Welcome to Hong Kong, a city renowned for its vibrant food culture. Brace yourself for an exhilarating read of one of the most diverse and dynamic food scenes on the planet.
With an array of options ranging from the best high-end restaurants to pocket-friendly eateries and exciting new culinary ventures, the city has it all. For those eager to savor authentic local flavors, Hong Kong’s culinary landscape is a treasure trove of delights, embracing both traditional Cantonese dim sum and Western-influenced dishes.
Immerse yourself in the heart of Hong Kong’s gastronomic journey with this curated selection of beloved mouthwatering local dishes, each embodying the essence of my city and leaving you craving for more. And the best part? You won’t have to break the bank to savor these delicious delights.
Let’s dive into the irresistible flavors that make the best food in Hong Kong absolutely worth the trip!
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What is Hong Kong Food like?
From savoring traditional dim sum in bustling teahouses to indulging in street food from food stalls lining the streets, traveling in Hong Kong offers a diverse range of culinary experiences. You’ll find everything from savory to sweet, from local Cantonese dishes to international flavors, making every meal an opportunity to explore the world on a plate.
When you’re enjoying a meal, it’s common to use chopsticks and a spoon, with the chopsticks reserved for picking up solid foods and the spoon for enjoying soups and rice. Also, sharing is caring in Hong Kong – dishes are often ordered for the table to be enjoyed collectively, enhancing the sense of togetherness.
Hong Kong’s fast-paced lifestyle is reflected even in its dining habits. Many locals grab a quick and delicious bite from cha chaan tengs or street vendors during their lunch breaks. These eateries are known for serving affordable and tasty dishes, catering to those who need a convenient yet flavorful meal on the go. As they’re just about everywhere, you should to be able to find them easily no matter where you choose to stay.
Dim Sum Delights
First stop on our culinary journey is dim sum! This is a traditional Chinese cuisine that involves serving a variety of small, bite-sized dishes, often steamed or fried, accompanied by tea.
It is a popular way of eating that allows people to sample a wide range of dishes in one meal, and it is commonly served in restaurants and tea houses. This Cantonese tradition of brunch is called yum cha, literally translated as ‘drink tea’.
The following is a guide to dim sum in Hong Kong:
1. Shrimp dumplings (Har gau):
These are dumplings filled with shrimp, wrapped in a translucent, chewy skin, and steamed delightfully.
2. Siu mai:
These yellow, open-topped dumplings feature a flavorful mixture of minced pork, shrimp, and other seasonings.
3. Pork buns (Char Siu Bau):
Soft and fluffy steamed buns with a sweet and savory filling of Chinese barbecue-flavored (char siu) roasted pork, creating a delightful fusion of taste and texture in every bite.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can even go for some more exquisite items, such as chicken feet, pig knuckle, or pigeon.
Where to Eat Dim Sum in Hong Kong?
Dim sum restaurants are abundant all over Hong Kong. You can find local dim sum restaurants in most housing estates. For a traditional experience, you can even go to restaurants where they push around trolleys filled with dim sum, allowing you to choose and pick them straight off.
One such restaurant is Lin Heung Tea House, one of the hottest restaurants located in Central, the heart of Hong Kong, and contains a nostalgic ambiance.
Whereas the above examples are of Cantonese dim sum, Shanghai dim sum is another famous cuisine in Hong Kong offering a variety of tasty foods. Perhaps the most delicious and well-known is Xiao Long Bao, a delicate soup-filled dumpling.
These are filled with broth and meat or seafood, and are usually served steaming hot, making them a popular treat for dim sum enthusiasts. The secret to eating them? Take a bite from the top to release the broth, then savor every drop. Pro tip: dip them in black vinegar and ginger for a symphony of flavors that’ll make your taste buds do the tango!
Din Tai Fung is one of the best places in Hong Kong for eating the finest xiao long bao. Renowned for their skillfully crafted soup dumplings, this popular Taiwanese restaurant offers a fantastic dining experience with a diverse selection. Definitely make sure it’s on your Hong Kong itinerary!
Street Food Adventures in HK
Hold onto your taste buds, because we’re hitting the vibrant streets of Hong Kong next. Street food in Hong Kong refers to a wide variety of delicious yet affordable snacks and small dishes. These are prepared and sold by vendors along the city’s bustling streets and markets.
There is a local term to describe eating street food, which is literally translated as ‘sweeping the streets’. And this is exactly the best way to try street food in Hong Kong! Simply walk down the street, exploring every store as you go, and try any of the snacks being sold by the vendors. The neighborhoods of Causeway Bay and Mong Kok are especially good for tasting street eats.
6. Curry Fish Balls:
These bouncy little spheres of joy soaked in fragrant curry sauce will have you craving more with each bite. In fact, Hong Kong fish balls are actually renowned around the world because of how bouncy they are, which is a result of the fish that is used.
