Hong Kong is a city of juxtapositions. Gleaming skyscrapers tower next to traditional shopfronts encased in bamboo scaffolding, movie stars queue alongside regular joes for the best egg tarts in the city and you can drop hundreds on a Michelin starred meal or choose to fill your belly at the street cart next door for a couple of dollars. It’s these juxtapositions that make the city such an exciting place in which to eat. Hong Kong’s Instafamous dishes are a breeze to find, it’s those truly local food experiences that are a bit trickier. Here are our favourite local, iconic food experiences in Hong Kong to get you started:
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1. Breakfasting like a local in a wet market
Break your fast like a local with a bowl of jook- congee. The best we’ve ever eaten is from Mui Kee Congee, a stall housed in the food center at the top of the Fa Yuen Street wet market in Kowloon. This family business has been churning out bowls of silky rice porridge for around 40 years.
Order the congee loaded with lean pork and century egg- a duck egg that has been preserved in an ash mixture and is an imposing hue of black. Add an order of yau char kwai- a savoury doughnut which has been chopped into bite size pieces and chuck a handful into your congee.
Rice porridge sounds bland doesn’t it? Trust us, you’ll be wolfing down each velvety spoonful thinking you might just start each morning of your time in Hong Kong in this exact same manner. It’s a great bowl of food; the century egg adds an intense earthiness, the pork melts in your mouth and texture comes from the chewy, oily pieces of doughnut. It’s a breakfast fit for a king.
Mui Kee Congee, Fa Yuen Street Municipal Services Building, 123A Fa Yuen St, Mong Kok, Hong Kong. Open 7:00am to 3:00pm. Closed Tuesday.
2. Wander the streets with a classic Hong Kong bakery treat
Bo lo baau- pineapple buns are a Hong Kong staple. They don’t in fact contain any pineapple but are so named for their crusty sugary topping which resembles the fruit. Take things up a notch and order a bo lo yau- a warmed pineapple bun halved and stuffed with a slice of butter.
You can order a pineapple bun in any cha chaan teng- local diner and wash it down with a milk tea, but a Hong Kong chef once told us that pineapple buns are best enjoyed on the move. Munch on a pineapple bun as you navigate the hectic streets he said, you’ll find the bun tastes so much better when it’s been infused with the essence of the city. We tend to agree with him.
Grab a pineapple bun from Hong Lin, 143-145, Tung Choi St, Mong Kok, Hong Kong. Open daily 6:30am to 3:00am.
3. Join the locals for house-made dim sum
Head west to Kennedy Town where you’ll find one of Hong Kong’s most local yum cha experiences. Yum cha- Cantonese brunch is characterised by drinking copious amounts of Chinese tea and snacking on small dishes called dim sum. Sun Hing are known for preparing all their dim sum in house guaranteeing what you’ll gorge on is super fresh.
Sun Hing is slightly different to yum cha joints you may be used to. The baskets of dim sum come steaming from the kitchen and are placed on a table at the front of the restaurant. Grab your table card and head on up- the staff will show you what they’ve got. The chickens feet and har gow- prawn dumplings are brilliant and their custard lava buns are legendary. The interactive nature of this yum cha experience is what makes it!
P.S When you’re dining at local spots in Hong Kong you’ll find that space is at a minimum so you will often find yourself sharing tables with other diners. Don’t feel uncomfortable, you’ll quickly realise nobody gives a toss what you’re up to.
Sun Hing, Shop C, G/F, 8 Smithfield Road, Kennedy Town, Western District. Open daily 3:00am to 4:00pm.
4. Eat at one of the city’s fast disappearing dai pai dong
Open air street food stalls used to be on every street corner in Hong Kong. Known as dai pai dong literally translated to “big licence stall”, modernisation has meant these icons of Hong Kong’s food culture now number less than 25. Many of these stalls have now moved into covered premises but they remain purveyors of some of the best cooked to order food in the city.
We love Tai Chung Wah, a slightly grimy, rough dai pai dong spread over a couple of blocks. This is the place to order that plate of sweet and sour pork you’ve been craving, their seafood dishes are great and their bandit chicken is not only tender and crispy but garishly spectacular too.
Cantonese feast at Tai Chung Wah, G/F, 539 Fok Wing Street, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong. Open daily 6:00pm to 1:00am.
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We hope this Hong Kong food guide has helped you eat and explore like a traveller, not a tourist!
Spending more time in Asia? Check out our ‘ Seoul Food Guide: Top 3 Korean dishes to Eat in Seoul’s hidden food alleys’ and ‘Top 10 Things to Eat in Tokyo (when you’re on a budget!)