One of the most common questions I get from people is where they should eat in Hong Kong. To which I am tempted to answer “read the blog“. However, to be honest it isn’t that simple as you might make a mistake in reading my Hong Kong reviews that you should be eating Western food or eating in expensive restaurants and that is a stupid idea.
So this is a guide I used to prepare before going to Hong Kong for a week. I have called it the food maxims in a nod to what all Hong Kong locals will recognise is one of the major dining conglomerates in Hong Kong which still churn out Chinese food better than anywhere you could get in London: Maxims.
Maxim 1 – eat Asian not Western
One thing I did a lot in Hong Kong was write about 3* Michelin restaurants and talk about Western food and Western ingredients. That was because it was easy for me and didn’t show up my ignorance of Chinese ingredients and techniques. If you read this blog it will also probably be in your comfort zone as people speak English and there are no usual textures or bits of animals.
However, what I really ate on a day to day basis and what you must eat if you visit Hong Kong is Asian – and mainly Chinese – food in all its varieties. This is where the joy is. And the best thing is that it comes nearly for free. Non-Western food costs nothing in Hong Kong. My suggestion is Sijie private kitchen which is a Sichuan place in Wan Chai. It is delapidated, the decor is awful but the food… wow. And the atmosphere is made by its cheapness and the generous genius of the cook. The same cook who comes out everytime I come and challenges me and every loud man to a beer (can) drinking competition and roundly thrashes us all.
Recommendation:Sijie private kitchen, Shop 289, 2/F, Ko Wah Building, 285-291 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong (+852 2 2250)
Maxim 2 – eat Hong Kong style food
Hong Kong is not China and the locals are damn proud of this. I am not going to get involved in the cultural differences and rights and wrongs but what is really important is that it means that Hong Kong has a distinct type of food. It is different from Cantonese food and the glory of fresh seafood done with the perfection of technique.
Instead it is the corruption, the filth-isation of Chinese food with post World War British ingredients like condensed milk and cheap butter. It is milk tea (black tea with evaporated milk or condensed milk) and breakfast sandwiches in dai pai dongs. It is unhealth to the n-th degree and it is delicious. My favourite place is Yue Hing in the Central dai pai dong strip who do breakfast sandwiches every morning from early till 11:00ish. Toast, fresh steamed eggs, lettuce and some refried left over meat from the night before. Glory be it is even better than a full English breakfast which is sacrilege for an English man to say.
Recommendation: Yue Hing, Shop 15, Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong
Maxim 3 – read some of the Hong Kong blogs and have a chat on Twitter
Hong Kong is a rapidly moving place. Some of the places I have recommended or reviewed will be there until they turn off the lights on this planet as Hong Kong without them just couldn’t exist. However, the majority of restaurants in Hong Kong are gone in a year or less. They move, go bankrupt, change names or change chefs. Buildings go up and go down. Trends corrupt and disintegrate.
So what this means is that you need to do a bit of research. The great new success of this trip was Fa Zue Jie a private kitchen in LKF. It won’t be there next year. It was kindly tipped to me by the Editor of Asia Tatler Dining (@LynnFung) and has also been reviewed by Growing Boy and EdEats. I also highly recommend having a look at e_ting’s HK list here.
Recommendation: Fa Zue Jie private kitchen, 1st Floor, 20A D’Aguilar Street,Central, Hong Kong (+852 3487 1715)
Maxim 4 – eat cheap
Hong Kong might now be the land of diamond dusted Bentleys with personalised number plates but the average salary remains well under US$15,000 per year and that bulk of the population needs to eat and are damn fussy about food.
Thanks to Mocha and GastronomousAnon I went for a truly cheap meal at Nam Kee in Central which cost about the same price as a Big Mac. It was also the best thing I ate in Hong Kong and was a bowl of spiced beef soupy thick rice noodles. To order it go to Mocha’s website (here) and print out the picture of the dish or cut and paste the Cantonese name.
Recommendation: Nam Kee, Stanley Street 66-72, Central, Hong Kong (+852 2576 8007)
Maxim 5 – get some friends
Hong Kong food like much of Asian food is communal. If you don’t have some friends with you you can’t order everything and you definitely can’t get the special dishes like whole roast pigs. So find as many people as you know and go to a restaurant like The Manor. Thanks to Gigi for organising who kindly ordered us an assault course of Cantonese food including 1 1/2 whole pigs and gum chin gai or gold coin chicken.
Recommendation: Manor Seafood Restaurant, Shop F-G, 440 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong (+852 2836 9999)