Eating Out in Hong Kong

As the “Culinary Capital of Asia”, eating out in Hong Kong is a true gastronomical delight. While there are traditional local dishes found on almost every street, there are also some exotic foods as well as some familiar western tastes in Hong Kong ranging from cheap eats to fine dining.

The Traditional Food and Drink of Hong Kong
The traditional food of Hong Kong is known around the world as Cantonese cuisine. It is also known as Guangdong cuisine because this neighbouring Chinese province had a large influence on Hong Kong cuisine as we know it today. In addition, many Chinese restaurants around the world feature this cuisine as many people from both Guangdong and Hong Kong migrated to other countries around the world such as Canada and Australia.

The most famous style of Cantonese/Guangdong cuisine is dim sum, also known as yum cha. Often eaten as breakfast or lunch, it features small bite-sized pieces such as prawn dumplings, fried squid, chicken feet, and steamed BBQ pork buns.

For other main meals, locals will eat either rice or noodles as part of their staple diet. Locals will also eat five times per day, including snack times. Dessert is always eaten after dinner. Other foods and drinks that Cantonese-style food is famous for making include seafood such as abalone, poached chicken, shark's fin soup, roast duck, wanton noodles, and herbal tea.

What Other Food and Beverages are Available in Hong Kong
While traditional Cantonese-style food is considered the heart and soul of Hong Kong, this does not mean that this food lovers’ paradise is limited to this. Due to the influence of the British when Hong Kong was a British territory, there is fast food and Hong Kong-style Western food. In addition, there are a range of other cuisines available due the influx of expatriates into Hong Kong such as French, American, Japanese, Pakistani, and so on.

These types of food or cooking styles can be broken up into various categories, and a rough indication of how affordable it is (by local standards) is also provided:

Hawker – operated by one or two people, these is street-side dining at its very best. These pushcarts are mobile and popular, unfortunately strict health regulations have now somewhat curbed this food culture despite its popularity. The advantage of these health regulations is that it is safe to eat hawker food for tourists. Typical foods that can be found at hawker pushcarts include fish balls, roasted chestnuts, and sticky rice pudding.

Dai Pai Dong – this is a casual outdoor eatery which serves Teochew and Cantonese food. This is mainly for the locals as menus are usually in Chinese. Food is cheap and food is usually made using a wok. There is no air conditioning, it is generally untidy, and the steel kitchen is painted green. In essence, these are larger, non-mobile versions of hawker pushcarts. Typical food includes wanton noodles, sweetened condensed milk toast, fried rice, congee with youtiao, milk tea, sandwiches, instant noodles, and noodles or rice with roasted meat.

Specialty Shops – sell a dried good or a snack, as Hong Kong locals love to snack. They usually have a particular focus, like 10 different grades of beef jerky. Chinese candy, almond biscuits, dried and shredded squid, and a variety of sun-dried fruits are also found here. These shops are especially popular during the holiday periods.

Fast Food – Due to globalisation and the influence of the western world, Hong Kong-style fast foods are served in restaurants and food courts. These casual fast food restaurants offer Hong Kong-style Western Cuisine, Asian food, and Cantonese food. Typical meals offered include baked rice, vegetables with oyster sauce, and pork chop.

There are also American and European fast food outlets such as Pizza Hut and McDonald's which have a presence. There are also replicas of these types of fast food outlets which serve burgers, hot dogs, fries, and pizza.

Hong Kong-style Western Food / Canto-Western Cuisine – places that offer this are tourist-friendly eateries that offer both eastern, western, and a fusion of the two cuisines. However, this does not mean that the locals do not eat this kind of cuisine. These are modifications of western cuisine but with Chinese influences such as wok fried spaghetti, steak in soy sauce gravy, instant noodles with sliced sausages, and macaroni in a broth with sausages and fried egg.

