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Hong Kong Food

Phoenix talonsPhoenix talons

Hong Kong is known as the "World's Food Fair", and dining out is one of the most popular things to do as a tourist. From roadside stalls to world-class restaurants, Hong Kong offers a wide variety of choices when it comes to dining out.

Many of the restaurants in Hong Kong have been influenced by both Eastern and Western cultures. In just this one city, food enthusiasts can indulge in all kinds of authentic cuisines from Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, India, Europe, and America. With such a wide variety of food, Hong Kong has truly become a gourmet eating paradise.

Typical Meals

At least 98% of the residents in Hong Kong are Chinese, either Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka, or Shanghainese.

Many enjoy a traditional breakfast that includes congee (rice porridge) and yau cha kwai (oil fried bread sticks). However, western breakfasts that include bread, sausage, pancakes, and eggs are becoming more popular.

For mid-day and evening meals, most people serve Chinese food with rice in their homes. Some of the most common ingredients used in Cantonese cuisines include shiitake mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, salted duck eggs, kai-lan, red beans, dried shrimp, hoisin sauce, dried scallops, jujube, and lotus seeds.

Read more about Dim Sum and Yum Cha in Hong Kong

Famous Dishes

Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and sour pork is probably the most famous Hong Kong food, which has made its way into Chinese take away menus around the world. We have a page on How to Cook Sweet and Sour Pork, and even a video, so rather than describe the well-known pork ribs or tenderloin in the delicious orange sauce, click to see and read how its made in detail.


Wontons are known as chāo shǒu (literally means "crossed hands"), added to a clear soup along with other ingredients, sometimes deep-fried. Several shapes are common, depending on the region and cooking methods.

The most famous are called Sichuan-style wontons, a celebrated snack in Chengdu. They are famous for their thin skin and rich meat filling as well as their soup, made of chicken, duck, and pork simmered for a long time.

The taste texture is very smooth and quite oily. A more Hong Kong style version would be cooked without peppers, and instead pieces of salted fish. It's extremely popular and much ordered in restaurants or dai pai dong (traditional licensed food stalls) together with rice.

Roast Goose

Roast Goose is a traditional specialty of Cantonese cuisine: It is a whole goose roasted with secret ingredients, cut into small pieces, each piece with skin, meat and soft bone, and eaten with plum sauce.

For making authentic Guangdong-style Roast Goose you need a special goose variety from that region. These geese can be raised in a short time and have a lot of meat and small bones. Eating it has become a tourist attraction in itself in the New Territories.

  • Yung Kee, situated in Central, with a history of over several decades, is famous for Roast Goose.
  • Yue Kee, with over 40 years history, is the most notable restaurant in Hong Kong serving this delicacy. The former U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong was a regular customer.

Wind Sand Chicken

This famous dish originated from Guangdong, and become well-loved by Hong Kong people. A whole chicken is flavored and put into the oven for about 20 minutes until the chicken’s skin turns brown. What makes it so unique is that garlic pieces are added and it looks like wind-blown sand. The chicken is roasted and crispy on the outside and very smooth and tender inside. The smell of the garlic pieces is exactly to the right degree.

Shrimp and Chicken Balls

Shrimp and chicken ballsShrimp and chicken balls

Its Chinese name is 'dragon and phoenix balls'. Dragon refers to the shrimps, and phoenix refers to the chicken. The name is related to Chinese royalty: the emperor (dragon) and the queen (phoenix), and is usually served in Chinese wedding ceremonies. Firstly, shrimp and chicken meat are chopped finely and kneaded into balls, then they are deep fried with bread crumbs. The balls are crispy and tender. Salad sauce is often used to provide a sweet and sour taste.

Phoenix Talons (Chickens' Feet)

In Guangdong culture, people like using the word "phoenix" to represent chicken. The other reason probably is in Chinese pronunciation, phoenix (feng) sounds more beautiful to Chinese than chicken (ji).

Though foreigners might feel a bit apprehensive when hearing its name, Chinese people, especially the older generation, are fond of phoenix talons. It’s important to cut off all the nails of the chicken feet before frying them. The fried chicken feet are placed on a small plate, and placed into a bamboo steamer. After frying and steaming, chicken feet become very soft and you can easily chew the bones. Phoenix talons can be served individually as well as with pork ribs and rice.

Consuming phoenix talons is good for skin and bone, because they contain much collagen and calcium. Women who are looking for better skin should eat more.

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow)

Steamed shrimp dumplingsSteamed shrimp dumplings

Har Gow is one of the most representative dim sum dishes in Hong Kong restaurants. It remains a top priority of order, though expensive. Usually there are three to four shrimp dumplings in one bamboo steamer. Each shrimp dumpling has one to two small shrimps and a little pork wrapped in a thin translucent wrapper. When it is served, the wrapper is crystal-like and shining, attracting people to put it into their mouths. One bite is enough to swallow one dumpling. The shrimp is refreshing and best if it has a little juice inside so that it is not too dry.

Fish Balls

Fish balls are a typical Hong Kong snack, made of fish meat and can be divided into two varieties.

One is the well-known cooked food sold by street venders. Its history can be tracked back to the 1950s. This type of fish balls are made of fried fish meat. Food stalls often sell them with spicy or sweet sauces.

