A city brimming with street food, restaurants that boast long histories and more, Hong Kong’s food scene is colossal in terms of its expansive selection and years of heritage and culture (both local and foreign) injected into each dish be it the humble char siew bao or the European-influenced macaroni and scrambled eggs combo.
When in Hong Kong, eat as the locals do. Not only will you save much more on dining, but you’ll also come to realise that Hong Kong is known for way more than just dim sum and wonton noodles. Here are 16 local foods in Hong Kong to try to say that you’ve truly been there.
Otherwise known as “ngao lam min” in Cantonese, this dish of stewed beef brisket is delicious, tender and brimming with a number of spices. The flavour is robust and the meat is soft as butter. People typically have it with noodles alongside slow-cooked beef tendons and sometimes even tripe as well.
BO LO BUN (PINEAPPLE BUN)
This sweet, pillowy baked bun contains no pineapple or fruit of any kind, but it does have a sweet sugary crust on top shaped like the exterior of a pineapple (hence the name). At most places, you’ll find it served with a piece of butter stuffed into the middle of it. Enjoy it with milk tea for maximum satisfaction.
Boasting a smoky, charred aroma and strong, meaty flavours derived from assorted waxed meats and chicken, this rice dish is a must whenever you’re in Hong Kong. Cooked in a claypot over a roaring fire, the rice on the edges of the pot get crispy and the claypot itself allows all the flavour to be locked in.
You can literally find these snacks at any street-side food stall. Swimming in a thin, spicy curry sauce, the fish balls soak in all that flavour, resulting in bouncy, flavourful balls packed with heat and lots of complex flavours. This treat is great as a snack although the portions they give are usually massive, almost as good as a meal on its own.
This style of Chinese cuisine sees numerous dishes prepared as small bite-sized portions either in small steamer baskets or on a small plate, especially if it’s fried. Dim sum is usually served with tea and together form a full tea brunch. You can find dim sum literally anywhere in Hong Kong from cosy hole-in-a-walls to high-class restaurants.
EGG WAFFLES (GAI DAN ZAI)
This traditional street side snack is sweet, crispy on the outside and soft and mushy on the inside. The classic versions call for it to be eaten plain, but there has, however, been an influx of hipsters who doll them up with all sorts of toppings from caramel to fruit.
MACARONI SOUP WITH HAM & SCRAMBLED EGGS
Every component is by no means Cantonese in origin but the combination certainly is. The place that made this breakfast set famous is none other than Australian Dairy Company, but if you’re not a fan of queuing, you can just as easily find this at any cha chaan tang. Savoury, creamy and everything you could ever want to wake up to. Period.
Milk tea is what it is but somehow it tastes different in Hong Kong. Possibly due to the quality of the tea leaves and milk that they use, their version is often creamier and a lot more fragrant.
Think of it as our local ke kou mian. This dish is essentially instant noodles served with a variety of other ingredients such as fish balls, beef sirloin, and carrots, with a variety of soup and sauces. The flavours available are massive and the price range can also be pretty wide given its sheer range of ingredient choices.
Ambrosial, meaty and dripping with liquified fat, roast goose is something of pure luxury. Part of the reason why it is much more delicious in Hong Kong is due to the quality of the goose used—which has a higher fat content and a slightly less gamey flavour—and the fact that Cantonese chefs are just better at preparing this dish. Period.
A simple dish comprising springy egg noodles, wantons, strands of diced scallions and char siew, this comfort food classic is something that can be had literally at any time of the day.
WHITE SUGAR SPONGE CAKE
Compared to egg tarts, bo lo buns and the multitude of Cantonese sweet treats, these white sugar sponge cakes, otherwise known as “pat dong gou” is hugely underrated. Considered a poor man’s snack, these cakes are chewy, sweet and perfect to have alongside a cup of milk tea.
A simple concoction of egg noodles in a concentrated tomato broth made using canned tomatoes, freshly cooked tomatoes and tomato purée, this honest noodle dish has comfort written all over it. Tangy, savoury and oozing with umami, a good place to try this at (if you haven’t before) is at the famous Sing Heung Yuen.
TRADITIONAL HONG KONG BREAKFAST (YOU TIAO, CONGEE, FRIED NOODLES)
Back in Singapore, we have the tasty trinity of kaya toast, kopi and half-boiled eggs, whereas, in Hong Kong, the average person’s breakfast consists of a simple congee, fried noodles and a stick of dough fritter. You’ll find many breakfast spots selling these 3 items and while plain, is worth trying for the experience.
TONG SUI (SWEET SOUP)
Unlike Westerners, the Chinese people enjoy having their dessert hot instead of cold. To immerse yourself fully into the culture of the Cantonese people, pull up a stool at any local dessert joint and order a hot sweet soup. Common items include nut pastes such as almond or sesame.
Literally meaning ying and yang, this popular beverage option sees half milk tea and half milk coffee poured together in a single cup. Genius.