Bakeries – a good choice for a nice snack, Hong Kong people are discerning baked good lovers. They are baked daily and sometimes even throughout the day. Egg tarts, cream buns, wife cake, and egg tarts can usually be found in these bakeries. They also sell moon cake during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Chinese bakeries are cheap to buy from.

As opposed to Chinese bakeries, there are also some European-style bakeries around such as Delifrance. They are also more pricey compared to Chinese bakeries and would be considered moderately expensive according to local standards. These places offer items such as croissants, fruit tarts, and doughnuts. However, some of these European-style bakeries do modify western ingredients such as cream and cheese to suit the tastes of the locals.

Buddhist – although not everyone is Hong Kong is Buddhist, this cuisine is a delight for vegetarians or perhaps those who want to have a vegetarian night. This cuisine uses a variety of vegetables, tofu, mushroom, and fake meat (made from wheat gluten) as part of the meal. Fake meat actually does have a similar texture and taste to real meat.

Hakka – There are many Hakka people that currently live in Hong Kong, who were originally from the south-eastern Chinese provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. Typical foods include salt baked chicken and stuffed tofu.

Hot Pot (da bin lou) – this is like steamboat, where you add tofu, fish or beef balls, fresh vegetables, seafood, poultry, and sliced beef into a steaming pot of hot water or soup. This is eaten for dinner during the wintertime.

Beijing – before mainland China became a superpower, many Beijingers went to Hong Kong to seek their fortune. As a result, Beijing-style food such as hot and sour soup or Peking Duck is served here. Some of these can be quite complicated and exotic, as Chinese Emperors aided in the development of this particular style.

Japanese – as a major financial centre, many Japanese companies have a presence in nearby Hong Kong and therefore brought their food along with them. This was also aided by locals having a love affair with sushi.

South Asian (Pakistani and Indian) – Many Pakistanis and Northern Indians reside in Hong Kong. As a result, there is also Indian Chinese and Pakistani Chinese cuisine, as well as just food from their original place of origin. This includes curry beef, curry chicken biryani, and naan.

American – Typical cuisine from the United States, but with less butter. For example, Hong Kong-style mashed potatoes are lighter and more plain compared to the American version. Popcorn is also very sweet as opposed to the buttered and salted version in the USA.

Italian – this is usually up-scale and served in a 3-course format of antipasto, first, and second courses. The appetisers and mains are Italian-style; however there are Chinese dessert and drink options.

French – This cuisine is considered a delicacy, and as a result is expensive. However, many of the famous French-style desserts have been modified into a pudding such as crème brulee.

Like most of China, locals typically drink Chinese tea. Branching off of this tea culture includes Taiwanese-style bubble tea and Hong Kong western-style milk tea. Other popular local drinks include soy milk, red bean ice, and sugar cane juice. Many of these drink places are cha chaan teng-style eateries where you can get a cheap snack and some nice drinks to go with it.

Due to globalisation as well as the influx of the British culture into Hong Kong, there are also a variety of western drinks available. This includes ovaltine, malted drinks, cola drinks, milkshakes, and horlicks. Many coffee franchises are also located in Hong Kong such as Starbucks and Pacific Coffee, although this does cater more towards tourists and foreign workers.

Famous Chefs and Michelin Star Restaurants
Due to the economic prowess of Hong Kong as a financial hub and China as one of the largest economies in the world, it comes as no surprise as many famous Chefs have been lured to Hong Kong. These include:

  • William Girard at the Whisk, a restaurant at The Mira Hong Kong located in Tsim Sha Tsui
  • Chef and Michelin Star Restaurant Owner Alain Ducasse opened a branch of Spoon at the InterContinental Hotel
  • Michelin Star Chef and Restaurant Owner, Pierre Gagnaire opened Pierre at the Mandarin Oriental. This restaurant won a Michelin Star in 2008.
  • Richard Ekkebus is the Executive Chef at Amber. This restaurant won two Michelin Stars in 2008, and was positioned in 37th place in S. Pellegrino's list of the 50 best restaurants in the world list for 2011.
  • Joël Robuchon opened a branch of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon at The Landmark Hotel
  • In 2006, Nobu Matsuhisa opened a branch of Nobu at the InterContinental Hotel
  • Roland Schuller, formerly Michelin Three Star Chef opened Aspasia
  • Australian Geoff Lindsay operates the Pearl on the Peak, which is a sister restaurant to the Pearl Restaurant.
  • Trained at El Bulli, Uwe Opocensky is currently the Executive Chef at the Mandarin Oriental's Krug Room. This restaurant was recently awarded as the best restaurant in the world, according to Restaurant Magazine.
  • The Four Seasons Hotel imported many of its staff members from Paris' Michelin Three Star Restaurant, Le Cinq to Caprice.

Hong Kong's Food Districts
There are many food districts in Hong Kong, and many of these places are easily accessible via public transport or just by walking. Hong Kong's food districts are filled with restaurants and food stalls that offer all styles of cuisine, both Chinese and international. Eating in Hong Kong can satiate your every food desire. Each food district around Hong Kong should be toured and food tasted for the maximum enjoyment.

Kowloon City Food District
This former industrial area has turned into a residential area is packed with local Cantonese and Chiu Chow dishes, as well as international cuisines. This district is famous for its hotpot and Thai food. Most people eat here during dinner time. There are numerous eateries spread over many blocks. Famous roads include Lung Kong Road, Nam Kowk Road, Nga Tsin Long Road, Fuk Lo Tsun Road, Kai Tak Road, and Prince Edward Road – however the most famous one is Nga Tsin Wai Road.

Starstreet Precinct
Formerly the location of Hong Kong's first electric power plant, it has now evolved into a vibrant arts and lifestyle area consisting of several streets – Star, Moon, Sun, and Wing Fung. The dining options mainly feature European cuisine, such as French and Italian. There is also an American pub, a Japanese yakiniku bar, and a Chinese dessert bar.

Hillwood Soho
Close to Nathan Road, Hillwood Soho is Kowloon Island's version of SoHo on Hong Kong Island. There is Asian and Western to choose from, including Chinese-style bars, Vietnamese, and Korean.

Sai Kung
If you are hankering after fresh seafood, this is the town to be in. This is also called the “Backyard of Hong Kong” as it allows you to eat seafood while immersing yourself in a green and natural area in the New Territories. This former fishing village is where fishermen unload their daily catch and the town's market sells fresh seafood in a countless amount of tanks. The main promenade is littered with seafood restaurants and their aquariums. This is a unique dining experience as it involves getting a table, choosing the food you want cooked straight from the tank, and then telling your waitperson how you want it to be cooked. It is worth noting that there is no central heating, which may be a problem if you are visiting during the winter so make sure that you bring your coat.

Lamma Island
Another popular district for seafood is Lamma Island. This is a popular weekend destination due to its delicious seafood, hiking trails, glorious beaches, and clean air. On the Sok Kwu Wan side of the island, seafood feasts can be enjoyed at terraced restaurants that are on stilts overlooking the bay. At Yung Shue Wan, pubs, as well as international cuisines can be found.

D Deck Discovery Bay
With infinite sea views and nightly fireworks, D Deck Discovery Bay is a fun alfresco dining area featuring international cuisines. There are 28 restaurants and cafes here, ranging from Korean, Mexican, bookstores with coffee shops, and much more.

Hung Hom
This area is home to the “Wonderful World of Whampoa”, a shopping mall that looks like a luxury cruise ship. Within this shopping mall are a number of local, Asian, and and western eateries. There are Chinese restaurants – of both the local and mainland China variety, Japanese, Korean, Thai, a steakhouse, an oyster bar, and many more.

Located close by is the Whampoa Gourmet Place, which showcases 13 well known eateries. It is one of the most popular places to dine in Hong Kong. These eateries feature mostly Chinese foods such as wanton noodles, Sichuan-style food, and more.

