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From Wikimania 2013 • Hong Kong
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Dai Pai Dong

Hong Kong is renowned as a world gourmet paradise. Owing to both British and Chinese influence, all kinds of cuisine are available in the city. Kowloon City, in particular, boasts a plethora of restaurants as a result of its proximity to the now-disused Kai Tak Airport. Although restaurants in general do not have the facility to serve food in conformity with religious standards such as halal and kosher, there are specialist halal and kosher restaurants in several parts of the city, especially in areas where South Asians and Islamic communities live and congregate.

As Hong Kong is a coastal city with a long history of fishing activity, seafood is a ubiquitous ingredient in most Cantonese restaurants in the city. From a simple and common local seafood restaurants, to the luxuries such as Jumbo Floating Restaurant or those seafood cuisine specialists in Sai Kung, it is the ingredient that captivates chefs and diners alike. Besides traditional Cantonese food, which is served in every corner of the city, it is also easy to find restaurants which serve other types of authentic exotic cuisine, such as those of other regions of Mainland China as well as Taiwan, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and other cuisines, thanks to immigrants of various ethnicities over the past decades and the food-savviness of the Hong Kong people.

On the other hand, western and international cuisine is just as easily available if you prefer it. Steakhouses, bars, and classical cuisines from various parts of Europe come in various types and classes; modern fusion restaurants offer the best of both worlds; even the elegance of British afternoon tea is available within this broad spectrum of choices.

No matter what makes your meal during your stay, a visit to a "Cha Chaan Teng" is a must-try experience for those who want to understand the most iconic cuisine of Hong Kong, because it originated from the fusion and combination of traditional cuisines into a simple, cheap, one-stop everyday meal for every Hong Konger. Try an ice-cold milk tea or red bean ice, served together with some Hong Kong-specific bakery delicacies such as egg tarts and pineapple buns for a snack, or at lunch or tea time.

If you are really struggling to find out whether there is one to match your tastes, there is a popular local search engine and dining guide to help you find your poison.

Where to Eat

The venue is adjacent to Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀), where is the most popular hang out of the locals, with many shopping malls, gourmet, bars, cafés and cultural experiences. Also close by in Jordan (佐敦), the neighborhood just north to Tsim Shui Tsui, you can also find a lot of rather local gourmet fare.

  • You can find a variety of gourmets in Carnarvon Road & Lock Rd, where locals go there to feed themselves, from Cantonese Cha chaan teng to French cuisine, Teochow rice noodle to Indian curries even Turkish kebab.
  • Knutsford Terrace, near the Miramar hotel is perhaps best described as the 'Lang Kwai Fong' of Kowloon, and has a large number of bars and restaurants of variable quality that cater for mid-range budgets. A little smaller and less frenetic than Lan Kwai Fong, but this narrow street is also a popular meeting place on a Saturday evening.
Australia Dairy Company
  • Ashley Road, between Nathan Road and the Ocean Terminal shopping mall, features many Western restaurants and bars.
  • Temple Street south of Mong Kok is a great place to eat Chinese street food. Temple Street, famously featured in Chinese cinema, is one of the few pedestrianised streets in Kowloon where you can sit, relax and watch the world pass by. Seafood is a popular choice, but most restaurants will provide you with an extensive English/Chinese menu that caters for most tastes. Frog is a tasty option, or try the oyster omelettes.
  • Parkes St is another area you can find a variety of cuisines, including Cantonese, Shanghainese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Thai cuisines.
    • Local Team Choice: A small shop named Australia Dairy Company (澳洲牛奶公司) is total reflection of Hong Kong efficiency, as each guest has only 10 minutes to enjoy their dairy desserts.
  • The immediate area northwest of Jordan Rd and Nathan Rd in Jordan contains a kaleidoscope of cultures and people from India, Laos, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian nations. Many of them have opened restaurants with authentic cuisine of an international flavour. There are also street restaurants offering Chinese-style seafood, where you can closely view fish, shrimp or crab before having them slaughtered for your order. Although the neighbourhood looks run down, it is safe and filled with pedestrian and vehicular traffic almost around-the-clock. At night, you'll likely get solicited for patronage by restaurant employees.

If you would like to go further, you can either take East Rail Line to Mong Kok East from Hung Hum Station, or take buses to different hang-outs on the Hong Kong Island, from the Cross Harbour Tunnel Bus Terminus. Both the train station and the bus terminus are next to our venue, PolyU.