Cheung Chau, a charming outlying island in Hong Kong, is famous for their unique large fish balls, some even the size of your fist! Tourists and locals alike flock to Cheung Chau to savor this food and a range of other unique street foods such as mango mochi, fried ice cream, and chips skewers. This is a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts in Hong Kong.
7. Egg Waffles (Gai Daan Jai):
This sweet treat is known for its unique shape, having a crispy exterior and a soft, eggy center. It is served piping hot, and contains a variety of flavors from original, to chocolate, or even matcha.
8. Rice Noodle Rolls (Cheung Fan):
These are made by steaming a layer of rice flour batter until it becomes a smooth sheet, and can be filled with various ingredients like shrimp and barbecued pork.
As a street food, they are served with a variety of sauces including soy sauce, sweet sauce, sesame sauce, and topped with sesame seeds. An alternate way to enjoy this dish is with XO sauce, a mildly spicy condiment developed in Hong Kong.
9. Bubble Tea
Originating from Taiwan, bubble tea is a refreshing beverage with various tea flavors, often mixed with milk or fruit and topped with chewy tapioca pearls also known as boba. You will find a bubble tea shop on almost every street in Hong Kong. There are also popular bubble tea shop brands such as TenRen.
10. Soy Milk
Yes, most people drink soy milk with their breakfasts or as an ingredient in dishes. However, soy milk is commonly bought as a street beverage in Hong Kong, and is usually homemade, known for its creamy texture. Soy milk can be enjoyed with various Chinese breakfast dishes.
Hong Kong Cafes (Cha Chaan Tengs)
Cha chaan tengs are a type of casual Hong Kong-style eatery known for offering Hong Kong-style Western foods at affordable prices. These establishments are popular among locals and visitors alike, and will be sure to give you a unique dining experience that blends two cultures.
They commonly sell reasonably priced quick meals with rice, noodles, sandwiches, soup, and many others. Two popular dishes are satay beef instant noodles, and sweet and sour rice (yes, the legitimate dish and not the dish you get at takeouts in foreign countries that taste of artificial sauce).
Regardless of whether you’re staying in a Hong Kong Airbnb in a residential neighborhood or downtown, a cha chaan teng shouldn’t be too far away.
11. Pineapple Buns
Funnily enough, these do not actually contain pineapples. They are merely called so because of their shape. This sweet bun contains a crispy, sugary top that resembles the texture of a pineapple, while the soft interior provides a delightful contrast. Often, they are eaten with a layer of melted butter inside.
12. Egg Tarts
Not to be confused with Portuguese custard tarts, this beloved Cantonese pastry features a flaky, buttery crust filled with a smooth and creamy egg custard. They are often enjoyed as a sweet treat during tea time.
13. Red Bean Ice
This is a classic Chinese dessert with sweetened red beans served over shaved ice and sometimes topped with condensed milk or other toppings, offering a delightful and cooling treat, especially during hot weather.
14. Cold Milk Tea
This is an iconic Hong Kong beverage. It combines strong black tea with evaporated milk, and is served with ice for a delightful blend of rich and creamy flavors. You haven’t been to Hong Kong you’ve tried cold milk tea!
HK Food Culture Tip:
Cha Chaan Tengs are known for their impatient waiters. Most people go in for a quick lunch between work, then leave. Otherwise, the waiter will begin to wait around your table, expecting you to ask for the bill soon.
Where to Find Cha Chaan Tengs?
Look for any restaurant that contains (Bing Sut) in the name. These are all over Hong Kong, but usually not on the big main roads, and instead on side streets and alleys. Don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path to find the most authentic and local of these eateries!
More Iconic Hong Kong Food
A few more of my favorites to try during your Hong Kong trip:
15. Siu Mei Cafes: A Feast for the Senses
Siu Mei is a popular Cantonese cuisine that features a variety of roasted or barbecued meats, typically displayed in glorious splendor in restaurant windows, a sight which may surprise you if you have never seen such a display before.
These dishes are often served with steamed rice or noodles and a side of flavorful dipping sauces. Some particularly mouthwatering siu mei dishes are suggested below:
- Crispy-skinned roast duck: usually served with a side of plum sauce or hoisin sauce.
- Char siu (barbecued pork): often with a sweet and savory glaze.
- Soy sauce chicken: marinated and cooked in a rich soy sauce mixture.
16. Claypot Rice: A Winter Delight
Claypot rice is yet another beloved Cantonese dish. It is prepared by cooking rice, marinated meat (usually chicken, pork, or seafood), and various vegetables in a clay pot, allowing the flavors to meld together and create a delicious one-pot meal.
The rice at the bottom of the pot forms a crispy, golden crust known as “fan jiu” or “burnt rice,” adding a delightful texture and enhancing the overall taste of the dish.
Claypot rice is often enjoyed with a drizzle of soy sauce or other condiments, making it one of my favorite dishes to eat in cold weather. This is a seasonal dish, eaten in winter, and is found in local eateries throughout Hong Kong, once again offering a taste of the city’s diverse culinary scene.
