Wondering what to eat in Hong Kong? We spent a whirlwind 48 hours in the Asian megacity known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ and share our favorite Hong Kong food experiences.
After an eight-year gap since our last visit, we arrived in Hong Kong excited to revisit a city that helped fuel our Asian intrigue and ready to sate our curiosity about how the city had changed over this time. Eight years isn’t long in many parts of the world, but it’s a lifetime in this East Asian region that’s has been growing exponentially.
In fact, the Pearl River Delta, Hong Kong’s home region, has expanded larger than Tokyo in population and Hong Kong, with a population of around 7.5 million people, is now the Delta’s third largest city after Shenzhen and Guanzhou. Asian cities change in a blink of an eye, especially in countries like China.
We arrived in Hong Kong to kick off our 14-day cruise on Holland America’s MS Volendam, a luxury ship that can accommodate over 1,400 passengers and would whisk us on an Asian cruise through exciting ports including Taipei and Fukuoka before ending in Shanghai. Our time was limited in Hong Kong, the cruise’s port of origination, but we were determined to make the most of this second visit.
Why Visit Hong Kong
Visitors travel to Hong Kong from all corners of the world to experience the Asian city where East and West collide to create chaotic, beautiful harmony. Defined by past (Britain) and current (China) sovereigns, Hong Kong is a city that blends two disparate cultures in a way that both challenges and delights even the most jaded travelers.
Despite being dwarfed by nearby Chinese cities in population, Hong Kong occupies a unique place in the travel zeitgeist. The tightly populated city truly defines the concept of dense urbanity with much of the city’s action happening up escalators, elevators and hills away from street level. Some of the best places to eat in Hong Kong are so hidden that the concept of “ask a local” becomes a more important travel dictum than ever.
If you’re wondering what to do in Hong Kong, don’t worry – you won’t be bored. The city offers a myriad of sightseeing options from shopping at local markets to taking the Peak Tram 554 meters above the sea to Victoria Peak for one of the world’s most famous views (see above). This is a 24/7 city where it’s possible to start the morning eating Hong Kong street food, walk all day and party all night.
Getting around Hong Kong is easy.
Double-decker buses careen through the streets, and pedestrians fill the sidewalks creating a ‘Hong Kong situation’ with bodies jamming up like cars on a Los Angeles freeway.
We recommend commuting by Hong Kong’s highly effective MTR metro system and, if you have a little more time, by ferry when traveling between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon peninsula. Once out and about, navigating a sea of people is an essential element of the Hong Kong experience.
Book a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus. The city is so big and you don’t want to miss a thing.
As for us, we had one goal and one goal only for our second visit to Hong Kong. Accordingly, we designed our itinerary to eat the best food in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Food Experiences for a Two Day Itinerary
Let’s be clear. A two day Hong Kong itinerary doesn’t provide enough time to fully experience the many facets of the Hong Kong food scene. A week or month would barely give you time to scratch a deep culinary canvas that spans the gamut from street stalls to Michelin starred restaurants.
However, like many travelers, our Hong Kong itinerary only allowed us two days. With this time constraint in mind, we researched the best places to eat in Hong Kong with an emphasis on unique culinary experiences that wouldn’t break our bank.
The result was a jam-packed visit filled with some of the best things to eat in Hong Kong plus a modern caffeinated twist. Based on our personal experience, we suggest the following Hong Kong food experiences for culinarily curious travelers with limited time in one of the world’s best food cities:
1. Eat Dim Sum
If you just have time for one meal and you’re wondering where to eat in Hong Kong, go for dim sum.
Don’t argue or debate with us. This is a non-negotiable recommendation. The only question is where to go for your dim breakfast.
Lin Heung Tea House is the spot where we ate, and we recommend it as one of the best restaurants in Hong Kong for Cantonese-style dim sum. Beware – this recommendation may change due to rumors that the ultra-popular dim house may be forced to close and/or relocate at the landlord’s request. We will update this article as we learn more.
