Because of its important geographic location as a port city, Hong Kong has had a variety of cultures which blend to give it a very vibrant food scene. Located close to mainland China, you’ll find many Chinese specialties and of course an abundance of fresh seafood. However influences from many other parts of the world can be found in Hong Kong cuisine. Here are a few famous foods you’ll want to try on your next visit to Hong Kong.
Dim Sum (Yum Cha)
Dim Sum, also known as Yum Cha (“drink tea”) is probably the most famous export of Hong Kong cuisine. Small plates often arrive in bamboo steamer baskets on carts that are pushed throughout the restaurant, simply look at the items as they come by and point to the dishes you’d like. Sometimes you may be provided with an order form to select your dishes, although be prepared that there may not always be an english translation to the menu. A few must try items include: char siu bao (steamed BBQ pork buns), har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings), and pie gwat (black bean spare ribs), shiu mai (steamed pork dumplings). You can also order a variety of noodle, vegetable, or meat dishes from a regular menu, but most everything will be served family-style to the table. Dim Sum is most commonly eaten for breakfast or lunch.
It would be a shame to come to Hong Kong only to eat in restaurants, as you’d be missing an authentic part of Hong Kong’s culinary landscape – street foods. Street stalls called Dai Pai Dongs are the most classic and often the least expensive way to experience outdoor dining, although fewer and fewer licensed stalls exist these days. Stir-fry dishes, noodle soups, congee or deep fried items such as won tons are popular Dai Pai Dong offerings. Markets, such as the classic Temple Street Night Market, will also have a variety of street food stalls for you to try on the go. Various types of meat on skewers, “stinky tofu”, or sweets like egg puffs (or egg waffles) can be found at the stalls around Mongkok’s markets. Always check out the busiest stalls, even if the lines are longest – you’ll get the freshest food because of the high turnover.
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Hong Kong’s location as a port city means that fishermen bring in the freshest of fish daily. Some restaurants will even allow you to pick your seafood items from tanks outside, then minutes later they will be serving them up to you at the table. Some of the most popular locations for finding fresh seafood in Hong Kong are the districts of Sai Kung, Lei Yue Mun in southeast Kowloon, and the islands of Lamma and Cheung Chau. Whether its fresh steamed whole fish, grilled squid on a stick, tasty prawns in a stir fry, or spicy chili-laced crab dishes, Hong Kong offers something for all lovers of seafood.
Paper thin slices of meats, fresh seafood, or vegetables are dipped in simmering broths in the popular hot pot restaurants that you will see around Hong Kong. Traditionally known as a “winter food” hot pots can now be enjoyed year-round, even during the steamy summer months. You can enjoy one steaming pot in a family-style way with everyone dipping their own items into the hot broth, or take advantage of the newer trend of “hot pot for one” where each person has their own pot to enjoy. Whichever way its served, always be sure to help yourself to the many condiments available and customize your own flavor combinations.
It’s difficult not to be transfixed by the hanging rows of roast duck or crispy pork belly hanging in the sui mei (roast meat) shops when walking through the streets of Hong Kong. You can typically find roasted duck, chicken, goose and pork at these shops, where your order will be cleaved up by the shop keeper for you to eat with rice or to transport home. Char sui (BBQ pork) is probably the most famous of the seasoned roasted meats, and a definite must-try. If you’re a fan of roasted meats you may also like the restaurant dish called Peking Duck – a specialty of Beijing (Peking) where you will find pieces of roast duck served on tiny pancake buns with a plum sauce.