17. Wonton Noodles: Everyone’s Fave Comfort Food
Wonton noodles are an iconic dish, representing a fusion of flavors and textures that all adore. This features thin egg noodles served in a broth made from a combination of shrimp shells, pork bones, and other ingredients.
The highlight of this HK food is the wontons, which are small dumplings typically filled with a mixture of shrimp and ground pork, served alongside the noodles in the soup.
Wonton noodles can be found in various noodle restaurants and food stalls across Hong Kong, ranging from humble street vendors to renowned eateries. The simplicity and deliciousness of wonton noodles have made them an enduring favorite in Hong Kong’s vibrant food scene.
Hong Kong Desserts: Sweet Treats to Satisfy Your Cravings!
Time to satisfy your sweet tooth! Hong Kong’s dessert culture is an integral part of its culinary heritage, offering a wide range of sweet treats to tend to every taste. Whether you’re craving something comforting and traditional or seeking innovative and modern desserts, Hong Kong has something for you.
Here is a guide to some of Hong Kong’s best desserts:
18. Tofu pudding:
This is one of my all-time favorite desserts. It is a silky and smooth tofu-based dessert often served with yellow sugar, sweet syrup or a combination of both.
19. Shaved ice
This much-loved dessert is especially popular during the hot and humid summer months. My favorite way to enjoy this dessert is when the ice is shaved into snow-like mounds and topped with a variety of sweet toppings or fruits – it’s practically a work of art you can devour.
Traditional toppings include a selection of fresh fruits, mochi balls, sweet beans, but modern versions may include ingredients like ice cream or jelly. Another version of shaved ice consists of pieces of ground ice covered with a drizzle of syrup, in flavors like mango, strawberry, or condensed milk.
The best place to eat shaved ice in Hong Kong is Shari Shari Kakigori House, a popular chain store that serves delicious shaved ice in a wide range of flavors.
20. Mango pomelo sago:
This refreshing dessert is made with fresh mango, pomelo, sago pearls, and coconut milk, creating a sweet and tangy combination.
21. Dessert Soups:
Also known as “tong sui” in Cantonese, these are usually served hot and are enjoyed at the end of a meal or as a satisfying treat on their own. Hong Kong offers a wide variety of dessert soups to suit various preferences. Popular ones include red bean soup and black sesame soup.
Veggie Visions: What to Eat in Hong Kong as a Vegetarian?
Attention, fellow vegetarians and veggie-loving explorers! Being a vegetarian in Hong Kong can be challenging, as traditional Cantonese cuisine heavily features meat. But fear not, Hong Kong’s culinary scene has something delicious in store for you.
To those who are seeking plant-based options without compromising on taste or variety, Hong Kong’s vegetarian dishes and dim sum offer a delightful range of dumplings, buns, and rolls, crafted with meat alternatives such as tofu, mushrooms, and soy-based fillings.
Street foods such as rice noodle rolls, and many pastries such as pineapple buns, egg waffles, and egg tarts are also suitable to be enjoyed by vegetarians.
It’s important to add that the abundance of international cuisines in Hong Kong, such as Indian, Western and Thai faves all provide an array of vegetarian choices. In recent years, Hong Kong has witnessed a surge in vegetarian and vegan-friendly eateries, making it easier for you to enjoy delicious plant-based meals.
FAQs on the Best Foods in Hong Kong
Some common questions about Hong Kong cuisine…
Final Thoughts on the Best Food in Hong Kong
So there you have it, my fellow travelers – a whirlwind of Hong Kong’s best food. Embrace the authentic local flavors with beloved dim sum dishes like shrimp dumplings, siu mai, and pork buns. Venture into the world of street food, savoring curry fish balls, egg waffles, and more.
Don’t miss the chance to explore the unique world of Cha Chaan Tengs and Siu Mei cafes. For dessert lovers, indulge in tofu pudding, shaved ice, and dessert soups.
Vegetarians, fear not, as the city now caters to your needs with a variety of plant-based options. Whether you’re a food enthusiast or a casual explorer, Hong Kong’s food paradise awaits you with open arms, promising an unforgettable culinary journey that will leave you craving for more.
This guest article was contributed by Tiffany Chung.
Tiffany started travelling a year ago after the pandemic restrictions ended. At that time, as a university student in the UK, she took advantage of long weekends, term breaks, and teaching strikes to explore Europe. Along the way, she faced her fair share of mishaps – from being bamboozled by clever thieves to finding herself marooned in far-flung places. But every misadventure became a stepping stone to mastery, and Tiffany emerged as a fearless solo traveler.
Recently, Tiffany turned her travels towards Southeast Asia, falling in love with the region and continuing to explore many parts of it. Tiffany has discovered the various secrets and hacks of budget traveling, and is excited to share these tips with others, especially students, who want to learn to maximise their free time and allow themselves to travel more.
Tiffany is currently based in London. You will usually find her in a coffee shop, teaching yoga, or embarking on spontaneous escapades through neighbourhoods in the UK.
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