Open since 1928, the restaurant is far from fancy and is always busy. Though we easily walked in at 10 am and grabbed two spots at a round communal table, you will likely have to wait in line for a spot in the two-story dim sum mecca.
Other notable Hong Kong dim sum options include Tim Ho Wan, a casual Michelin starred dim sum restaurant that now has multiple outposts in the city. For a fancier, more modern Hong Kon dim sum experience, try Fook Lam Moon or Mott 32.
Regardless of your restaurant choice, eating dim sum in Hong Kong is a unique experience. Carts wheel around the dining room as diners scramble from their chairs to grab treat-filled, round bamboo steamers with reckless abandon. Savvy dim sum diners know to wait for the good stuff. We’re partial to Har Gow (shrimp dumplings) and Char Siu Bao (buns filled with flavorful pork) but it’s all good.
If you want to try something different, we propose you go for it and snag a plate of Fung Zao (chicken feet). You’ll either love or hate this local favorite but, either way, you’ll have to work for the meat. FYI, Daryl fell into the former category and Mindi the latter.
Plan to drink pots of tea with your meal. Hot tea is the drink of choice for experienced dim sum eaters.
Fook Lam Moon has multiple locations. The original location is at 35-45 Johnston Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong.
Lin Heung Tea House is located at 162 Wellington Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.
Mott 32 is located at Standard Chartered Bank Building, 4-4A Des Voeux Road Central, Central, Hong Kong.
Tim Ho Wan has locations around the world including several in Hong Kong. The original Mong Kok location is now closed.
2. Eat Roast Meat (Goose, Duck or Pork)
If a dim sum meal is priority one, then eating roast goose is next on the list.
Don’t worry if you’re not a goose fan – you can eat roast pork or duck instead. In Hong Kong, roast meat, often referred to as Chinese BBQ, is readily available during the day and late into the night.
Assuming that time is on your side, Kam’s Roast Goose is a great choice. Far from a hidden gem, the 30-seat restaurant is guaranteed to be crowded both due to the third-generation restaurant’s crispy meat offerings as well as its Michelin star rating. Goose and char siu pork are the stars here, with noodles and veggies serving as supporting players.
Fear not if you don’t have time to wait in line or miss the cut. Hong Kong has a plethora of fine restaurants serving roast meat. Even without a Hong Kong map, these joints are not difficult to find – just look for windows displaying hanging geese, ducks and pigs. They’re everywhere.
While in Hong Kong, we got our meat on at Dragon State Kitchen Restaurant.
Recommended to us by Dawn Chan from Amber Coffee Brewing (see below), Dragon State is a classic Chinese BBQ joint with meat hanging in full display and chefs breaking cuts into edible morsels with their large, heavy Chinese cleavers. When you eat at Dragon State, the pounding, chopping sound of the cleaver into a wood stump is always in the background above the constant din of the wall-to-wall crowd.
Dragon State is far from a Hong Kong tourist attraction – we were the only Westerners there during our lunch. After enjoying plates loaded with char siu pork, roast duck, rice and greens, we ordered juicy, beautifully lacquered soy sauce chicken for ‘research purposes’ and enjoyed that too.
Don’t be scared by the crowds that convene in front of Dragon State. Most people are likely ordering food on a takeaway basis.
3. Slurp Bamboo Pole Noodles
If you’re looking for a unique and iconic Hong Kong food, look no further than Jook-Sing Mein (bamboo pole noodles). The challenge is that the practice of making bamboo pole noodles is a dying art, making the availability more limited with every year.
For those who haven’t visited Hong Kong yet, watching chefs make bamboo pole noodles is a unique experience. The laborious process is intensely physical with artisan chefs literally bouncing on bamboo poles to develop the wheat dough’s gluten while flattening the dough for cutting the finished Jook-Sing Mein. If you’ve been on a seesaw before, then you can imagine how the process looks.
Discover more of the world’s best noodle dishes.
