Dim sum parlors and cha chaan tengs may be the most ubiquitous type of restaurants from Hong Kong, but they are far from the only type of restaurant that you can find there. While I wish I could have eaten it all, from the innovative takes on classic Cantonese at Bo Innovation to traditionally Tanka typhoon shelter crab, neither my schedule nor the constraints of my wallet allowed me to sample the true diversity of food Hong Kong has to offer. However, I did get to sample some of the great array of food, which I’ve documented below.
The Lounge & Bar at the Ritz Carlton
102/F, The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong
International Commerce Center, Elements, Hong Kong
Even though its been more than 15 years since the British handover of Hong Kong, the colonial roots of the modern city are undeniable and everywhere. This includes the ritual of afternoon tea by those of upper income classes (which I should note is different from high tea). My mother and grandmother always loved to reminisce about the delicious food and beverages of afternoon tea so I took the trip to Hong Kong as my chance to splurge a little on myself. I invited a cousin of mine who currently lives in Hong Kong as well and chose the Ritz Carlton not only because of its food reputation, but also because it has an incredible view of Hong Kong, which you can see above. The tea set for two came with the following:
- Earl Grey Tea – I wouldn’t say that the tea blew me away, but it was definitely good tea. While many would add milk and some sugar, I just drank the tea as is, which I usually do for any tea.
- Scones with jam and clotted cream – Scones are typically the standard when it comes to afternoon tea, and these scones did not disappoint. They were nice and buttery, matching perfectly with the jam and clotted cream. As my cousin suggested I ate some of them as palate cleansers in between rich dishes.
- Raspberry Cheesecake – This was my probably my favorite item after the scones. It was rich without being too tense and the raspberry gave the small slice of cheesecake a nice fruity tartness to cut the richness of the dish.
There were a number of other items as you can see from the picture, but all in all I was very pleased with most of the items. Service, however, left a little bit to be desired as it took a while for our tea and coffee to get refilled. Regardless, my cousin and I enjoyed catching up while partaking in delicious afternoon tea.
Cantonese Barbecue (燒味)
Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝)
G/F, 34-38 Stanley Street
Central, Hong Kong
After Cha Chaan Tengs and Dim Sum, probably the next most ubiquitous type of restaurant in Hong Kong is one that serves Cantonese barbecue. In nearly every major street with a mom and pop restaurant, usually at least one serves Chinese barbecue. You can usually tell them apart by the fact that they hang roast ducks, roast pork, and barbeque pork near the front windows. If you have been in any Chinatown of a major American city, you have probably walked past and/or seen some of these restaurants too. Of all the Cantonese barbecue places in Hong Kong, one of the most well known is Yat Lok. Specifically, Yat Lok is famous for its roast goose, which many order in drumstick form served atop a noodle soup with rice noodles. Given its reputation, I decided to spend a dinner there and ordered the following:
- Roast Goose Rice (燒鵝飯) – I generally prefer roast meats over rice so I decided to order a roast goose rice plate instead of a roast goose noodle soup. The first few bites had extra crispy skin but little meat and I almost became really disappointed. However as I ate other slices I truly understood why this roast goose is highly rated – for most of the slices the skin was nice and crispy while the meat was perfect and moist.
- Water Spinach/Ong Choy With Fermented Tofu (腐乳蕹菜)- One of my favorite childhood dishes was also one of the simplest that my mom cooked – Ong choy with fermented tofu. This time Yat Lok perfectly blanched the greens to be cooked, yet a little crispy with a dollop of fermented tofu sauce on the side. Once dipped, the ong choy was a wonderful balance of freshness, saltiness, and a little spice.
As a side note, the po po (婆婆), or elderly lady/grandmother, that was the cashier chastised me when I paid. Why? I had unconsciously brought in a Starbucks drink the the restaurant which was seen as a side of arrogance and rudeness. Since Starbucks is considered a luxury item, by bringing in that drink I was considered snobby as if I didn’t want to drink the drinks they served. In fact, they do serve a pretty good milk tea, which is what I should have ordered instead.
Ching Ching Dessert (晶晶甜品)
81A Electric Rd
Tin Hau, Hong Kong
I’ve talked a lot about savory items, but like many food cultures, there are a number of sweets for dessert too. So after dinner at Goldfinch, my cousin took me to Tin Hau for some dessert. Tin Hau, which is a neighborhood on the opposite side of Victoria Park from Causeway Bay, is apparently home to many favorite local dessert shops, most of them along Electric Road. I didn’t know whether Ching Ching was the best or most well known, but I trusted my cousin’s judgement and browsed through the menu of a number of childhood favorite desserts. In the end I got:
- Mango Pudding (芒果布丁) – I loved eating mango pudding as a child and this version outranked them by far. Not only could you taste the fresh mango in the pudding, but there were soft dices of mango in the pudding itself making a very light yet decadent dessert.
- Silken Tofu with Ginger Syrup (豆腐花) – This dessert, made with hot silken tofu and drizzled with a sweet ginger syrup, was my mom’s favorite sweet treat. In the United States is hard to get a good version as the tofu is often brittle or the syrup is not quite right either in amount or flavor. This version was practically perfect with silken tofu that stayed intact and a syrup that added a slightly sweet flavor without overpowering.
Now there are many other desserts on the menu, including grass jelly and almond “tofu” jelly, but given the quality, I feel like they might be all good. Granted, having never lived in Hong Kong I might be missing some of the nuances that might further distinguish one place from another.
As I mentioned before, I wish I could have eaten more. These three blog posts are only a glimpse to the vast food culture of Hong Kong. If I was to make a metaphor, my food experience in Hong Kong was like eating a few morsels of dim sum – enough to have me satisfied, but so tasty it keeps me hungering for more. In fact, as I write right now, I am saving up money and room in my stomach again so I can take another trip to the Fragrant Harbor again.