This district located at Hong Kong Island is a very popular area full of eateries, pubs, and clubs. Whether you want Chinese food in all different kinds of styles or something more exotic like Moroccan, this district has it all. There pubs and clubs here are more westernised, and therefore is a good place for any traveller to hang out in.

Formerly a sleepy fishing village, it has come alive with an excellent array of public facilities and amenities including some fantastic bars and restaurants. Most of these can be found on Stanley Main Road facing the seaside, or at Murray House. The food here is international, and popular eateries include El Cid (Spanish tapas with glorious views), Saigon at Stanley (Vietnamese), Lucy's (Mediterranean-style bistro), and the Balcony Cafe which is a remnant from the British colonial days.

Food Street, Causeway Bay
If you are looking to get away from places with a heavy price tag without sacrificing the ambience, head over to Food Street at Causeway Bay. Located at Matheson Street, Tang Lung Street, and Jardine's Bazaar, this is a place where to indulge in some great food on a budget. There is a wide variety of food, and travellers should be aware that in the fast food-style restaurants here, you may need to share a table because of the lack of seats. However, this is also a great way to get to know the locals! This area is also a great place to head to if you need a late night snack because quite a number of the food stalls do open until the wee hours of the morning.

Finer Dining at Causeway Bay
If you need some posher nosh, then you can also check out the fine dining eateries, bars, and sushi parlous nearby along Yiu Wa Street, Hoi Ping Road, Sunning Road, Hysan Avenue, Lan Fong Road, Pak Sha Road, Kai Chiu Road, and Yun Ping Road. You can have a cold beer at one of the pubs and then head over to one of the restaurants on Cleveland Street or at popular areas such as Times Square, the World Trade Centre, Percival Street's Lee Theatre Plaza or Causeway Bay Plaza I & II.

Gough Street and Kau U Fong
As a chic and part of town, there are about 20 international bars and restaurants at Gough Street and Kau U Fong. The most popular eatery here is Kau Kee Restaurant, which is famous for its beef noodles.

Lan Kwai Fong
This trendy area formerly known as “Fringe Central” is an entertainment and dining haven with stylish alfresco dining onto cobblestone streets. The restaurants here service international cuisine such as French, Mexican, American, Japanese, Italian, and Indian.

Around Elgin, Shelly, and Stautan Streets are another area full of restaurants and bars. These feature international cuisines as well such as Nepalese and French food.

Knutsford Terrace and Observatory Court
As you browse through Knutsford Terrace and Observatory Court, you will discover over 30 bars and restaurants offering almost anything that will appeal to your tastebuds from around the globe. Many of these venues are open-air dining venues, so you can enjoy the fresh air and soak up the alfresco dining atmosphere that Hong Kong has to offer.

Lei Yue Mun District
This district is known for its seafood restaurants. The district is actually a little fishing village where you can experience a slice of old time Hong Kong. Go to any restaurant and you will experience an alfresco dining ambience and reasonably priced food.

Hung Hom: Whampoa District
The Hung Hom district is one of the best shopping areas in Hong Kong, but it also has many speciality restaurants under one roof. The Wonderful World of Whampoa is shaped like a full-sized luxury cruise liner, and has both Northern and Southern Chinese food. Many of the meals are Asian and you can get small snacks to full meals. You can also find fish balls made delicious because of curry and garlic.

Sai Kung
This food district specialises in Malaysian and Indian traditional foods. Sai Kung also has a long waterfront in its town centre, Hoi Pong Square, with many restaurants that cater to seafood. Fresh seafood swim in glass tanks outside the restaurants, and customers can choose which fresh seafood they want to be prepared. The district has won many local and international awards for its fine seafood cuisine. The popularity of the district comes from the aquarium –like displays in the front of each restaurant. Sai Kung District is known as the ‘Garden of Hong Kong’ because of its rich vegetation and century’s old cultural heritage, along with the beautiful waterfront views.

