Dear Hong Kong Cookery Readers - We've been asked every once in a while about specific recommends for Hong Kong food places and now one of our readers, Michelle from Indiana, has written in to ask about where to find the best Hong Kong local eating places and food exploration places and I thought I should share our reply with all of you! So here it is and Happy New Year to All! (Special thanks to Michelle for the inspiration for this post!)
"Hi! - I’ve been following your blog for several years now, and have read all your posts with glee! I’ll be visiting Hong Kong with my husband in a couple of days, and was hoping to get some food recommendations from you that are not the Yung Kee/Kau Kee/Chris Patten egg tart type of recommendations, but rather the real hole-in-the-wall, grumpy waiters and dingy chairs kind of thing.
All our travels have been centered around food adventures, and it’s ironic, since my parents were from HK, but we haven’t been entirely inspired by the food in HK.. It’s almost as if the local restaurants—the ones that locals bring their families to or their girlfriend (but only after they’ve been together for five years) are kept secret. L Given that I share a close affinity for the recipes that you’ve posted on your blog, I figured out that you might have a recommendation or two that would really hit the spot!
Congee, beef noodles, funny random dishes and not-on-the-menu specialties are what we are looking for. Do you think you can help?
Also, any market/store recommendations to explore and hunt around in? I love your posts on wet markets and how you find usual ingredients (like Hong Kong produced honey and shrimp paste! Who would have thought???)
~Michelle from Indiana"
Thanks for writing in! Your food travels sound so fun and fearless that I fear we can not do justice to your requirements. However we will try to give you a few HK recommends to the best of our ability:
Kau Kee 九記牛腩 is actually pretty good for their beef brisket noodles and if you want grungy surroundings and really grumpy horrible waiters, it would fit the bill. However it has recently become quite the tourist spot and there are really, really long lines.
Lin Heung Tea House 蓮香樓 (the one in Central, not Sheung Wan) is a local institution, brilliantly lit with glaring fluorescent, filled to the brim with old men, their rolexes and their newspapers. They still wheel dim sum out in carts here and are one of the few tea houses that still use 'zhong' or 焗盅, the traditional Chinese individual tea brewing pot. Going for a meal or dim sum here would be for the 'character' and not particularly for the food. And watch your step, it's d**ned slippery!
Mak's Noodles 麥奀雲吞麵世家 is our personal favorite authentic wonton noodle joint. (My 老公 is raising his eyebrows at me...okay, okay, I amend this to our 'current favorite'. The Cantonese are very snobbish and particular about their noodles.) The bowls are small, noodles perfectly al dente, the soup is to die for and it's a bit more pricey than others but worth it. Nom, nom, nom...
Luk Yu Teahouse 陸羽茶室 is another institution in Hong Kong. A bastion for the rich in some ways and pretty pricey but if the food is that good, who cares, amirite? Plus it has all its traditional decorations intact, the beautiful old wood chairs and booths and exquisite Chinese art on the walls. Whenever we want to give ourselves a treat we head over to Luk Yu for its dim sum or dinner menu. I would eat there everyday if I could afford it.
Sang Kee Congee Shop 生記粥品專家 in Sheung Wan has the best congee, period. This tiny angular stainless steel surfaced shop looks like no more than an industrial hole in the wall, no attempt at decor whatsoever...but the congee is so yummilicious that you will routinely see Mercedes Benzs or Roll Royces parked in front to pick up a take out order of the delicious congee.
Wing Lok Yuen 永樂園餐廳 is a tiny little cha chaan teng located down a dark alley smack in the middle of high rent Central. The specialty here is the twin dog hotdog 雙腸熱狗王. Special HK style hotdog, with their unique sauce and just right toasted bun. I love the dogs here!
For the really adventurous there is She Wong Lam 蛇王林 in Sheung Wan where you can get snake soup (delicious and great for warming the blood in the cold winter months.) The snakes are kept alive in the shop so it is definitely an experience.
Wet market...well, the Graham Street 嘉咸街 wet market in Central used to be one of a kind but after a good bit of it has been torn down recently (thanks greedy real estate developers), there's that much less to explore. On Graham Street and Peel Street, however, there is still a bit of the old market left.
The above recommends are in and around Central. The ones below are in Kennedy Town, which is closer to where we usually hang out:
Sun Hing Restaurant 新興食家 is open from around 3 am in the morn. If you think that's early, think again, it's crowded from pretty much the moment it opens. From old ladies larks to university late nighters it's hard to get a table and you're going have to share a table if you get it and it's pretty grungy...but worth it for the amaaazing custard buns 流沙包 and really generally excellent everything else in terms of dim sum. It's a Kennedy Town institution, they still make their own dim sum in the shop! (which is pretty much a moot point in most places nowadays) and has been around as long as I can remember.
Cheung Heung Yuen Restaurant 祥香茶餐廳 is a proper Hong Kong style cha chaan teng 茶餐廳, which there are many of still existing here and there in HK but I am familiar with this one. Go here for the authentic cha chaan teng experience, the milk tea 奶茶, the egg tarts 蛋撻, the chicken tail bun 雞尾包, the instant noodle tea time set 特餐 with their special beef soup and your beverage of choice .
Po Kee 波記燒臘粉麵店 has very good roasted duck 烤鴨 and roasted goose 燒鵝, with or without noodles/rice, which are specialties of the Cantonese style barbecue roasted meats 燒味. Very grungy and the minimum of service here but excellent roasted meats.
For those who do not fear to adventure further afield:
Any wet market 街市- each area of Hong Kong has it's own designated wet market building or area. Check it out for a real life take on how traditional everyday fresh food marketing happens. Seafood, vegetable, meats, fruits, herbs, etc bought daily from individual vendors. It's all there, fresh and cheap!
For the weird and the wonderful, take a stroll down Dried Seafood Street 海味街 (Des Voeux Road West, Wing Lok Street in Sheung Wan) to see all the many, many kinds of dried seafoods, meats, herbs etc that are a staple for Chinese food. I still get amazed every time I'm there!
Local honey...surprise, surprise... you can actually go to get honey from a local bee man! Wing Wo Bee Farm 永和蜜蜂場 is located in Shatin and makes and sells Hong Kong honey. You can check out their beehives yourself, tho' I think it best to be sure to call ahead.
Shrimp paste...humm...I would have to say that the last time we bought really excellent shrimp paste was in Taipa, Macau, from a tiny store called Kwong Heng Long 廣興隆. So super cool, we discovered it by smell and sight - the fragrant stink from the huge waist high pots of shrimp paste fermenting away in the front of the shop. There are definitely still shops in Macau that sell 'real' food products made from the heart. If you have time, it really pays off to go poking around the old and dusty parts of Macau.
~Okay, dear readers, that's all for now that I can think of. There's more, of course, but know that all of the above are places personally taste tested by us at The Hong Kong Cookery and we liked it (the last time we went.) Please feel free to add to our list with your comments. Happy Glorious Yummilicious New Year to all!
More Yummilicious Local Food Products from The Hong Kong Cookery:
Hong Kong Organic Milk
Hong Kong Honey - Wing Wo Bee Farm
Chinese Salted Fish 鹹魚