10 things we love about Hong Kong-style cuisine
Dumpling Shack Group co-founder John Li tells us his favourite spots to visit in the city, and the experiences he loved while living there
Want to learn more about Hong Kong cuisine? Looking for Hong Kong-style dishes to try? Read our guide below then check out our round-ups of the 10 things we love about Singaporean cuisine and Taiwanese cuisine.
When John Li, chef and co-owner of the Dumpling Shack Group, couldn’t find his favourite Hong Kong-style shengjianbao (pan-fried soup dumplings) in London, he started Dumpling Shack with his wife and co-owner Yee as a Saturday stall. They then went into a permanent site in Spitalfields and it has now expanded into three sibling brands: Dumpling Shack, Fen Noodles (hand-pulled noodles) and Sichuan Fry (crispy fried chicken sandwiches), each with its own identity. Yee’s speciality is baking, as well as the recipe for Banoffee french toast. dumplingshack.co.uk
1. Mong Kok
When I go back to Hong Kong I like to spend a few days in the heart of Mong Kok, one of the busiest places in the city. It’s full of energy, buzzing with activity all through the day and night. This is where to find markets, cafés, street food and restaurants.
2. Dim sum
One of my favourite meals, and in my opinion Hong Kong does it the best. A large variety of small plates that are steamed, fried or baked, and accompanied by tea. My favourite places for dim sum are Dim Sum Square in Sheung Wan or the more luxurious Tin Lung Heen in Tsim Sha Tsui. My tip is to half cover the pot of tea with the lid to signal that a top-up is needed, and if you are in a venue with trolley service, the food will come to you.
3. Cha chaan tengs
These traditional style cafés are an equivalent to a greasy spoon in the UK. The food is hearty, cheap, delicious and served at a fast pace. A favourite of mine is Shun Hing in Tai Hang. Try the scrambled egg in a pineapple bun or the char siu pork and egg over rice with a Hong Kong milk tea.
Specifically shengjianbao from a restaurant called Cheung Hing Kee. I remember having my first taste of this dumpling and I was lost for words at how good it was. It was what inspired me to do my own version in the UK and open Dumpling Shack.
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5. Harbour views
One of the rare slow-paced things you can do in Hong Kong is to get on the Star Ferry for about 30p and cross Victoria Harbour from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central. Grab a coffee, buy a round trip and sit back and take in the iconic Hong Kong skyline.
I’ll usually stay in Sai Kung on the New Territories side of the island. My ancestral village called Wong Chuk Yeung is just on the outskirts and requires a 45-minute hike to get to. The village is largely abandoned now but I feel it is one of my duties to go there and to pay my respect to my ancestors each time I go back.
7. Chinese bakeries
These contain a rich history of Hong Kong’s colonial past within their classic pastries. If I was in a rush in the morning, I’d quickly grab a freshly baked pineapple bun from Sai Kung Bakery. If you want to try an excellent egg tart, make sure you go to Tai Cheong on Lyndhurst Terrace.
Hong Kong is extremely densely populated but you’re never more than a 40-minute bus ride from getting away from it. The skyscrapers of the city are surrounded by lush vegetation, dramatic peaks and lots of water. You can even hike to food destinations – the fishing village of Lei Yue Mun has a famous seafood market for after you’ve tackled Devil’s Peak.
9. Cantonese roast meats
Also known as siu mei. In my early twenties, I used to order roast meat takeaway every Saturday and eat with my grandparents. The box contained rice with a mixture of barbecue pork, roast duck, soy chicken or crispy pork belly served with half a salted duck egg. Nothing beats going for a morning hike and then having a siu mei lunch. One of my favourite restaurants, Seventh Son in Wan Chai, serves incredible roast suckling pig.
10. Street food
Walk along a busy street and take in the smells coming from some iconic street food dishes. If trying stinky tofu is too much, there are plenty of other snacks to try, such as curried fish balls or crispy, airy egg waffles.