Dim Sum and then some
From cheap-and-cheerful street eats to Michelin-starred gastronomy, hunger is not an option in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong reigns supreme when it comes to dim sum. Literally translated as “touch the heart” in Cantonese, these bite-sized morsels served in bamboo baskets are a staple of Chinese culture.
A city of extremes, dining in Hong Kong can range from a humble styrofoam box lunch to a molecular, 12-course degustation menu. Thankfully with three meals to fill a day, there is ample opportunity to sample authentic delicacies. Though every imaginable cuisine exists here, authentically for the most part, a trip to the gourmand metropolis would be incomplete without savouring the following local favourites.
Rise and Shine
Like many places in the world, the typical Hong Kong breakfast comprises pastry galore. Boh loh bau (pineapple bun) is perhaps the most famous, prized for its crunchy, sugary topping. Kam Wah in Mongkok is revered for their top-notch version. These are best washed down with milk tea, a tradition lingering from the days of British rule. Full-bodied cup black Ceylon tea is strained through silk stockings no less, and mixed with evaporated milk – a heavenly East-meets-West combination. The Lan Fong Yuen stall on Gage Street in Central is a regular haunt for those in the know.
Another mouth-watering example of the city’s colonial past is Hong Kong-style French toast. The ultimate comfort food consists of two pieces of toast slathered in peanut butter, soaked in egg and fried in butter. The indulgence doesn’t end there, as it’s finished with more butter and plenty of syrup. A decadent start to the day, it’s a crispy treat best saved for special occasions.
Hong Kong reigns supreme when it comes to dim sum. Literally translated as “touch the heart ” in Cantonese, these bite-sized morsels served in bamboo baskets are a staple of Chinese culture. The individual portions are also a great way to try a bit of everything. Cha siu bau, or barbecued pork encased in a fluffy, steamed bun is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. The secret lies in oozing, caramelised sauce with hints of wine and soy. The North Garden Restaurant in Sheung Wan has this luscious delight down pat.
Adventurous gourmands should try the chicken’s feet, which are typically deep-fried before being stewed in black bean sauce. Perhaps not the most visually appealing dish, the cartilage has a surprisingly tender consistency, though small bones mean that extra patience is required. To finish, egg tarts are a must. Revered since the 1940s, the most legendary custard confections in town can be found at Tai Cheong Bakery in Central. They consist of a shortbread crust as opposed to their flaky shell pastry counterpart.
For a cutting-edge take on Cantonese cuisine, Bo Innovation offers innovative reinterpretations of traditional fare, and was awarded two Michelin stars in 2012. Controversial “demon” chef Alvin Leung applies the latest cooking techniques while retaining classic flavours. Splurge on the tasting menu, which features signatures like the molecular xiao long bau ; foie gras mui choy and saga-gyu beef with black truffle cheung fun.
Purists will favour two-star Michelin Shang Palace, showcasing the grandeur of traditional China. The splendid setting is only to be outdone by Chef Mok Kit Keung’s standout creations, comprised of seasonal, premium ingredients. The restaurant launches a Celebrity dinner this month, until 31 May 2012, featuring crispy suckling pig with deep-fried cereal prawn; braised imperial bird’s nest, lobster and cordyceps with gold leaf and oven-baked cod fillet with egg white and conpoy. If the way to the heart is through the stomach, Hong Kong has us smitten.