Hong Kong is a place you visit to slurp noodles out of steaming broths, indulge in mouthwatering dumplings and devour dim sum with unknown ferocity.
It's a place where even street stalls appear on Michelin eating guides.
This shiny metropolis is an international hub of financial institutions, fancy cars and designer stores. Roof top bars overlook the iconic waterfront where even the cheapest drinks will set you back at least $20.
However, if you strip back some of the shine then you will get a glimpse of another side of Hong Kong. A place with gritty, open-air kitchens which are situated down bustling side streets. The types of places where you pull up a plastic chair, clink a local beer with your travel companion and taste things you can't identify yet want another portion of. Whilst Hong Kong is home to some of the best restaurants in the world; it's also one of those rare places where you don't need to dine in the top-rated restaurants to taste the best food this city has to offer. Instead, you can hit the streets and do as the locals do; visit family run eateries that have been selling the same food for generations.
This is the beauty of Hong Kong; it is a living, breathing, pulsing contradiction. A city home to an incredible 61 Michelin Star restaurants, and a place where you can pick up the tastiest dumplings you've ever tasted for $4.
We stopped off in this city for 5 days on our way to New Zealand and couldn't wait to pick up a pair of chopsticks and dive into this city's food scene. We've written this food guide to Hong Kong which includes how to eat like a local and our recommended must-try foods! If you are a foodie, then Hong Kong will be your culinary paradise.
how to eat like a local in hong kong
Hong Kong is gradually making a name for itself as one of the best places to eat in the world; and it's not hard to see why. The international influence on the city has created a dynamic food scene with every cuisine from Japanese to Spanish readily available. However, in its campaign to be "international", it has lost some of its Asian charm and removed some of the aspects of Asian culture which make this region of the world so unique.
For us, one of the best things about Asia is the street food and is the one reason why we're always pulled back to this region. From Thailand to Vietnam to The Philippines; street food is a way of life. Whenever we visit Asia, one of our favourite things to do is meander randomly down foreign streets, sampling whatever the street hawkers are selling that day. We love the whole concept of street food and how it can bring together both travellers and locals, and it is undoubtably the best way to get a taste of local cuisine.
However, Hong Kong is gradually removing this culture from its streets. There are a lot of areas where street hawkers are not allowed to go and the government no longer issue street hawker licenses, which means once the current generation pass away, there will be no more street food in Hong Kong.
We can't help but feel a little sad about these changes. Whilst the fine dining restaurants here are among the best in the world, it feels more important than ever to also visit the local places. We can guarantee that some of the best food you will try in Hong Kong will be served on plastic, mis-matched plates in stark, crowded restaurants.
Hong Kong food tours
The best way to eat like a local in Hong Kong, is to eat with one! We done two food tours during our stay in the city, and each one gave us a better insight into the culinary culture of this fascinating place.
We try to do at least 1 food tour in every city we visit as we think it is the perfect introduction to local food and gives you the confidence to visit local places that you wouldn't necessarily visit on your own.
first tour: secret food tours
The first tour we done was with Secret Food Tours. This food tour takes place in a local area where most tourists would never venture. It was fascinating getting to see another side of Hong Kong away from the skyscrapers and see how locals eat. Our guide Michael shared insights into life in Hong Kong and the food culture here and we learned invaluable things about Hong Kong that we would otherwise never have known. We visited a range of different places, from a tiny restaurant which sold famous beef broth that has been bubbling away in the same pot for over 40 years, to trying our very first Michelin recommended street food.
The food on this tour was local and it was delicious; we gained a unique insight into Hong Kong cuisine and tried some fascinating foods we would never have known about otherwise. Michael also took us to a local temple and explained the beliefs of people from Hong Kong. Secret Food Tours was a great introduction to life and food in Hong Kong, and an experience we would highly recommend!
Hong Kong foodie tours
As there is literally so much to eat in Hong Kong, we weren't satisfied with just one tour, we had to take a second one. We opted for the Hong Kong Foodies tour where we visited the central district. This is an area brimming with life, with restaurants and hole-in-the-wall eateries literally everywhere. Central combines both traditional eateries which have been there for a long time, with new contemporary restaurants and seems like the perfect place to see both the old and new Hong Kong come together.
Our lovely guide Yammi was a Hong Kong local and we spent 3 hours with her, eating from place to place. We tried completely different but equally as delicious food on this tour and loved being able to see a different district. With Yammi we visited another range of places that locals love like a traditional sweet shop, she took us to a famous wonton restaurant and we got to try sugar cane juice!
As food in Hong Kong is so diverse and plentiful, doing a food tour is easily the best way to spend time with a local and eat how they do. Both our experiences with Secret Food Tours and Hong Kong Foodie Tours were great and we couldn't recommend them enough. They were both walking food tours, however, took in two completely different areas of Hong Kong and different dishes. If you are a foodie and want to eat authentically in the city, then these tours are the way to go.
must try food in hong kong
If you are visiting Hong Kong then definitely try out some of the world-class restaurants as the standard of food in this city is incredible. There are 61 Michelin starred restaurants here and this creates a magnetic pull which draws even more talented chefs to the city. There are some amazing chefs doing new and creative things to food, and Hong Kong is one of the best places to have truly unique culinary experiences.
However, whilst fine dining in this city is at the top of its game, most of the food you must try is on the streets of Hong Kong. Some of it is delicious, some of it is questionable but they are all uniquely Hong Kong and you need to try them all to make up your own mind! Here are our top 5 must try foods in Hong Kong!
1. signature dumplings
Signature Dumplings as they are called, are Michelin recommended, soup filled balls of delight. They can be found at Cheung Hing Kee which has various locations throughout the city; and are one of the nicest things we've ever tasted. Made fresh to order and expect long queues at lunch time, these little babies are more than worth the wait.
When eating the dumplings, the soup is scalding hot inside so use a chopstick to make a hole to let some steam out. Then add a few drops of vinegar onto each one and dunk in some chilli sauce before eating. Delicious!
2. milk tea
Milk Tea is an unusual drink which is some sort of drinkable rocket fuel. Made from a unique combination of coffee and tea mixed together, the taste is rather unique and the caffeine will be pulsing through your veins afterwards. Milk Tea is incredible popular with locals from Hong Kong who will usually take a break around 3pm in the afternoon and descend on the nearest Milk Tea place for a glass of its finest and a cake.
3. Pineapple buns
Pineapple buns actually have nothing to do with pineapple; but instead are a soft, sweet buns with a sugary topping which resembles a pineapple. These buns are popular breakfast or afternoon tea snacks and are sold all over Hong Kong at hole-in-the-wall bakeries.
4. DIM SUM
Dim sum descends from an ancient Chinese tradition of drinking tea, known as Yum Cha, and with this custom it became common to eat small bites of food. This gradually became known as Dim Sum, and today, it is a way of life in Hong Kong.
Whilst in Hong Kong you need to descend on a local tearoom and join the tradition of dim sum!
5. Roast goose
Walking along the streets of Hong Kong you will see roast goose and duck hung from windows, enticing people inside. The birds are marinated in a range of different spices and roasted over charcoal until golden and crisp. Goose is known as being the better of the two birds and is double the price of the duck.
People in Hong Kong love bones which means don't expect to be given goose breast, in fact, most locals would send back a plate if it didn't contain any bones.
Hong Kong is a fascinating city; especially for foodies. From hole-in-the-wall joints to 3 Star Michelin restaurants, there is something to suit every taste and budget. It is the introduction to Asia for first timers and a city that continues to push boundaries.