The most important tip I can give you on Hong Kong local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Hong Kong, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in Hong Kong
Cuisine plays an important part in many peoples’ lives in Hong Kong. Not only is it a showcase of Chinese cuisines with huge regional varieties, but there are also excellent Asian and Western choices. Although Western food is often adapted to local tastes, Hong Kong is a good place for homesick travel
lers who have had enough of Chinese food. The Michelin guide to Hong Kong is considered to be the benchmark of good restaurants. Open Rice also provides a great directory of local restaurants.
This is a fairly safe way to find a few “hole in the wall” style restaurants or eating places, whilst still experiencing good, local food. According to Restaurant magazine, 4 of the best 100 restaurants in the world are in Hong Kong. You may meet some local people who haven’t cooked at home for a decade. Locals love to go out to eat since it is much more practical than socializing in crowded spaces at home. A long queue can be a local sport outside many good restaurants during peak hours.
Normally, you need to register first, get a ticket and wait for empty seats. Reservations are usually only an option in upmarket restaurants. Eating etiquette Chinese food is generally eaten with chopsticks. However, restaurants serving western food usually provide a knife, fork and spoon. Do not stick your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice, as this is reminiscent of incense sticks burning at the temple and has connotations of wishing death on those around you. In addition, chopsticks should not be used to move bowls and plates or make any noise.
Dishes in smaller eateries might not come with a serving spoon, although staff will usually provide one if you request. A few Hong Kong customs to be aware of: To thank the person who pours your tea Cantonese style, tap two or three fingers on the table. The legend suggests a story involving a Chinese emperor travelling incognito and his loyal subjects wanting to kowtow (bow) to him without blowing their cover hence the “finger kowtow”.
If you want more tea in the pot, leave the lid open, and it will be refilled. It is not unusual for customers to rinse their plates and utensils with hot tea before starting their meal, and a bowl is often provided for this very purpose. This is due to the fact that cheaper restaurants may often have washing residues on dishes or utensils.
Except for very expensive places, there is no real dress code in Hong Kong. You will often see people in suits and others in t-shirts in the same restaurant. See also Chinese table manners for more details. While certain etiquette is different, Chinese manners for using chopsticks apply to Hong Kong too. Local foods, eating establishments, and costs You can usually tell how cheap (or expensive) the food is from the decor of the restaurant (menus are not always displayed outside restaurants). Restaurants in Soho in Central, in 5-star restaurants, or in other high-rent areas are usually more expensive than restaurants that are off the beaten path. It is easy to find places selling mains for well under HK$80, offering both local and international food.
Local fast food chains such as Café de Coral and Maxim’s MX offer meals in the vicinity of HK$30, with standardised English menus for easy ordering. Yoshinoya (a Japanese chain) sell Japanese style Gyudon (beef and rice) and Teriyaki-style Chicken (with rice or noodles) for a very reasonable price. Mid-range restaurants generally charge in excess of HK$100 for mains. At the top end, restaurants, such as Felix or Aqua, can easily see you leave with a bill in excess of HK$1500 (including entrées (appetizers), mains, desserts and drinks). Dim sum Dim sum , literally means ‘to touch (your) heart’, is possibly the best known Cantonese dish. Served at breakfast and lunch, these delicately prepared morsels of Cantonese cuisine are often served with Chinese tea. Dim Sum comes in countless variations with a huge price range from $8 to more than $100 per order. Common items include steamed shrimp dumplings har gau), pork dumplings siu mai), barbecued pork buns char siu bau), and Hong Kong egg tarts dan tat). Expect more choice in upmarket restaurants.
One pot of tea with two dishes, called yak chung liang gin is a typical serving for breakfast. Siu Mei Siu mei a general name for roast meats made in a Hong Kong style, including roast pork belly, roasted over an open firepork char siu), roast duck or chicken. With the addition of a slightly crispy honey sauce layer, the final taste is of a unique, deep barbecue flavor.
Rice with roasted pork char siu), roasted duck, pork with a crisp crackling, or Fragrant Queen’s chicken , are common dishes that are enduring favorites for many, including local superstars.It is recommended to taste the roasted pork with rice in ‘Sun-Can’ of PolyU. Congee Cantonese congee (juk) is a thin porridge made with rice boiled in water. Served at breakfast, lunch or supper, the best version is as soft as ‘floss’, it takes up to 10 hours to cook the porridge to reach this quality. Congee is usually eaten with savoury Chinese doughnuts yau char kway) and steamed rice pastry cheong fun) which often has a meat or vegetable filling.