  • Mong Kok (旺角) has a huge choice of shops and markets in an area of less than a square kilometre. You can also find many Cafés, and food ranging from local street food, to high end Western dishes. It is also a rather local hangout, where you can find clothes, sports shoes, electronic gadget and karaoke. Visitors may find Tong Choi St & Fa Yuen St interesting, as they are the few remaining street market in the territories.
  • Hong Kong's Thai community is focussed on a few mundane streets in Kowloon City (九龍城). This area, adjacent to the old airport at Kai Tak, is off the beaten track for most tourists but it has some good Thai restaurants, indeed there are certainly plenty to choose from. Arguably, you may find a better Thai meal here than many tourist destinations in Thailand.
  • Wan Chai (灣仔) is much more than a couple of blocks of girlie-bars populated by drunken American sailors; after all, the World of Suzie Wong was just a work of fiction set in Wan Chai during a bygone age. Located between Causeway Bay and Admiralty, Wanchai has an inner-city feel that makes it an interesting but safe area to walk around at any time. Wan Chai has traditional street markets that, unlike many other neighbourhoods, are still outdoors. In the so-called wet-markets, butchers hang animal carcasses on large hooks that overshadow pavements and fishmongers have stalls with live fish that do their best to escape. Between Johnston Road and Queen's Road East are numerous alleys that are worth exploring if you are looking for traditional family-run shops selling anything from tropical fish to cheap clothing.
  • Soho (蘇豪美食區) in Central (中環), an entertainment zone between Hollywood Road and Bonham Road–Caine Road, besides restaurants, bars and clubs, the area also features galleries and shops. Take the elevated walkway from the IFC mall to catch the escalator up.
  • Causeway Bay (銅鑼灣), shopping district that is home to large department stores, such as Sogo. Causeway Bay is one of the most densely populated areas of Hong Kong, crowded most of the time, but here you can eat and shop until very late. Some major supermarkets and eateries stay open 24 hours. Times Square in Causeway Bay is a major focal point, especially at the 'calendar' New Year when you will be wise to stay away if you hate crowds. The area is also popular among Hong Kong's youth and is a good place to observe the latest fashion trends.
  • Lamma Island (南丫島) and Cheung Chau(長州) are well known for a large number of seafood restaurants. The decor of the restaurants are generally basic but clean and should never be seen as an indication of the quality of the food which is usually high. Good seafood restaurants in Ping Chau(平洲) are cheaper than the other islands and you get the feeling you are off the 'beaten-track' of mass tourism.
  • You can also enjoy seafood in more convenient places like Sai Kung (西貢) in New Territories or Lei Yu Mun (鯉魚門) in Kowloon.
  • Yuen Long (元朗) in Northwest New Territories is where you can find the best food in town, including some famous indigenous village cuisine, and traditional Chinese cakes, and also other local desserts.

Location of above places can be found on this google map.

What to eat

Dim sum 點心

A selection of dim sum. Clockwise from top left: shrimp dumplings (蝦餃 har gau), chicken and vegetable congee (粥 juk), jasmine tea, steamed dumplings, barbecued pork buns (叉燒包 char siu bau), rice noodle rolls with soy sauce (腸粉 cheong fun)

Dim sum (點心), literally means 'to touch (your) heart', is possibly the best known Cantonese dish. Served at breakfast and supper, these delicately prepared morsels of Cantonese cuisine are often served with Chinese tea.

Dim Sum comes in countless variations with a huge price range from $8 to more than $100 per order. Common items include steamed shrimp dumplings (蝦餃 har gau), pork dumplings (燒賣 siu mai), barbecued pork buns (叉燒包 char siu bau), and Hong Kong egg tarts (蛋撻 dan tat). Expect more choice in upmarket restaurants. One pot of tea with two dishes, called yak chung liang gin is a typical serving for breakfast.

Siu Mei 燒味

Siu mei is pork roasted over an open fire or a huge wood burning rotisserie oven. With the addition of a slightly crispy honey sauce layer, the final taste is of a unique, deep barbecue flavour. Rice with roasted pork (叉燒 char siu), roasted duck, pork with a crisp crackling, or Fragrant Queen's chicken (香妃雞), are common dishes that are enduring favourites for many, including local superstars.It is recommended to taste the roasted pork with rice in 'Sun-Can' of PolyU.

Congee 粥

Cantonese congee (juk) is a thin porridge made with rice boiled in water. Served at breakfast, lunch or supper, the best version is as soft as 'floss', it takes up to 10 hours to cook the porridge to reach this quality. Congee is usually eaten with savoury Chinese doughnuts (油炸鬼 yau char kway) and steamed rice pastry (腸粉 cheong fun) which often has a meat or vegetable filling.

Hong Kong has several restaurant chains that specialise in congee, but none of them have earned the word-of-mouth respect from local gourmets. The best congee places are usually in older districts, often owned by elderly people who are patient enough to spend hours making the best floss congee.

Noodles 麵

When asked what food makes Hong Kong people feel home, wonton noodles (雲吞麵) is one of the favourite answers. Wonton are dumplings usually made from minced prawn but may contain small amounts of pork.

Rice pastry is also a popular dish from southern China. Found particularly in Teochew and Hokkien areas in China, its popularity is widespread throughout east Asia. In Hong Kong, it is usually served in soup with beef and fish balls and sometimes with deep-fried crispy fish skins.

Tong Sui 糖水

A popular Cantonese dessert is a sweet soup called tong sui (糖水, literal: sugar water). Popular versions are usually made with black sesame paste(芝麻糊), walnuts (核桃糊) or sago (西米露) which are usually sticky in texture. Other traditional ones include red bean paste(紅豆沙), green bean paste(綠豆沙) and tofu pudding(豆腐花). Lo ye (撈野) is a similar dish. Juice is put into a ultra-cold pan to make an ice paste, it is usually served with fresh fruit and sago.

