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#FriendlyFiles: Hungry in Hong Kong

Recently Amanda, a member of Friendly Planet’s Marketing Team, traveled to Hong Kong to try some of the culinary wonders that the city has to offer.  Check out some of her favorite foods and dining experience below! 

A few months ago, I traveled to Hong Kong for the first time. It was interesting in that it was so familiar and so different at the same time. The high-rises and modernity of this world class city took me right back to when I visited Manhattan as a high school kid. The hurried crowds and bustling streets, the veritable maze of roads and alleys, the way the buildings soared overhead into the clouds—making you dizzy if you stared up too long! English is even widely spoken there because it’s a former British colony. But having never been to China, there was a cultural element buzzing beneath the light shows and skyscrapers that I wasn’t expecting. And nowhere did that perfect blend of ancient culture and today’s fast-paced world come to life more vividly than the food.

Hong Kong's neon skyline

Hong Kong’s neon skyline (Photo by Hong Kong Tourism)

And let’s be honest: I LOVED the food. Each dish masterfully blended thousands of years of Chinese history with the modern setting it was being served in. Food that had comforted diners and impressed royalty for centuries was served daily—from food carts amid bustling night markets and in 5-Star restaurants overlooking the postcard perfect Victoria Harbor. We ate so much that it would be impossible to narrow it down to a single favorite. So here are five delicious things I indulged in—and that you shouldn’t skip!—when visiting Hong Kong.

Right: Dining at local restaurant (by Amanda Klein). Left: Tempting dim sum steamer baskets (by Jason Jacobs/Flickr).

Left: Dining at local restaurant. Right: Tempting dim sum steamer baskets by Jason Jacobs/Flickr.

Dim Sum at a local restaurant. Dim sum is a style of Chinese dining where small-bites are served to the table in little steamer baskets and together with tea, they form a full brunch. One of my favorite experiences was eating at a local restaurant with my tour group. The kind of place your family might go on a Saturday afternoon for a meal together, a restaurant filled with the sounds of chatting, dishes clanking, and laughter.

Here, our guide ordered for us and as soon as we could finish pouring the hot tea from the silver teapot into our little white mugs—the food began to show up. Barbecued pork buns, soup dumplings and shaomai (steamed pork and prawn dumplings) were followed by turnip cakes, congee, and spring rolls. Each dish a little different than the last. It felt like the food kept coming for hours!

Rice noodle rolls

Rice noodle rolls

Rice Noodle Rolls for breakfast. Rice noodle rolls, or ju cheong fun in Cantonese, win the prize for “food I didn’t know existed before this trip but I now absolutely love.” This unassuming dish is a favorite in Hong Kong and other areas in Southern China and is made from steamed rice noodles. They can come filled with beef, shrimp, or veggies. Plain noodles are usually topped with soy sauce, peanut butter sauce, and sesame seeds. For me, no fancy fillings needed. The plain noodles were delicious and I could eat them every day!

During our foodie walking tour of Sham Shui Po, a district of Hong Kong known for its street food, we stopped off to pick up a plate. Eating from street stalls is always a treat. The surrounding market was packed! We watched a woman cook the noodles, steaming and then rolling them into dishes for the crowd that had gathered in a line.

Beautifully plated food, duck carved table-side, and fish maw soup!

Traditional cooked whole fish, duck carved table side, and fish maw soup!

Fine dining at Harbour City. Once during your trip to Hong Kong, you should find yourself a fancy restaurant to dine at.  That way you get the chance to compare the casual fare you’ve indulged in so far to “fit for a king” dishes. So, that’s exactly what we did! Donning our cutest little black dresses, my group ventured over to Harbour City to eat at Xihe Yayuan, one of the many fine dining options there. Harbour City is the largest shopping mall in Hong Kong. It is located along Victoria Harbor and boasts hundreds of luxury shops—from Zara and Valentino to Armani, Coach, and Prada.

We walked through the vast maze of boutique shops and finally arrived at the restaurant which had 270° views, displaying a stunning panorama of Hong Kong’s neon skyline. Here, course after course of beautifully plated food came out. Xihe Yayuan is known for its duck, which is carved table side! The best dish though, by far, was fish maw soup. This savory, buttery soup is made of fish maw which is the swim bladder of a certain ocean-dwelling fish. It’s also considered a delicacy once reserved for royalty and eaten during special holidays like Chinese New Year! In fact, in traditional Chinese medicine, fish maw is considered one of four delicacies of the sea along with abalone, sea cucumber and shark fin.

Sai Kung fishing village

Sai Kung fishing village

Seafood in Sai Kung. For a change of pace, our group took a 45 minute bus trip to a less frequently visited part of Hong Kong: the quiet fishing village of Sai Kung. On this particular day, the sun was shining and the sky was so blue! The pristine promenade was very welcoming, with families and visitors sitting to relax on shaded benches or picnicking at the waterfront. Along the water were at least a hundred little fishing boats—each full of fresh catches and dried fishes being sold by friendly merchants.

We made our way down to a local seafood restaurant. Red and gold lanterns hung from the awning and the place was already packed! Out front were tiered stacks of fish tanks, neatly sorted and chock full of “soon-to-be” meals. Here we had, hands-down, the best seafood of the entire trip. And while the food wasn’t fancy, there was a lot of it—and it was DELICIOUS! We ate seaweed salads and fried abalone, whole cooked fish, oysters, clams, fried noodles, and even more dumplings!  The experience of seeing how this food came to our plate, from the fishing boats out front to the living “menu” welcoming us into the restaurant, was really incredible.

Snacking on tofu pudding at an award winning street stall!

Snacking on tofu pudding at an award winning street stall!

Tofu Pudding, my favorite of all the sweets. If you asked me “what was your favorite food to eat in Hong Kong?”, I’d never be able to narrow it down. BUT if you asked me “what was your favorite sweet?”, you might not even get the whole question out before I interject with “TOFU PUDDING!” This is a simple desert that we ate in all kinds of settings throughout the trip. Called dau fu fa in Cantonese, it is delicately made by steaming tofu until silky and served warm, topped with crystal sugar and ginger sauce. And honestly, every place it was served, it was delicious! From street carts to fine dining, this dish transcended location and time. I could have eaten this every day after every meal.

Hungry yet? If you want to eat your way through this delicious city too, you’re in luck! Check out our new Hong Kong & Bangkok Foodie Adventure. And while our package doesn’t go everywhere I mentioned in this blog post, it does offer the best foodie highlights of Hong Hong, and then whisks you away to a completely different culinary capital of Asia, Bangkok!

#FriendlyFiles follows Friendly Planet’s adventurous staff as they travel the world. It is crucial that our team experiences first-hand the sites, hotels, food and transportation so that we know exactly how the trip will feel for our travelers—and to help us as we strive to provide experiences, not sightseeing!

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