Hong Kong has several restaurant chains that specialize in congee, but none of them have earned the word-of-mouth respect from local gourmets. The best congee places are usually in older districts, often owned by elderly people who are patient enough to spend hours making the best floss congee. Noodles When asked what food makes Hong Kong people feel home, wonton noodles is one of the favorite answers. Wonton are dumplings usually made from minced prawn but may contain small amounts of pork.
Rice pastry is also a popular dish from southern China. Found particularly in Teochew and Hokkien areas in China, its popularity is widespread throughout east Asia. In Hong Kong, it is usually served in soup with beef and fish balls and sometimes with deep-fried crispy fish skins. Tong Sui A popular Cantonese dessert is a sweet soup called tong sui , literal: sugar water). Popular versions are usually made with black sesame paste, walnuts or sago which are usually sticky in texture.
Other traditional ones include red bean paste, green bean paste and tofu pudding. Lo ye is a similar dish. Juice is put into a ultra-cold pan to make an ice paste, it is usually served with fresh fruit and sago. Tea cafes & tea time Hot milk tea Hong Kong style You might expect that after more than a century of colonial rule tea might be served British style – well, almost. Order a cup of hot Hong Kong tea in a traditional cafe and what you will get will be a cup of the strongest brew imaginable. With the addition of evaporated milk, this is not a drink for the faint-hearted. A uniquely Hong Kong-style eatery starting to make waves elsewhere in Asia is the cha chaan teng , literally “tea cafe”, but offering fusion fast food that happily mixes Western and Eastern fare: innovations include noodles with Spam, stir-fried spaghetti and baked rice with cheese.
Usually a wide selection of drinks is also available, almost always including the popular tea-and-coffee mix yuenyeung , and perhaps more oddities (to the Western palate) like boiled Coke with ginger or iced coffee with lemon. Orders are usually recorded on a chit at your table and you pay at the cashier as you leave. Showing signs of British colonial influence, tea time (Hang cha) plays an important role in Hong Kong’s stressful office life. Usually starting at 2PM to 3PM, a typical tea set goes with a cup of ‘silk-stocking’ tea, egg tarts and sandwiches with either minced beef, egg or ham, but without vegetables and cheese. Similar to Malaysian ‘teh tarik’, Hong Kong’s variation shares a similar taste. The key difference is that a sackcloth bag is used to filter the tea leaves and the tea-dyed sackcloth resembles silk stockings, giving the name ‘silk-stocking milk tea’. Milk tea, to some Hong Kong people, is an important indicator on the quality of a restaurant.
If a restaurant fails to serve reasonably good milk tea, locals might be very harsh with their criticism. Yuanyang is also a popular drink mixed with milk tea and coffee. A signal to tell you teatime has come is a small queue lining up in bakery to buy egg tarts (a teatime snack with outer pastry crust and filled with egg custard). Don’t attempt to make a fool of yourself by telling people that the egg tart was brought to Hong Kong by the British – many locals are assertive in claiming sovereignty over their egg tarts. When a long-established egg tart shop in Central was closed due to skyrocketing rental payments, it became the SAR’s main news and many people came to help the owners look for a new place. Sample as many different egg tarts from local shops and find the best in your local area.
To stuff your stomach in a grassroots Chaa Chan Teng (local tea restaurant), expect to pay HK$10-20 for milk, tea or coffee, HK$8-10 for a toast, and HK$25-50 for a dish of rice with meats. Wonton noodles generally cost HK$20-30. Street food The cheapest food is in the popular street stalls. Most of the people working there do not speak much English and there is no English on the menu. However if you could manage to communicate, street-style eating is an excellent way to experience local food. Point, use fingers (or Cantonese numbers) and smile. They’re usually willing to help. Local specialties include curry fish meat balls , fake shark fin soup made with beans and vermicelli noodles, egg waffle , fried three filled treasures , vegetable filled with fish meat), fried intestines on a stick, fried squid or octopus and various meats on sticks (such as satay style chicken). Fast food Most major fast food eateries are popular in Hong Kong and have reasonable prices.