Nathan Road
Nathan Road is a main thoroughfare that goes in a south-north direction to Mong Kok. The road is lined with shops, restaurants, and people, and was known as the Golden Mile in the post-WWII years. Along Nathan Road is Chuang’s London Plaza, which is a collection of shops and restaurants. The food ranges from authentic Chinese dishes like stir fries and curries, chicken, pork, duck and seafood, to Western fast foods, Turkey, Iranian, and other Asian food.

Stanley Street
On the south side of Hong Kong is a unique little village on the waterfront with a pleasant beach walk which attracts not only tourists, but boaters, as well. There are very romantic restaurants here in Stanley with a wide choice of culinary options from seafood to Western fare. A beautiful picturesque seaside village can be seen from the restaurants.

Kowloon City
This area of Hong Kong got its name from the nine dragons represented by eight peaks and a Chinese emperor. It refers to the area south of Boundary St. and the Stonecutters Island. It was home to a dockyard for the Royal Navy, and now the area has been reclaimed and is the site of several new developments. The area has good Thai restaurants; some say they are better than in Thailand. Also in this district is the Temple Street Night Market, which takes up a block of streets at the end of each day with stalls that sell everything from food to toys. It is a great place for cheap authentic Chinese, Indian, Nepalese, and Thai food. It is a nice change for those who seriously want to splurge at some swanky restaurants.

Other Great Places to Dine

Jumbo Floating Restaurant
This restaurant is in Aberdeen harbour, and was designed as a Chinese palace. It is excellent in the preparation of seafood, and it can accommodate up to 2,300 people. This place is an absolute must. The restaurant is a six star gourmet place featuring traditional Chinese and modern fusion dishes as well as a tea garden.

Dinner Cruises
There are many dinner cruises around Hong Kong that offer great food and spectacular views of the harbour. One cruise takes you on an evening cruise on Victoria Harbour on a traditional Chinese tour boat where you will sail to Lei Yue Mun Seafood Village for a wonderful dinner at the Hoi Tin Garden Restaurant. Another cruise boards you on a real Chinese junket and ends with a relaxing 55-minute harbour cruise. Many cruises will take you to dine at a popular night spot like the Peak Tower on Victoria Peak, and then take you on a cruise to see the harbour or the sunset from the harbour.

Western Food
Hong Kong has every imaginable food that can be found in the Western world. There is French, Italian, German, Mexican, and American style food. Some places you could try are Victoria Peak overlooking the fishing harbour. There were quite a few Western restaurants in Hong Kong by the end of the 20th century. They mostly catered to the upper-class Chinese diners. After the war, Western restaurants started springing up in many districts, along with tea cafes and sorbet cafes. Today, fast food items like instant noodles and pizza are popular, along with many traditional foods, like dumplings, dim sum, and rice.

What is the QTS (Quality Tourism Service Scheme)?
Hong Kong has adopted the Quality Tourism Services Scheme (QTS) which makes it easy for people to find shops, restaurants, budget visitor accommodations and hair salons that people can trust. Under this scheme, establishments must pass difficult annual assessments proving that they meet the high standards of product quality and service. The businesses must provide clearly displayed prices, display information, and ensure superb customer service.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board has hired the Hong Kong Productivity Council to conduct the assessments and mid-year surveillance visits for shopping and dining merchants. The QTS has been in effect for 10 years now, which has helped the image of Hong Kong to become a destination offering quality tourism and products. The Tourism board has established a QTS Outstanding Merchant Award to recognise QTS merchants for their outstanding service. Decals are also awarded to merchants who have been accredited for 10 consecutive years or more, and these can be placed in their shop fronts.

The QTS is a valuable tool for both the merchants of Hong Kong and the visitors who want the best experience in this city.

Hong Kong cuisine, along with the quality testing, has brought the country up to the high standards that all of us deserve. We know from experience that the food is excellent, and now we can be comforted that it is safe, and the merchants are doing their best to make it safe.