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Hong Kong – the food maxims

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

Sijie private kitchen, Hong Kong

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.

Sijie private kitchen, Hong Kong

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.

Sijie private kitchen, Hong Kong

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

Central Street dai pai dong, Hong Kong

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.

Central dai pai dong, Hong Kong

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.

Central Street dai pai dong, Hong Kong

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

Fa Zue Jie private kitchen, Hong Kong

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.

Fa Zue Jie private kitchen, Hong Kong

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.

Fa Zue Jie private kitchen, Hong Kong

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.

Nam Kee restaurant, Central, Hong Kong

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

Manor restaurant, Hong Kong

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.

Manor restaurant, Hong Kong

Recommendation: Manor Seafood Restaurant, Shop F-G, 440 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong (+852 2836 9999)

10 Comments

  1. LOVE this post and i am SOOOO glad you got to try Nam Kee – a definite must!
    great round up of food here Tom… havent been to Manor yet but will definitely go there when we are back in HK!

    • Man Nam Kee was freaking awesome. I can’t believe I didn’t eat there before. Jen scared me off with those stories about cockroaches. I would still eat there even if there were.

  2. Goddamn! I’m envious of your time there all over again (not to mention Seoul). The food here, although often transitory, is pretty damn good so long as you stick to the smaller, packed places. Follow the locals is always a good rule.

    • Grin – well you have to do another trip out to Asia. If it wasnt for wedding bankruptcy the plan this year was to cycle around southern Japan. Oh well, next year!

  3. Awesome maxims and pictures. My grandma is from the Sichuan province so the first maxim is super familiar to me!

  4. “Hong Kong is not China and the locals are damn proud of this.” Haha yes, you totally nailed that. So sad to have missed that meal at Manor. And you know, Lynn’s FZJ review has done wonders for the place – no one cared (myself included) when it was written about in a local mag last year.

    • It is a great when a review can do that – kickstart the recognition of a great place. I just hope that more and more of this style of restaurant come along. I still can’t quite work out how they got started but I am damn glad they did.

  5. I like your post. Research and reading some of the Hong Kong blogs and have a chat on Twitter is a brilliant idea. I’m glad you’ve visited Nam Kee. I love their food. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I’d like to find out more? I’d love to find out more details.

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