We ate bamboo pole noodles at Hon Ke Noodles in central Hong Kong. As a sign of the times, this small, locally-owned noodle shop closed soon after we slurped down their springy, al dente noodles in a bowl filled with braised beef and green vegetables. Luckily, Kwan Kee Bamboo Noodle and Lau Sum Kee Noodle are still serving bamboo pole noodles made the old-fashioned way – at least for now.
Check your favorite web browser before you trek to a bamboo pole noodle shop to make sure that it’s still open. Hong Kong is a city on the move and things change fast.
Hon Ke Noodles is now permanently closed.
Kwan Kee Bamboo Noodle is located at 1 Wing Lung Street, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong.
Lau Sum Kee Noodle is located at 48 Kweilin Street, Un Chau, Hong Kong.
4. Indulge in Afternoon Tea
As one of the world’s most important business hubs, Hong Kong has a plethora of high-end international hotels. Whether you stay at one during your visit or opt for less expensive accommodations, any trip to Hong Kong would be incomplete without splurging on afternoon tea at one of the city’s upscale hotels.
We experienced our first Hong Kong afternoon tea in the opulent lobby of the Peninsula Hotel after leaving Macau with more money than we expected. With the unexpected cash infusion, it was a no-brainer for us to head to the Peninsula to indulge in the ultimate Hong Kong luxury experience. Should you go to the Peninsula for afternoon tea, expect classic British tea selections like scones and clotted cream.
We chose the Clipper Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental for our second Hong Kong afternoon tea experience during our recent visit. After a day of running around Hong Kong like chickens without heads, we literally melted into the Clipper’s plush seats and placed ourselves into our server’s capable, gloved hands.
During our blissful break, our server assisted us with our tea choices and even made glasses of champagne magically appear. We didn’t need his help in cleaning the three tiers of goodies including traditional scones with clotted cream, multi-layered smoked salmon tea sandwiches and lovely white chocolate tarts. We were able to handle that task on our own, with the lounge’s signature rose petal jam sweetening the process.
Plan to spend the equivalent of at least $50 USD each for a top high tea experience in Hong Kong. Sure, you could eat a lot of dim sum for less, but splurging on afternoon tea is an essential Hong Kong experience.
5. Drink Third Wave Coffee
As disciples of the global coffee movement known as third wave, we were pleased to find a thriving specialty coffee scene in Hong Kong, a city more traditionally known as a tea town. In just 48 hours, we visited multiple great cafes, satisfying our taste buds and fueling our veins with caffeine energy.
Amber Coffee Brewery is our top recommendation for serious coffee drinkers in Hong Kong. Though tiny in size, Amber is mighty when it comes to its coffee program. Simple in design, the centrally located cafe is dominated by its shiny VA388 Black Eagle Gravitech machine set atop a sleek counter.
Dawn Chan, local and worldwide barista champion with the trophies to prove it, runs Amber with a focus on transforming top quality single-source beans to a higher level. Chan experiments with his locally roasted beans, creating signature drinks with ingredients as varied as pineapple juice and earl grey tea.
Despite the specialty drink options, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying an expertly prepared cappuccino or latte served in a pretty pottery mug at Amber. If it’s your lucky day, Chan will craft it for you himself.
We’ve enjoyed espresso drinks all over the world in cities like Cape Town, Hamburg and Naples. We don’t exaggerate when we say that the cappuccinos we drank at Amber rank among the best we’ve ever tasted.
Although Amber is open at night, don’t expect to get your coffee fix after dark. This excellent coffee shop morphs into a wine bar every evening.
Eiichi Kunimoto moved his innovative Japanese coffee shop from its idyllic Tokyo garden in Shibuya to a central Hong Kong locale after our trip to Japan in 2013. Though the new location’s stark atmosphere is strikingly different, Kunimoto has maintained the same level of coffee quality and precision despite the move.
Beyond taste, we were pleased to see familiar design elements in the signage and latte art at Omotesando in Hong Kong. Though no longer in its original urban garden, the experience was still rewarding for these two coffee drinkers.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: August 28, 2018