Enjoy delicious Hong Kong food!
No Hong Kong travel guide would be complete if it didn’t discuss the many exciting varieties of Hong Kong food! In fact, the first thing that I would recommend to people who go on vacation in Hong Kong is to make an effort to experience some of this rich selection. Wherever you go in the world, eating is essential to “take a bite” out of the local culture, and Hong Kong is no exception!
First and foremost, Hong Kong food is famous throughout China and the world for the culinary tradition of dim sum. Over the last few years in particular, there’s been something of a global trend in this type of food and dim sum restaurants have popped up in all sorts of places. But of course, here is where you find the original and best.
Dim sum is a range of light “snack” foods that are eaten with tea, usually earlier in the day. In accordance with Chinese habits, the meal consists of many small dishes which are shared between the eaters.
Don’t miss it!
Specialised dim sum restaurants are scattered throughout the city and I most highly recommend that you try one out! If you ask the people where you’re for directions they’ll surely be happy to give you tips on one in the neighbourhood.
Eating like a local
If you would really like to experience the typical day-to-day eating habits of local people you could visit one of the super common “tea restaurants”, (cha chaan teng). Their fare is kind of like fast food, and the prices are very low. Often they will sell a full meal for as little as 20 HKD, although central locations will be a bit more expensive.
On the menu you can find a wide assortment of noodle soups, different types of fried rice and the like, but also dishes that are supposed to be more western. But in my opinion, somehow they always retain a very local flavour.
It is also really popular to go here in the afternoon to have tea and some form of snack. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to communicate with the staff since the customers are usually exclusively Chinese.
If you dare to go even more “street”, try to find a classical dai pai dong, serving fantastically cheap Hong Kong street food!
If you dare to go even more “street”, you could try to find yourself a dai pai dong. These cooked food stalls serve fantastically cheap Hong Kong street food. Many locals consider them to be sort of a classic.
If you go to pedestrian-packed areas like Causeway Bay or Mong Kok you will also see a bunch of snack stands along the street. Yearning for a skewer of small octopus arms? They’ve got ’em! If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, maybe you could try one of the bubble sheet things – they’re made out of egg and quite tasty.
This city is a convenient gateway to China, and that certainly includes Hong Kong food. Here you can get some real Chinese food without needing to be able to speak Chinese, which is a big issue if you go to the “real” China.
There are also many Chinese restaurants all around the city that are more up-scale. China is a big country, and there are different regional cuisines. For example, the Cantonese food from the coastline is relatively light and fresh, while food from inner China often features heavier tastes with a lot of chili pepper, like the famous Sichuan cuisine.
Regardless of the regional focus of the restaurant, you should find that much of the food is quite unlike what you would find in a typical Chinese restaurant overseas. How it compares, well, you decide. But personally I think more genuine Chinese food is a lot tastier! If nothing else, it’s definitely a new experience to put under your belt.
A major feature of Hong Kong food, and indeed Chinese cooking in general, is that they generally don’t use ovens like we do, and so do not have the same type of bread as we do. Instead, they rely heavily on steam-cooking. This gives their common bread buns a very soft and sort of gooey consistency. These so-called “bao” can be filled with many different forms of delicious stuffing.
Among the Chinese, hot pot is a real favourite. Not entirely unlike fondue, this type of meal features a big pot at the table with a simmering clear soup. Different types of meats and vegetables are then dropped into the pot by the guests and allowed to boil until cooked. Since this requires a stove-top at each table, there are hot pot restaurants that specialise in this type of meal. If you haven’t had hot pot before, I think you should. It is sooo genuine China!
Western restaurants and other food
Hong Kong restaurants offer every type of food that you can think of, and at a wide range of price levels. While the dense population can be a nuisance at times, it provides the basis for a thriving diversity of businesses, and the Hong Kong food industry is only one example.
Of course, Chinese food is not the only thing on the menu. There are innumerable establishments representing all corners of the world, particularly in the less Chinese areas of Hong Kong island and Tsim Sha Tsui. I especially love the Soho neighbourhood in Central, where the many choices of restaurants are lined up wall-to-wall.
And naturally, for desperate times there are always desperate measures. Familiar fast food restaurants such as McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken can be found everywhere. But you didn’t travel all the way to China for that, did you?
For reviews of specific restaurants, I highly recommend the website OpenRice, where Hong Kong’s restaurants are rated by ordinary diners – including prices and pictures! While most of the reviews are in Chinese, luckily the grading is done in the international language of happy faces!