Since I am done with the places to visit in Hong Kong – I wrote about every place I went to – from now on I will write about Hong Kong food. As I said in my previous article, food in Hong Kong is very important and you cannot leave the city without tasting some of its unique and special food. During my stay, I was lucky enough to be hosted by my boyfriend’s family so I could try the most authentic Hong Kong cuisine – his mother’s food, nothing can beat the handmade food – and try out some very local restaurants. Something you need to know about Hong Kong food culture is that Hong Kongers love eating at the malls. Do not even dare to think that if you go to a mall, you would be able to sit down and eat quickly but expect hordes of families, couples and people queuing up for every restaurant. The food is also very good and local for restaurants that are situated in malls but, of course, the real experience is eating in those small food shops Hong Kong is filled with.
Dim Sum – 點心
The most local meal you can have in Hong Kong is the famous Dim Sum, which is native to southern China, especially Guangdong. In cantonese it is also called Yum Cha, literally meaning drinking tea. The origins of this name is rooted in the Silk Road travellers that after days and months of wandering, they needed a place where they could rest. For this purporse tea houses were open along the way and also local field workers started packing these places after working to rest in the afternoon. At first they thought tea drank along with food made people fatter but it turned out it was the other way round as tea helps the digestion so they also started pairing with the tea small and various snacks.
Nowadays it is massive popular in Hong Kong having Dim Sum: it is a tradition for a family having Dim Sum on sundays or on special days like on Chinese New Year and during Dim Sum the family gets together again: grandparents, parents, children, aunts, uncles, all together seated at the same table. I had a very similar experience with the family of my boyfriend and everytime we had Dim Sum a new member of the family joined in ahah it was much fun even though I could not understand much what they were discussing about xD
When you visit a Dim Sum restaurant do not expect to receive an english menu, everything is in Chinese, and I could not understand almost anything. Thank god the parents of my boyfriend thought about everything and ordered myriad of food so that I could taste various stuff and find out what I liked the most. I was surprised to see that I almost liked everything that was served, even though some food was rather bizzare. A very curious and fun fact is that before starting the Dim Sum, the woman of the family normally wash the dishes and the chopsticks with the tea to make sure they are clean enough. It was very funny looking at my boyfriend’s mother cleaning ahah in Italy it would be considered very rude both for the owners of the restaurant, as it is like saying “you are not clean enough” and from the customer point of view as “I pay you to clean and feed me, I should not need to clean the dishes“… it was a sort of culture shock ahah
Cha Siu Bao – 叉烧包
It is a bun dish, so something similar to a dumpling, and normally filled with pork.
Ha Gow – 蝦餃
It is a kind of steamed dumpling with shrimp inside.
Radish Cake – 蘿蔔糕
Despite its name, it is not even close to our cakes: it is salty, made of shredded radish and normally eaten during Chinese New Year but also popular in the Dim Sum.
Cheung Fan – 肠粉
It is like spring rolls but much softer – so soft that it melts in your mouth- and steamed filled with various things.
Chicken Leg – 爪
Bizzare food I totally dislike; as Italian, I am not used to eat legs nor wings of the chicken. It is served in a lightly spicy sauce and it is very fragrant.
Ma Lai Gao – 馬拉糕
It is a soft, steamed and sweet cake.
Lao Sa Bao – 流沙包
It is a bun filled with a mixture made with egg yolk and sugar. Inside it is piping hot and in liquid form so be careful when you eat it.
Lotus Leaf Rice – 糯米鸡
It is glotinous rice with some mushrooms and meat. You must unwrap the leaf and eat just the content, just get rid of the leaf itself.
The thing I loved the most about Hong Kong are its petit food shops ❤ they are very small but filled with people and the best food you can find around. I think they are much more alluring than the restaurants in the malls, which are more modern and globalised. I have been to quite a few in my 12 days-stay in Hong Kong and I liked all of them. I love the way Chinese share their food among each other. They order some dishes, like 4 or 5, and everyone shares. By doing this, you are able to taste every dish and it is very useful for a foreigner who is eager to try different kinds of dishes, you can taste 5 at once ahah
Hong Kong Omelette
The omelette has countless varieties as well: you can mix the eggs with some melon type vegetables or with anchovies and lancelets. It reminds me a bit of the japanese version of omelette.
It is a pan-fried bun with meat filling and a sort of soup inside.
