Being a world city, I expected Hong Kong cuisine to have a strong Chinese influence mixed with elements from the West. So when I went there last July 2015, my best friend and I sampled some of the restaurants popular with tourists and locals alike.
SEE ALSO: HONG KONG 3 DAYS ITINERARY, GUIDE & TIPS
G/F-2/F, 15-19 Wellington St., Central.
Open 24 hours
For list of branches: www.tsuiwah.com
Payment options: Cash, Octopus
This restaurant was recommended to us by friends of friends who have previously been to Hong Kong. But apart from that, we had no clue why it was popular. Turns out, Tsui Wah used to be an “Ice Café” in Mongkok in the late 1960s. Now, it’s an HKSE listed company with many branches in Hong Kong and in PRC. Their menu consists of East-meets-West food choices. The name Tsui Wah literally means “Evergreen Chinese”.
When we first got to the Wellington branch, we were quite hesitant to enter. Because judging from the customers dining at that time, we were the only foreigners. Or at least it looked like it. The presence of many locals is not bad mind you. It’s the opposite actually. It just shows that the restaurant is really good if it’s patronized by the locals.
It was the morning of our second day in Hong Kong so of course, we had to try their breakfast menu. They have a separate breakfast menu, as well as continental and specialty breakfast items.
For 38 HKD, I got a Specialty Breakfast. This consists of Macaroni soup in Tomato Puree, Scrambled Eggs, Sausages, Crispy Bun with Butter, and Hot Lemon Tea. My best friend got Breakfast B (36 HKD): Satay Beef Noodles in Soup, Scrambled Egg, Crispy Bun with Butter and Milk Tea.
While it was all delicious and served fast and hot, it was all too much for us to eat. I’m a light breakfast eater so we ended up asking for a takeaway bag. Since it was breakfast, we also noticed that the table turnaround was very fast. We were only two people in a table for four, so we also experienced having a solo table-mate with us.
Tsui Wah certainly takes their mission to serve healthy food to heart, as I learned in the menu that the eggs they serve are “pollution-free”. When you ask for complimentary water, they will give you hot water. Probably why Hong Kongers are mostly slim, eh?
As a cha chan teng (Hong Kong style tea house), of course, Tsui Wah also boasts of their milk tea. Served in a preheated cup, their tea is made of premium Ceylon tea leaves and evaporated milk. As a lover of milk tea, I can certainly say that Tsui Wah’s milk tea didn’t disappoint. It was really smooth.
The service was really fast and the dining staff hygienic. They wore gloves when they clear out the dirty dishes. The interior of the restaurant is certainly modern, with brightly colored tiles and mirrors.
We became instant fans, such that we opted to also eat our dinner later that day at the same branch of Tsui Wah. This time, we decided to try their top dishes. We had Fish Balls and Fish Cakes with Flat Rice Noodles in Fish Soup (37 HKD) and Hainanese Chicken Rice (70 HKD).
Their fish balls are made of yellow eels and different varieties of fish and made fresh in the morning daily. I certainly loved the saltiness of this noodle dish. One serving can also be good for two if you are light eaters. The rice served with the Hainanese chicken has distinct flavors of basil, lemon grass, and chicken stock. It was also served with a soup that we didn’t recognize what was in it. The dipping sauces meanwhile, really helped with the inherent fattiness of the duck.
CAFÉ DE CORAL
2/F, Chung King Mansion (Woodhouse), 36-44 Nathan Road Tsim Sha Tsui
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 07:00-21:30
Payment Options: Cash, Octopus
Breakfast on our third day in Hong Kong was with fellow Filipino travelers I met through a Facebook group. One of them is a Filipina working and studying in Hong Kong. She brought us to a fast food restaurant that was surprisingly located in the same building where we were staying.
Café de Coral was also established in the late 1960s and grew to a large company with more than 140 restaurants now in Hong Kong. It is also the first publicly-listed company of its kind in Hong Kong, setting a precedent for other restaurant companies. Aside from being a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR), it is also an institutional catering and food processing business.
When we got there, the queue was already long at the counter. Since the menu was so extensive, we haphazardly decided on Fried Noodles in Soy Sauce and Ham served with Milk Tea (20 HKD). Quick decision making was really needed because unlike in the Philippines, Hong Kongers are used to the fast-paced life.
