Forget the guidebook, eating in Hong Kong isn’t about where to eat. It’s about what to eat, and how to find it!
Hong Kong is a city that begs to be devoured. Markets come alive at night and disappear by sunrise. Slowly disappearing dai pai dong (open-air food stalls) serve up piping bowls of noodles and pork chop snacks. While cooked food centers, showcase the convergence of cultures that call this east meets west metropolis home.
Making the most of every bite can seem like a daunting task and has many travelers with their nose hidden in guidebooks. No restaurant list will surpass the recommendations of the people you meet, that place you chanced upon while escaping the rain, or following a queue of locals. There are, however, some must eat dishes for visitors wanting to make the most of Hong Kong’s scintillating culinary scene. So snuggle up at a shared table and try these 5 essential Hong Kong eats.
Cantonese BBQ (Siu Mei)
Hong Kong’s signature roast meats are charred, fatty perfection. The stores are impossible to miss with glistening whole geese and pigs hanging from the windows. The carnivorous facades attract everyone from polished businessmen to young students. The roast meats are roasted over an open fire or in wood-burning ovens. Cooks with mallets stand at attention, hacking meats to hand out to customers on the go. Most stores also offer limited seating in the back. Here you can settle into plastic chairs, sip on a cold beer and watch these BBQ masters do their work.
How to find it: Hong Kong’s narrow alleys are lined with BBQ joints, sometimes only two doors apart. It’s easy to see which ones are worth going to by following the huddles of people that gather in front.
Check out: San Keung Kee Roast, 113 Shanghai Street, Kowloon
Dim sum means touch your heart, and it’s easy to see why. Dumplings made by hand are stuffed with mouth-watering flavors. Whiffs of soy and sweet escape as you break into pillowy bau. Steam rises from bamboo baskets, and each new offering makes your heart beat just a little bit faster. From pan-fried buns stuffed with chives, to fish steamed in rice paper the selection of dim sum is endless.
There are two main ways to enjoy dim sum. At sit down restaurants where servers hurriedly push around silver carts stacked high with options and from street vendors. Both approaches are worth indulging.
How to find it: Street vendors serve up the delicious bites for pennies. A giant pork bun costs about 30 cents(US $), so it’s worth experimenting with anything that looks exciting. At sit down restaurants try and snag a seat right by the kitchen so you can grab the goods piping hot from the kitchen.
Check Out: Lin Heung Tea House, 160 Wellington Street, Central
Wholesome, filling and painstakingly stewed for hours; congee is a dish that warms the soul. The simple rice porridge is a favorite breakfast for Hong Kongers but is satisfying any time of day. Flavorful toppings such as fish, offal, and brisket are added to the boiled rice soup, which is topped with garnishes of herbs and sauces.
How to find it: Look out for places with congee in the name.
Check out: Delicious Congee, 75 Woo Sung Street, Jordan
Noodles are an essential part of any Hong Kong experience. Springy, thin, wheat noodles are served in pools of briny soup and topped with stuffed wontons, tender beef, fish balls, or all three. The clear broths, made from fish or shrimp powder, are delicate while still packing a punch. They gently coat the noodles for a seamless slurp. The wontons are bursting with shrimp and delicately wrapped with a tender dough. The beef brisket, which could be considered a delicacy of its own, melts in the mouth.
How to find it: Stick to places with fewer options. Fewer menu items usually mean they’re focused on doing one thing well.
Check out: Mak’s Noodles, 77 Wellington, Central
Hong Kong’s sweet treat game is on point, and while there are many snacks worth seeking out (aka pineapple buns, egg puffs), there is nothing more quintessentially Hong Kong than egg tarts. This bright yellow custard is silky and subtly sweet. The crust should be flaky and buttery, resting delicately in a silver tin.
How to find it: You can find egg tarts at many bakeries. They’re always delicious, but especially when they’re fresh and warm. Keep an eye out for places taking out a new batch.
Check out: Tai Cheong, 35 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central