The other kind is sold uncooked and usually served as an important ingredient of hot pot, or cooked with noodles in hot soup. The price is higher and taste different from the first type. These are available in traditional markets and super markets.

According to a statistic in 2002, the daily average consumption of fish balls in Hong Kong is 55 metric tons (about 3.75 million fish balls).

Fake Shark Fin Soup

In the past, a lot of hawkers used shark meat leftovers from restaurants as principle material of this snack. Nowadays, shark fin has been replaced by vermicelli as the main ingredient of this snack, hence the ‘Fake' added in front of the name.

Mushrooms, black fungus, pork, and some other ingredients are added as the soup boils. Several seasonings are provided to accompany the meat, typically pepper, Zhejiang vinegar and sesame oil.

Fake shark fin soup was widespread at Mosque Street in the 1980s. As one of the street snacks, Fake Shark Fin Soup used to be served in small bowls and sold by vendors along the streets; hence it obtained another name “Shark's Fin in Bowls".

  • Lvzaiji Restaurant, A121 Shau Kei Wan Main East Street.

Rickshaw Noodles

The so-called Rickshaw Noodles are a kind of fast food, really good value for money, and popular with the Hong Kong people since the 1960's.

They are instant noodles with a variety of other ingredients such as hogskin, fish balls, sirloin, and carrots, with soup and sauces. Due to the variety of ingredients, they come in many flavors and the price range is wide.

In the past, vendors always sold this food in street corners from wooden carts, which is where Rickshaw Noodles obtained its name. Even today, Rickshaw Noodles is still very popular in Hong Kong, even though selling in street corners has become a thing of the past and modern shops have taken over.

Eggplant with Minced Pork

Eggplant with minced porkEggplant with minced pork

Eggplant with minced pork is a Sichuan dish, but is widely served in Hong Kong restaurants. The eggplant is cut into slices and fried with cucumbers. Then minced pork is added and fried with broadbean paste and seasonings, such as red peppers, ginger, garlic, sugar, salt, and soy sauce. The special feature is that everything is boiled in a clay pot for a while, making the strong flavor of the minced pork come out.

Sago Mix

Sago Mix is a traditional dessert popular in Hong Kong. Its main ingredients are Sago (similar to tapioca) and a variety of seasonal fruits. The sweet and sour taste of fruits, combined with milky fragrance and chewiness of sago, makes Sago Mix a top choice in the summer.

Many places sell Sago Mix, but Xuliushan (a sweet shop), with a history over 40 years, is the best of all.

Hong Kong-Style Milk Tea

Hong Kong-style milk tea is a popular part of many Hong Kong people's daily life, typically served as part of afternoon tea.

Hong Kong-style milk tea consists of Ceylon black tea, evaporated milk and sugar, the tea at the bottom and evaporated milk on top. Hong Kongers like to say that in a cup of superior milk tea the taste of milk should be stronger than the tea. Different ingredients and cooking methods produce various flavors.

By and large, milk tea is standard fare in Hong Kong-style Western restaurants and Cha Chaan Teng, as well as Hong Kong's historic Dai Pai Dong (a Hong Kong-style outside restaurant). Nowadays, Hong Kong-style milk tea has become a symbol of Hong Kong culture. In Hong Kong films actors frequently mention it in dialogues.

Lan Fong Yuen (a Hong Kong-style Cha Chaan Teng), situated in Central, is famous for its original Hong Kong-style milk tea and has a history of over 50 years.Continue to read about Chinese tea.

Pineapple Bread

Pineapple Bread is a sweet bread originating in Hong Kong, very popular, and found in nearly every bakery.

The surface of the bread looks a pineapple, hence the name, but the traditional varietydoesn't actually contain pineapple. A mixture of sugar, eggs, flour, and lard form a crisp surface with soft bread underneath, and it's best eaten when hot.

Read more on Cantonese Cuisine

The History of Restaurants in Hong Kong

Wind sand chickenWind sand chicken

19th Century: British Colonial Origins

When the first British colony in Hong Kong was formed in 1841, businessmen from all corners of the world flocked to the city. As the colony grew larger, the need for restaurants that could entertain the businessmen grew as well.

1920s: Influences from Canton

Many chefs in Hong Kong learned how to cook gourmet Cantonese food in Canton (Guangzhou), a city known for its traditional Cantonese food that catered to both businessmen and peasants.

Peasants ate affordable char siu and congee, while businessmen ate braised shark fin at 60 yuan per dish, equivalent to 6 months wages for a peasant.

1949: Influences from Shanghai and the Western World

The culmination of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 forced many non-Cantonese refugees to seek out a place to escape Communist rule and they settled in Hong Kong. Many came from Shanghai.

After the British colonial segregation ended, expatriate Westerners influenced the Chinese to include Western food in their restaurants. At this time Hong Kong style milk tea and egg tarts became popular and restaurants started offering catering for wedding banquets.

1960s – Present: Prosperity and Growth

After Hong Kong made it past its economic depression, restaurants in Hong Kong became more prosperous as more and more people started dining out on a regular basis. Seafood became one of Hong Kong's most delectable delicacies in the 1970s.

With such a large boost in the demand for restaurants, many restaurant owners became more willing to try foreign ingredients in their cuisines. Yet it wasn't until in the 1980s that the food styles of South Asia and Japan became more prominent in Hong Kong.