Again, like in Tsui Wah, the diners are composed mostly of locals. By this time, I was thinking maybe it was not really an indication that the restaurant is good, but that probably the locals are really a fan of eating out. Hehe.
Still, the simple breakfast turned out to be quite tasty and filling even for its cheap price. The milk tea wasn’t bad either but I still liked Tsui Wah better. CDC’s dining interior is typical of QSRs. The signature dish is Baked Pork Chop with Rice.
G/F 20 – 20A Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Another recommendation from friends of friends because of their Double Pork Rib Rice. We got there in time just before the lunch hour rush so we were able to secure a table for four. We went to Kowloon Park in the morning and met up again with two Filipinas, one of which also works in HK.
I liked the colors of the dining area, which is a combination of white and purple. Of course, we ordered Double Pork Rib Rice (58 HKD) for the two of us. Our friends also ordered Yeung Chow Style Fried Rice (55 HKD), Double Boiled Chicken Soup with Wonton in Casserole (95 HKD), and Deep Fried Wonton in Sweet and Sour Sauce (55 HKD). We definitely overestimated our eating capacity again and ended up ordering too much. The servings were also quite generous.
The star of the show was definitely the Pork Rib Rice (pai kut choi fan). The pork cuts were sweet and tangy from the honey glaze. It was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. I must say, that despite its oiliness, this has won me over. The bed of vegetable rice was fluffy and mixed with broth and bok choy. The subtle hint of ginger worked well with the pork rib.
The rest of the food we ordered was good but failed to steal the limelight from the pork rib rice. Service is not top notch but we didn’t encounter any mishaps so that’s a plus. Tea is 2 HKD per person and additional 10% service charge is added to your bill.
While the dining area looked spotless, the back area was the opposite. Going to their toilet area provided us a glimpse of the kitchen and back hallways, which turned out to be quite disorganized and not the most hygienic-looking. We almost couldn’t believe that we were going the right direction when we finally got to the toilets. It was located in the back alley of the restaurant. Oh well.
DIN TAI FUNG
Shop G03-G11 G/F, 68 Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 11:30 – 22:00
For our last dinner in Hong Kong, we decided to try a Michelin starred restaurant. I have already tried eating a few times in Tim Ho Wan (Manila) that’s why we picked Din Tai Fung. Famous for their Xiao Long Bao, it was originally a cooking oil retail shop in Taiwan in the 1950s. The New York Times in 1993 gave them their first accolade as the only Asian restaurant in their Top 10 Restaurants of the World list. It was consecutively awarded one Michelin star from 2010 – 2014. Din Tai Fung has branches worldwide.
Arriving at the restaurant, one will be first greeted with the view of their kitchen through glass windows. I was impressed with what I saw, with the cleanliness and hygienic handling of food, despite the chefs being busy. Walking through the dining area, I felt a bit underdressed. My white shirt and jean shorts weren’t in theme with the luxurious feel of the interiors. The servers were prompt with handing the menu and order sheet.
They have an extensive menu like the other restaurants we tried in Hong Kong. But we focused on their specialty: Xiao Long Bao (steamed soup-filled dumplings). Working in the hospitality industry afforded me knowledge of how these kinds of food are made fresh, and by hand. So I know, that a lot of effort and skill goes into making them. In fact, it takes 18 folds and 3 days to make those delicious morsels.
For the XLB, we tried Steamed Angled Loofah and shrimp dumplings, and Steamed Pork Dumplings. Both are priced at 58 HKD/6 pieces. We also ordered Steamed Mini Red Bean Paste Bun (30 HKD/3 pieces) and Spicy Vegetable and Pork Wonton (56 HKD).
The signature XLB eating guide was noticeably absent from our table and I was too shy to ask our server. So I just used the photo of the guide I saved on my phone. Hehe. According to the guide, one must first make the dipping sauce. The suggested ratio for soy sauce and vinegar is 1:3, and must be put in the ginger dish. When eating the signature pork Xiao Long Bao, it is recommended to first try eating it without the sauce, to savor the flavor. After dipping the XLB in the sauce, transfer it to the spoon and poke a small hole to release the hot broth inside. XLB is best eaten by first sipping the broth (caution: HOT!), putting a ginger on top and then taking a bite.
I loved the steamed angled loofah and shrimp dumplings better but that’s just my personal preference. I thoroughly enjoyed eating the signature pork XLB too. It was surely an experience eating that savory goodness according to the guide. I normally just pierce them and put soy sauce after I’m done sipping the broth.
