Beginner's guide to Hong Kong food

Beginner's guide to Hong Kong food

That many-armed animal that is Hong Kong cuisine can be essentially experienced in four types of meals

Eating in Hong Kong can be overwhelming. Food trends are ever-morphing and the choice of things to eat is staggering, such that at any time, a "Hong Kong meal" can mean many different things.

But just like the most complex building structures in the world, Hong Kong cuisine can also be broken down to its bricks and mortar. 

The following pillars of local food culture should be part of any Hong Kong itinerary.

Dim sum

hong kong foodWithin each steaming bamboo dim sum basket, Canton's long history of culinary excellence is distilled into a mouthful of dainty dumpling, or a light-as-cloud bun.

One of the tenets of Hong Kong eating culture, a dim sum restaurant should be the first stop on a culinary tour both for the good eats as well as that quintessential Hong Kong dining atmosphere that is somewhere between unbridled feast and sophisticated grazing.

Best place to get it: In the sea of dim sum choices in Hong Kong it's easy to get lost. Maxim's Palace at City Hall is an old standby for a modern dim sum experience and Lin Heung Teahouse for a historical one.

The traditional roving dim sum trolleys are still in use both at City Hall Maxim's Palace and Lin Heung Teahouse.

Maxim's Palace at City Hall, 5-7 Edinburgh Place, Central, +852 2521 1303 
Lin Heung Teahouse, 160-164 Wellington St., Central, +852 2544 4556

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Cha chaan teng and bing sutt

hong kong foodEating at a cha chaan teng or bing sutt is about letting go of the rules. 

Ever wondered what a beef sandwich, dipped in egg and deep-fried, then slathered with butter and syrup would taste like? You can find out by ordering the Hong Kong-style French toast stuffed with satay beef slices at Lok Yuen.

Or have a craving for Japanese-style pork with instant noodles and a milk tea at 3 a.m.? Head to Tsui Wah Restaurant.

The food at a cha chaan teng or bing sutt fuses influences from British colonialism as well as Hong Kong's neighbors in Southeast and North Asia.

They are the equivalent of a diner, with fast, hot and consistently tasty meals. 

Best place to get it: Tsui Wah Restaurant, once a modest establishment, now has 20 branches and is representative of local cha chaan teng culture. The service is fast and tourist-friendly.

Tsui Wah Restaurant has multiple locations across town, for details see

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hong kong foodBefore all the skyscrapers and reclamations, Hong Kong was a fishing village. Fresh seafood has been a prominent ingredient in Cantonese cuisine for decades. 

In the past, the freshest seafood could be found on floating restaurants in Hong Kong's typhoon shelters. Now those restaurants have moved on shore.

We can still have great fresh seafood by the waterfront at one of the seafood markets.

Best place to get it: Seafood in Hong Kong may still cost you a pretty penny. Finding a trustworthy restaurant that won't serve substandard food is the key.

Chuen Kee Seafood restaurant in Sai Kung is one of our choices. Pick your victim from a tank and have it killed and cooked immediately. It's how the Cantonese like it. Cantonese are not squeamish when it comes to food. 

You can also see the floating seafood market at the pier if you come in the afternoon. 

Chuen Kee Seafood, 87-89 Man Nin St., Sai Kung, +852 2792 6938

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Dai Pai Dong

hong kong foodDining at a dai pai dong -- the streetside cooked food stalls made of tin painted a distinct green -- is a collective memory for Hong Kongers. 

Cramped around a roadside table with strangers and watching the chef show off his wok skills at the kitchen made from green tin, the dai pai dong eating experience is Hong Kong's best al fresco dining.

Dai pai dongs were once a common sight. Since 1975, many of them have been moved indoors to cooked food centers. 

Best place to get it: Dai pai dong owners are not always very accommodating to first-timers. Two places that make dai pai dong eating less intimidating are Chan See Kee and Mui Kee.

Chan See Kee is a traditional dai pai dong serving dishes without MSG, which is rare. It is not unusual to see the owner chatting with tourists. Mui Kee cooked food stall is the cleaner version of dai pai dong. 

Chan See Kee, 74 Stanley St., Central
Mui Kee cooked food stall, G/F, 45-47 Kimberly Road, Kimberly Plaza, Tsim Sha Tsui

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