Xiao Long Bao – 小籠包
It is originally not from Hong Kong but from Shanghai even though it is massive popular in Hong Kong and it is on every menu in almost every restaurant. My boyfriend told me that Shanghainese food is this much popular due to the big presence of Shanghainese community that migrated here during the civil war. Xia Long Bao is my favourite kind of Jiaozi – chinese dumplings – and I would eat them until I explode ahah it is a dumpling-bun fushion with broth inside (dumpling feature) and a bun like silk-thin cover. The filling is usually meat and you can dip it in the vinegar sauce. Tip: get a piece of the ginger slice after you have dipped and, be careful it is so thing it can burst, so try to hold the tip of the xiao long bao with the assistance of the chinese spoon.
The noodle soups are so popular that Hong Kongers even have restaurants just specialized in serving this kind of dish. There are 3 main kinds of noodle soups:
- Beef Brisket Soup: the soup might be a simple broth or one made with beef brisket. The chinese also eat the bone tissue, the cartilege, but I really disliked it so I just left it in my bowl and gave half of it to my boyfriend ahah
- Won Ton Soup: Won Ton are the cantonese counterpert of the northern Jiaozi, otherwise known as chinese dumplings. It is a broth filled with these Won Ton – you can pair it with bbq pork in Tai O – and sometimes you can even add dried shrimp eggs, which are very fragrant, in the traditional version.
- Cart Noodle: – I have not tried this one – you choose what you want to add, your own kind of noodles and your own kind of broth.
These 3 kinds of Noodle Soups are usually sold in their own shops and never cross each other
Sweet And Sour Sauce
It is a dish with salty, sweet and sour elements but the salty is the main flavour. In order to prepare the sauce, they use sugar and vinegar and much corn starch; this is the reason why it looks so thick. The meat is usually pork or chicken. It is first deep fried, then wok fried with veggies and sauce and here you go with your dish. My boyfriend also says it is weirdly much loved by non-chinese people ahaha
Tofu – 豆腐
As I had said in my previous article, I am not a huge fan of Tofu but I do admit it is good when it is well-impregnated with the dish’s seasonings. Here we have olive prickles with minced meat and Tofu so the taste is already quite rich and not just a tasteless tofu dish. It is wok fried with spring onions and garlic.
Minced meat is one of the dishes I liked the most during my stay in Hong Kong. I ate the restaurant and the home-made versions but of course the best was the one made by my boyfriend’s mother. There are many varieties but the minced meat we ate was with squid – weird that I ate since I totally dislike fish and their flavour. Traditionally the meat is to be minced by hands because the texture is much better, then you add in ingredients, like squid in this case, or pickled fish. You marinate it well with soy sauce, sugar, cooking wine and sesame oil. You, later, put the mixture on a flat plate, steam the whole thing and add some spring onions on top.
Choy Sum – 菜心
It is a typically home made Hong Kong dish. Choy Sum is a chinese veggie, I could not find it anywhere else…so disappointing, it is one of the fewest veggies that I really like. It is wok fried with ginger and garlic.
Fairwood and Cafe De Coral
Hong Kong is a globalized city so you will surely come across many McDonald’s and Burger King but the real thing here are the local fast food shops! Even though they are just fast food, I would suggest you to give it a try as they are different fast foods from the ones we have. They, obviously, serve chinese food: from noodle soups to typical chinese-flavoured meat accompanied with the rice. If you happen to be in a hurry and you do not have time to queue up for a restaurant, just go here.
Homemade Meal And Hot Pot
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I was lucky enough to be hosted by a real Hong Kong family so I could get to taste real homemade chinese food. My boyfriend’s family organized some meals with the grandmother where his mother cooked for us a typical Hong Kong homemade meal with minced meat, choy sum and steamed fish. Everything was delicious – I do not know about the fish since I do not eat, though.
They also organized a very lively hot pot with some members of his family like the mother’s brothers with their daughters. They bought every kind of meat that was put on the table still raw and then boil in a big pot with many ingredients like veggies and mushrooms – it was like a witch’s secret potion ahah they had to keep the fire on and continously putting in mushrooms and veggies and at the same time, I had to dip the meat in so that it would get cooked. It was really an anjoyable experience where I could get to know his family members and try out some good food 😛
Have you ever tried Dim Sum? Did you like it? Did you try the same food as me? Do you know other delicious Hong Kong or Chinese food I can try next time I visit? Let me hear your opinions in the comments below 😛
I thank my boyfriend again that helped me write down the names of the dishes and recognize them in the photos! More articles are coming, stay tuned 😉