Much has changed in Hong Kong’s landscape and food scene since the mid-19th century: Rice paddies and oyster farms have given way to towering glass-and-steel office towers and luxury apartment buildings. Western restaurants arrived shortly after Hong Kong became a British colony in 1842, and fast food hit the island in the late 1960s (the first McDonald’s opened in 1975). The Michelin Guide to Hong Kong finally debuted in 2009; since its first issue, the number of restaurants featured in the Michelin guide for Hong Kong and Macau has tripled to 227.
Some of the most-celebrated restaurants include two at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong in Central: the two-starred Caprice, which serves luxe French fare, and Lung King Heen, the first Chinese restaurant in the world to be awarded three Michelin stars. The one-starred Man Wah in the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong is also not to be missed; here you’ll find exemplary dim sum, classic Cantonese dishes, and a panoramic 25th-floor view of Victoria Harbor.
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For decades, hotels were the home to the majority of high-end restaurants, especially when it came to Western cuisines. Nowadays, superlative Italian, French, and Japanese dining can also be found beyond luxury hotels. Many notable spots are in Central, including Umberto Bombana’s three-Michelin-starred 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA (Italian), the exceptional Ta Vie (French-Japanese), and the bustling Neighborhood (French-Italian); head to Sheung Wan for top-notch Japanese at RŌNIN.
While Hong Kong’s dining scene has evolved along with its changing landscape, politics, and population, the city’s heritage remains apparent. Classic Cantonese recipes, beloved street stall snacks, and time-honored cooking traditions continue on today at dai pai dong (food stalls) on Stanley Street in Central, and in restaurants throughout Hong Kong.
Whether you opt to slurp noodles at a dai pai dong, sip tea and play mahjong in a dim sum parlor, or queue up for a Michelin-starred feast, you certainly won’t go hungry while visiting this glittering island. Here’s our menu of must-try Hong Kong foods (and where to get them).
Dim Sum at Maxim’s and Tim Ho Wan
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You’ll want to have dim sum more than once during your stay in Hong Kong. Akin to brunch in the West, dim sum originated in Guangdong, a neighboring province. The best can be found at Maxim's Palace, a large, fast-casual chain that serves dim sum straight from stainless steel pushcarts, and Tim Ho Wan, which achieved acclaim as the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant when it was awarded one star in 2010. Our go-to dim sum order includes siu mai (steamed pork and shrimp dumplings topped with crab roe), har gow (ear-shaped steamed shrimp dumplings), char siu bao (a fluffy bun filled with sweet slow-roasted pork tenderloin), cheong fun (a steamed rice roll filled with beef, shrimp, or vegetables and drenched in soy sauce), and chicken feet.
Congee at Sang Kee
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Congee, or rice porridge, is an inexpensive, beloved breakfast in Hong Kong. For decades, the piping hot congee at San Kee congee shop at 7-9 Burd Street in Sheung Wan has served some of the best bowls. The former dai pai dong is named after the owner’s uncle, who was a sailor who cooked on boats, so it’s not surprising the best thing on the menu is the fish belly congee.
Pineapple Buns and Milk Tea at Kam Fung
The name of this handheld snack is a misnomer. Bo lo bau (pineapple buns) get their name from the checkered top that forms when the sweet bread is baked. Traditional versions have no pineapple in them whatsoever and are sold at cha chaan tengs (tea shops) and bakeries. Go early to get yours at Kam Fung at 41 Spring Garden Lane in Wan Chai as the teahouse often sells out by early afternoon. Order it with fresh lai cha (milk tea), strained black Ceylon tea served with copious amounts of evaporated milk.
Cantonese Barbecued Pork at Joy Hing BBQ Shop
Walk down virtually any street in Hong Kong, and you will see crimson-colored slabs of meat hanging in storefront windows. The roasted meat, or char siu, gets its fiery color from the seasoning (a mixture of honey, five-spice, fermented tofu, soy and hoisin sauces, and sherry) that is slathered on the pork before it is roasted. Char siu is a ubiquitous fixture on restaurant menus across Hong Kong, but Joy Hing BBQ Shop at 265-267 Hennessy Road in Wan Chai has some of the best.
Roast Goose at Yung Kee
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Since its founding by Kam Shui Fai, Yung Kee has been the undisputed place to savor roast duck. While the restaurant’s dining room in Central is more formal today than it was when the restaurant first opened, the same recipe is still used to prepare this unforgettable feast. Black-haired geese are cooked on charcoal in a special oven (a rare sight in Hong Kong these days), which gives the crispy skin a dark red color. It’s precisely cut into 72 pieces and served with a plum dipping sauce.
Hong-Kong-Style French Toast at Man Wah Restaurant
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One of the most popular comfort foods in Hong Kong is falanxi duo shi (French toast). Typically served in Hong Kong cha chaan tengs (tea restaurants), the thick slices of soft milk bread are deep-fried, topped with generous pats of butter, and drenched in condensed milk, but variations with syrup or peanut butter abound. The best Hong-Kong-style French toast is at Man Wah Restaurant (no, not the one at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, the one at 153-159 Tung Choi Street in Mong Kok).
Seafood at Jumbo
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One of Hong Kong’s most iconic restaurants is Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Aberdeen on the south side of Hong Kong Island, which is, as the name suggests, a floating restaurant. Casino tycoon Stanley Ho opened the restaurant in 1976. The neon-lit restaurant with its intricate Ming-Dynasty-style exterior and equally-opulent interior is hard to miss. Luminaries like Queen Elizabeth II have dined here. We love to eat the signature flamed drunken shrimp and the sautéed fresh crab with garlic and chili.
Mini Egg Cakes at North Point Mini Egg Cakes
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Gai daan jai (little chicken egg) are made when sweetened, eggy cake batter is poured onto a special griddle that, after a few minutes, yields a “waffle” of a dozen or more perfectly golden, pull-apart round balls. The tiny cakes are best eaten hot from North Point Mini Egg Cakes at 492 King's Road in North Point. One you pop one in your mouth, you won’t want to share.
Fishballs on the Street
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Look no further than the nearest dai pai dong for yu dan (fish balls). Five or more perfectly-round, deep-fried, curry fish balls are served on a bamboo skewer, perfect for munching while window-shopping.
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