I will surely try DTF here in Manila soon just to see if they are really consistent, but they probably are because one doesn’t just get a Michelin star. 😉
I’m not a fan of spicy food but the Spicy Vegetable and Pork Wonton will surely delight heat lovers. Despite the chili, the wontons remain tasty and the flavors of each ingredient remain distinct. The red bean paste buns are a nice ending to our meal, cleansing the palette and leaving us with the slightly sweet taste of red bean paste.
OTHER FOODSCAPADES IN HONG KONG
While in Hong Kong, we didn’t just try restaurants. Some of our other foodscapades include lining up and eating cuttlefish in the Avenue of Stars. People were lining up for this and the smell emanating from the small kiosk was enticing, albeit pungent to others. The cuttlefish is first cooked on a flat grill then passed through a “shredder”. The result is the typical chewy dried cuttlefish snack. Not worth the long line, though. Hehe.
Getting lost means sometimes ending up having your dinner in 7/11. Thank God for the Octopus card and 15 HKD noodles with dim sum. Haha.
When we visited Ocean Park, I was expecting that for lunch, we’ll be using the free fried chicken voucher. We got these from purchasing the tickets at a travel expo. Turns out, I forgot those vouchers and were left with the other set of vouchers. The only food coupon there was the Buy One get One Free Afternoon Tea Set from Bayview Restaurant or Panda Café.
There was a pretty long queue because we got to Bayview Restaurant during the lunch hours. We were expecting the Afternoon Tea Set to look like the one in the coupon but we were wrong. Haha. Also, the price of the meals in Bayview Restaurant is quite expensive so we had to make do with the stub, so as not to blow up our budget. We were given a fish ball noodle soup and cola without ice. Luckily, the Haagen-Dazs ice cream in the photo was for real. 🙂
Next time I come back to Hong Kong, I would like to try the famous pineapple buns and the mini egg puffs.
QUALITY TOURISM SERVICES (QTS) SCHEME
The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) conducts an annual quality assessment on food establishments rating their product quality and service. QTS accredited establishments have a specially designed QTS decal in front of their shops. This scheme ensures that restaurants pass the following criteria:
Provide quality food in clean and hygienic premises;
Provide clear and precise menus with prices for food and beverages; and
Ensure superb customer service.
Source: Discover Hong Kong (click on a link to check which restaurants are QTS accredited)
Where else to eat on a budget in Hong Kong?
- Tim Ho Wan – the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in Hong Kong. At least, their branches in North Point and Sham Shui Po are. Always expect a long queue. A meal can go as low as 15 HKD. Recommendations: Baked Bun with BBQ Pork and Steamed Prawn Dumplings.
- Australia Dairy Company – Known for their signature scrambled eggs and steamed milk, this Hong Kong institution is not one to linger in like other cha chaan teng. Eat quickly, pay, and get out. Breakfast set costs 36 HKD (2 eggs, toast, macaroni soup, tea/coffee). Remember to ask for the scrambled eggs.
- Fairwood – a Hong Kong fast food chain restaurant. Similar to Cafe de Coral. Meals as low as 20 HKD.
- Maxim’s MX – Not to be confused with Maxim’s Palace, Maxim’s MX is the fast food restaurant chain of Maxim’s Group. Meals as low as 25 HKD.
- Food courts – For the best food courts in Hong Kong, take a look at these links: 15 best food courts in HK |
- Mak’s Noodles (Chung Kee) – famous for their authentic wonton noodles with prawn dumplings and pork broth. Tucked away on 37 Wing Kut street, Sheung Wan. There are other Mak’s noodles around Hong Kong but this is branch in Wing Kut is said to be the oldest.
- Mrs Tang Cafe – Around 10 minutes walk from Kwun Tong MTR station, is the pioneer in Tomato and Egg Pineapple Bun. Opened in 1965, Mrs Tang Cafe is one of the original bing sutt (traditional coffeehouse) in Hong Kong. Also recommended: egg salad toast.
- Check this list for more of Hong Kong’s bing sutt options.
- Street Food – for some of Hong Kong’s popular and best street foods, check here.
- For more of Hong Kong’s best restaurants, Eater compiled a list with a map view.
Have you been to Hong Kong? What was your favorite food?
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