Hong Kong is known as the “World’s Food Fair” for a good reason. As dining out remains a popular pastime for locals, tourists have now taken to the streets to indulge in the huge variety of eating options that range from roadside stalls to world-class restaurants.
As Hong Kong is the cultural and economic heart of Asia, it only makes sense that the city’s cuisine reflects the international melting pot of its citizens with its impressive range of East-meets-West dishes. However, it doesn’t stop there; Hong Kong also boasts eateries that share the culinary delights of Thailand, Korea, Japan, Europe, India, and more, winning over the hearts of locals and tourists alike.
A classic Cantonese dish typically found at Siu Mei establishments – eateries that specialize in meat dishes – this is a dish not to be missed! While in the past, boar was most commonly used, today, most char siu are shoulder cuts of domestic pork. The traditional cooking method also calls for the long strips of seasoned boneless pork to be skewered with long forks and placed in a covered oven or over an open fire.
Mixed with honey, five-spice powder, red fermented bean curd, dark soy sauce, and red food coloring, Char siu is typically served with noodles and rice (if eating alone), or served alone as a large dish for families to share.
Typhoon shelter crab
This dish originates from the ‘typhoon shelter’ population of Hong Kong, the relatively large group of Cantonese families who lived on boats in typhoon shelters before the 1960s. As they lived in ‘typhoon shelters’ – outlets from the waters that protected boats from typhoons – these families developed a different set of customs, lifestyle, and culture from the mainland Cantonese community. As the fishing culture of Hong Kong declined they were forced to take their lives off the boats and onto the land, and aspects of their culture were lost. However, one good thing did come out of this situation – we got to eat this dish! Commonly prepared with crab meat, garlic, scallion, red chili and black beans, this is a dish that locals will make sure their foreign friends try before they leave.
This infamous dish was brought over from Guangzhou by the “wonton noodle” master – Mak Woon-chi. Today, it’s no surprise that some of the most famous wonton shops are run by 3rd generation members of the Mak family. With their combination of eggy ribbon-shaped noodles, rich broth and wonton filled with shrimp and pork, this common dish will leave anyone’s tummy full and smiling with content.
Hong Kong-Style Milk Tea
Food in Hong Kong is not the only thing that is important. Hong Kong-Style Milk Tea, also known as ‘pantyhose tea’ because of the large stocking-like apparatus used to brew the drink, can be found on almost any corner of the city. Served smooth and creamy, it is usually served on the sweet side with a large dose of evaporated milk (instead of raw sugar) that emboldens its texture.
With roots tracing back to the British Imperial rule in Hong Kong when the tradition of afternoon tea was customary, ‘milk tea’ is most typically enjoyed during lunchtime with coworkers and friends. However, we think it’s perfect for anytime of the day!
Usually only eaten by the boldest of dim-sum eaters, this is not a dish for the queasy. While traditionally from China, it is now found all across the world from Jamaica to Thailand, served and prepared in a wide variety of methods to fit each cuisine. In Hong Kong, it is usually found in most dim sum eateries and served with a tasty black bean sauce. Different from any other chicken body part, the feet are mostly made of cartilage and soft tissue rather than white meat. With a lot of tiny bones and a little bit of meat, diners have to work to make their efforts worth it – but for many, it’s a treat that can’t be missed.
Served hot and fresh, this spherical egg-based waffle has found its way into the hearts of millions. Considered one of Hong Kong’s most popular street snacks, this treat is prepared with a sweet, eggy batter and cooked on a special hot griddle with small round pods that form the treat’s unique shape. Available in multiple flavors from green tea to chocolate, keep your eye out for this treat as you roam the streets.
Think egg custard with a hot and flaky outside shell, made soft and delicate to the bite. A quintessential treat found in most dim sum shops, egg tarts are set apart from Portuguese and English egg tarts as they are served piping hot rather than room temperature, without cinnamon or nutmeg, and are more glassy and smooth. Note – they’re easy to swallow down in 2-3 bites, so buy more than expected!
Hong Kong boasts a culinary scene like no other, but with that come many dangerous delicacies that harm humans and animals alike.
Shark Fin soup
This traditional delicacy top our ‘Don’t Eat List’ for many, many validated reasons. First, this high-priced dish has symbolized luxury, aristocracy and good fortune for centuries. However, the shark’s fin actually does not taste like anything – it just adds to the appeal. Upon catching a shark, fishermen will slice off the fins and simply throw the very much alive shark back into the ocean. It will sink to the bottom of the ocean and die, unable to function without its fins. The entire shark will be wasted, all in the name of a high priced dish that has an elite status attached to it. While there are many conservation efforts attempting to decrease its consumption, the problem is rooted in the consumers’ outlook and stagnant cultural attitudes, which will hopefully change with time.
Are you looking to delve into the delicious world of Hong Kong street eats? Take a look at our first-class food tours here.