Tea time 下午茶

Hot Hong Kong tea

Showing signs of British colonial influence, tea time (Ha ng cha) plays an important role in Hong Kong's stressful office life. Usually starting at 2pm to 3pm, a typical tea set goes with a cup of 'silk-stocking' tea, egg tarts and sandwiches with either minced beef, egg or ham, but without vegetables and cheese.

Similar to Malaysian 'teh tarik', Hong Kong's variation shares a similar taste. The key difference is that a sackcloth bag is used to filter the tea leaves and the tea-dyed sackcloth resembles silk stockings, giving the name 'silk-stocking milk tea'. Milk tea, to some Hong Kong people, is an important indicator on the quality of a restaurant. If a restaurant fails to serve reasonably good milk tea, locals might be very harsh with their criticism. Mandarin duck (Yuanyang) is also a popular drink mixed with milk tea and coffee.

A signal to tell you teatime has come is a small queue lining up in bakery to buy egg tarts (a teatime snack with outer pastry crust and filled with egg custard). Don't attempt to make a fool of yourself by telling people that the egg tart was brought to Hong Kong by the British - many locals are assertive in claiming sovereignty over their egg tarts. When a long-established egg tart shop in Central was closed due to skyrocketing rental payments, it became the SAR's main news and many people came to help the owners look for a new place.

Street food

Street food is thriving in this territory. Local specialities include curry fish meat balls (咖喱魚蛋), fake shark fin soup (碗仔翅) made with beans and vermicelli noodles, egg waffle (雞蛋仔) and fried three filled treasures (煎釀三寶, vegetable filled with fish meat).

Seafood 海鮮

Live seafood tanks, Lei Yu Mun

Seafood is very popular and is widely available. The best places to eat seafood include Sai Kung, Sam Shing, Po Doi O and Lau Fau Shan in the New Territories and Hong Kong's islands, particularly Lamma and Cheung Chau, are abound with seafood restaurants. Seafood is not cheap. Prices range from $200 per head for a very basic dinner, to $300-500 for better choices and much more for the best on offer.

Expect to find a mismatch between the high prices for the food and the quality of the restaurant. Sometimes the best food is served in the most basic eateries where tables maybe covered in cheap plastic covers rather than a more formal tablecloth. Often, Cantonese people value the food more than the decor. If one of your travelling companions does not like seafood, don't panic, many seafood restaurants have extensive menus that cater for all tastes. A number of seafood restaurants specialise in high quality roast chicken that is especially flavoursome. Many exotic delicacies like abalone, conch and bamboo clam can be found for sale in many seafood restaurants but you might want to avoid endangered species such as shark and juvenile fish.

Exotic meats

While Hong Kong has long banned dog and cat meat and has strict rules on importing many meats of wild life animals, snake meat is commonly seen in winter in different restaurants that bear the name "Snake King". Served in a sticky soup, it is believed to warm your body.

There's an ongoing debate over the consumption of shark fin in Hong Kong, which is the biggest importer of this exotic cuisine. Commonly served at wedding parties and other important dining events, shark fin is served in a carefully prepared stew usually at $80 per bowl to $1000. The consumption of shark fin is a controversial topic and the Hong Kong WWF is campaigning against consumption of this endangered species.

Besides exotic meats, you will also see chicken feet, pig's noses and ears, lungs, stomachs, duck's heads, various types of intestines, livers, kidneys, blood jelly (similar to black pudding) and duck's tongues on the Chinese dinning tables.

Cost of food

There is variety of dining from the budget to the gastronomic, from McDonalds to Joel Robuchon, from Mak's Noodle to the reknowned Yung Kee. As with local-style Tea restaurant, "Yum cha" could be a valuable and exotic dining experience.

Food HKD USD £
BigMac Meal 20 2.58 1.98 1.66
3 course meal w/ wine (at high-end restaurant) 1300 167.53 128.46 107.71
3 course meal w/o wine (at high-end restaurant) 1000 128.87 98.81 82.85
Vegetable Salad 19 2.45 1.88 1.57
"Pizza Hut" Regular-sized pizza w/ 3 toppings 112 14.43 11.07 9.28
"Pizza Hut" Large pizza w/ 3 toppings 156 20.10 15.42 12.92
Sandwich (1 piece) 19 2.45 1.88 1.57
Sandwich (whole) 36 4.64 3.56 2.98
KFC basket meal for 3 persons 105 13.53 10.38 8.70
KFC basket meal for 4 persons 155 19.97 15.32 12.84
Yum Cha for lunch (per person) 70 9.02 6.92 5.80
Yum Cha as afternoon tea (each person) 50 6.44 4.94 4.14
A set meal in tea restaurant 35 4.51 3.46 2.90
Breakfast (an egg, bread, noodle, hotand cold drinks) 25 3.22 2.47 2.07
club sandwich w/ drink 40 5.15 3.95 3.31
caesar salad, chicken thigh, w/ drink 30 3.87 2.96 2.49