McDonald’s sells a Happy Meal set for around $20-25. Seafood Seafood Street in Sai Kung, New Territories Live seafood tanks, Sai Kung Seafood is very popular and is widely available. The best places to eat seafood include Sai Kung, Sam Shing, Po Doi O and Lau Fau Shan in the New Territories and Hong Kong’s islands, particularly Lamma and Cheung Chau, are abound with seafood restaurants. Seafood is not cheap. Prices range from HK$200 per head for a very basic dinner, to HK$300-500 for better choices and much more for the best on offer. Expect to find a mismatch between the high prices for the food and the quality of the restaurant. Sometimes the best food is served in the most basic eateries where tables maybe covered in cheap plastic covers rather than a more formal tablecloth.
Often, Cantonese people value the food more than the decor. If one of your travelling companions does not like seafood, don’t panic, many seafood restaurants have extensive menus that cater for all tastes. A number of seafood restaurants specialize in high quality roast chicken that is especially flavorsome. Many exotic delicacies like abalone, conch and bamboo clam can be found for sale in many seafood restaurants but you might want to avoid endangered species such as shark and juvenile fish. Sushi Sushi is very popular and there are several all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants with reasonable prices. Exotic meats While Hong Kong has long banned dog and cat meat and has strict rules on importing many meats of wild life animals, snake meat is commonly seen in winter in different restaurants that bear the name “Snake King”. Served in a sticky soup, it is believed to warm your body.
There’s an ongoing debate over the consumption of shark fin in Hong Kong, which is the biggest importer of this exotic cuisine. Commonly served at wedding parties and other important dining events, shark fin is served in a carefully prepared stew usually at $80 per bowl to $1000. The consumption of shark fin is a controversial topic and the Hong Kong WWF is campaigning against consumption of this endangered species. Besides exotic meats, you will also see chicken feet, pig’s noses and ears, lungs, stomachs, duck’s heads, various types of intestines, livers, kidneys, black pudding (blood jelly) and duck’s tongues on the Chinese dining tables.
International Cuisine Due to the large number of foreign residents in Hong Kong, there are many restaurants that serve authentic international cuisine at all price levels. This includes various types of Indian, Thai, Japanese and European foods. These can often be found in, though not restricted to, entertainment districts such as Lan Kwai Fong, Soho or Knutsford Terrace. Of these, Soho is probably the best for eating as Lan Kwai Fong is primarily saturated with bars and clubs. Top chefs are often invited or try to make their way to work in Hong Kong.
Home-dining Home-dining is catching on to be a very popular trend in Hong Kong. BonAppetour is a great way to discover local chefs who would love to have you over for an evening dinner. It’s a great way to make friends over home-made food, and company. Barbecue Barbecue (BBQ) meals are a popular local pastime. Many areas feature free public barbecue pits where everybody roasts their own food, usually with long barbeque forks. It’s not just sausages and burgers – the locals enjoy cooking a variety of things at BBQ parties, such as fish, beef meatballs, pork meatballs, chicken wings, and so on. A good spot is the Southern Hong Kong Island, where almost every beach is equipped with many free BBQ spots. Just stop by a supermarket and buy food, drinks and BBQ equipment.
The best spots are Shek O (under the trees at the left hand side of the beach) and Big Wave Bay. Wet markets Wet markets are still prevalent. Freshness is a key ingredient to all Chinese food, so frozen meat and vegetables are frowned upon, and most markets display freshly butchered beef and pork (with entrails), live fish in markets, and more exotic shellfish, frogs, turtles and sea snails. Local people often go to the market everyday to buy fresh ingredients, just like the restaurants.
Cooked food centers Cooked food centers are often found in the same building as some of the indoor wet markets. Tables that were once located on the street have been swept into sterile concrete buildings. Inside, the atmosphere is like a food court without the frills. Cooked food centers provide economic solutions to diners, but you might need to take along a Cantonese speaker, or be brave.
Supermarkets Supermarkets include Welcome and Park N Shop. Specialty supermarkets catering to Western and Japanese tastes include City Super and Great. 24 hour convenience stores 7-Eleven and Circle K can be found almost anywhere in urban areas.
