. Filling. Flavourful. With winter approaching, there’s nothing quite as comforting as a sizzling bo zai fan, or claypot rice, filled with a treasure trove of ingredients arriving in front of you. Every year, locals and overseas customers flock to Siu Wah Kitchen, an eatery tucked away in Aldrich Bay Market’s cooked food area, for its famous claypot rice that’s only available during the winter season. Having been in the restaurant business for over 20 years, Louise Chu, better known as Wah Dee, opened his popular restaurant a decade ago as a chef-owner. Looking back to the beginning of his apprenticeship, he reveals that his training was far from conventional. “Frankly speaking, my teacher only spent two days teaching me how to cook claypot rice. From then on it was all trial and error”. Years of subsequent hard work and dedication to improving his claypot rice technique led to Wah Gor’s reputation as a claypot rice master. So what makes Siu Wah Kitchen stand out from the crowd? Scrape to the bottom of the claypot and you’ll find the answer – a deliciously charred layer of rice encrusted in perfect formation. By pouring in the perfect amount of pork fat, along with the skillful technique of controlling the cooking heat, Wa
The best historic landmarks that will make you nostalgic for old Hong Kong
Hong Kong has long been known as a city of ceaseless change. That frenetic, rejuvenating energy has captured the hearts of many. Still, sometimes it’s nice to catch your breath and to remember how Hong Kong’s past has shaped its present. Want to get a fuller sense of Hong Kong’s history? You’ve come to the right place. By Olivia MaitreRECOMMENDED: If historic Hong Kong is your thing, be sure to see these disappearing cultural experiences before they’re gone. Better check out these neon signs too, lest they get taken down and vanish.
Foodie Talk: William Cheung of Ki Tsui Cake Shop
Housed on Mong Kok’s always bustling Fa Yuen Street, Ki Tsui is one of a handful of traditional Chinese cake shops still operating in Hong Kong. Despite its vintage look and retro furnishings, there’s a youthful energy behind the store, thanks in no small part to its second-generation owner, William Cheung.The 31-year-old returned to Hong Kong in 2012 and started helping out at his father’s cake shop after finishing a degree in psychology in Toronto. “I never planned on taking over the store from my father,” says Cheung, who jests that he only started working there because he needed a job. Jokes aside, the cake shop represents much more than just a pay cheque for Cheung. His father, now in his 70s, opened Ki Tsui in 1984 after moving to Hong Kong from his hometown of Enping in Guangdong. Not only is the shop a part of his father’s legacy, it’s also an important part of Cheung’s childhood. “I used to visit the shop a lot when I was a kid and I’d play around with the pieces of card from the pastry boxes. The chefs knew how much I loved eating egg tarts, so they’d always give me a piece that was fresh from the oven,” says Cheung.The heir didn’t receive any special treatment, however, when he started apprenticing at the cake shop. He had to learn all the basics of pastry making and worked 12-hour shifts from 7am, just like the rest of the staff. The training paid off. These days, Cheung is a seasoned pro in the pastry kitchen and oversees most of the operations at the shop. Si
The ultimate guide to classic Hong Kong desserts
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. RECOMMENDED: Want your desserts to look as good as it tastes? Check out these Instagram-worthy desserts in Hong Kong. What about matcha-flavoured ones?
Best cha chaan teng in Hong Kong
Much like the city’s dai pai dong, cha chaan tengs are a cornerstone of Hong Kong culinary culture. Popular for their down-to-earth and affordable menus stuffed with local comfort food, not all CCTs are the same. Some might specialise in one particular dish, while others are good across the board. Read on to discover the best cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong that you absolutely have to try. By Sarah Moran and Josephine LauRECOMMENDED: If you’re after more local cuisine, sample our pick of the best dai pai dongs or the best dim sum in town.