What to Drink in Hong Kong
Tea As with the rest of China, tea is a popular beverage in Hong Kong, and is served at practically every eatery. Chinese teas are the most commonly served, though many places also serve Western-style milk tea. Alcohol Lan Kwai Fong at night Some Hong Kongers do drink a lot but do not expect the binge-drinking culture found in some western countries and parts of the mainland. There are many neighbourhoods in Hong Kong without much in the way of a bar or pub. Drinking alcohol with food is acceptable and you’ll often see older Chinese men and workers having a bottle with their meal from street vendors or dai pai dong, but there is no expectation to order alcohol with your meal in any restaurant. A number of popular eateries do not sell alcohol because of a license restriction. Lan Kwai Fong (Central), Wan Chai and Knutsford Terrace (Kowloon) are the three main drinking areas where locals, expats and tourists mingle together.
Here you will certainly find a party atmosphere, but don’t expect the drunken brawls and rowdiness that you might be used to back home. If you come to Hong Kong, and get drunk, you will certainly risk drawing considerable attention to yourself if you cannot hold your drink. The minimum age for drinking in a bar is 18 years. There is usually a requirement for young adults to prove their age, especially when going to a nightclub.
The accepted ID in clubs is either your passport or a Hong Kong ID card. Photocopies are rarely accepted due to minors using fake documents. Some clubs in Lan Kwai Fong has imposed a dress code on customers and tourists are of no exception. As a general rule, shorts or pants that are above knee length should be avoided. Drinking out in Hong Kong can be expensive.
Beer usually starts from HK$50 for a pint and more in a bar popular among expats or specialist bars serving craft beer or American micro beer. However, away from the tourist trail, some Chinese restaurants may have a beer promotion aimed at meeting the needs of groups of diners. In cooked food centres, usually found at the wet markets, young women are often employed to promote a particular brand of beer. Convenience stores such as Circle-K, and supermarkets all sell a reasonable range of drinks at a very reasonable price, and are your best bet if you don’t need to be in a bar to drink. In Lan Kwai Fong, the 7-Eleven there is a very popular ‘bar’ for party-animals on a budget. The trick is to find a small niche pub frequented by locals (usually banking and finance working class) the prices at these places are much cheaper and the crowd is better too. Talk to your cab driver for more information. They usually know where these places are. Best time to discover them is after 1:00 AM in the morning.
During Wednesdays and Thursdays Ladies night applies in some bars in Wan Chai and Lan Kwai Fong, which in most cases means that women can enter bars and clubs for free, and in some rare cases also get their drinks paid for the night. At weekends, several bars and clubs in these areas also have an ‘open bar’ for some of the night, which means you can drink as much as you like. There is no longer any tax on wine or beer in Hong Kong. Check the district pages of this travel guide for recommended bars. Tobacco Smoking Restrictions A no-smoking ban is currently in effect. The ban includes a number of outdoor locations such as university campuses, parks, gardens, bus stops, and beaches, extends to places such as bars, clubs and saunas. A substantial fine of up to $5,000 will be charged if caught smoking in the wrong place. There is also a penalty of $1,500 for dropping cigarette butts. Unlike mainland China the laws are strictly enforced and followed.
Tourists are only allowed to import no more than 19 duty-free cigarettes or 25g of tobacco products. According to one local account, a man was fined $2000 after being found guilty of carrying five packs of cigarettes. Illegal duty-free cigarettes can be seen for sale in several locations, such as night markets, but both the buyer and seller may be charged for smuggling. Be aware that the police are known to launch frequent raids at any time. Once caught, ignorance is not an accepted defence. Cigarettes in Hong Kong cost around $50 for a pack of 20. Hand-rolling tobacco is not common and is only available in speciality shops.
Electronic Cigarettes Electronic cigarettes have been introduced to Hong Kong dating back to 2004, but the sale, possession and use of nicotine-containing cartridges are illegal. The Hong Kong government has cracked down shops that sell nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, declaring it a pharmaceutical product which must be registered before sale under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, but the prohibitive cost of clinical and laboratory reports means that no e-cigarettes are registered. The Health Department also declared illegal to smoke non-nicotine e-cigarettes in an indoor area
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend Please add and comment.