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Feast your eyes on a mind-bending and mouthwatering cuisine quite like no other with these Hong Kong foods, and see for yourself why this vibrant island region is known as “Gourmet Paradise” by foodies from all over the world.
An eclectic meld of Cantonese, British, Western, Southeast Asian, and many non-Cantonese Chinese cuisines, the dishes of Hong Kong bring flavor fusions and colorful compositions to the fold unlike any other cuisine in the world.
Keep your hand ready to catch your jaw from dropping as you read about these 23 of Hong Kong’s most popular, beloved, and delicious dishes.
Hong Kong Food
Hong Kong Food Influenced by the West
1 – Hong Kong-Style Milk Tea（港式奶茶）
Hong Kong-style Milk Tea is the perfect gastronomic representation of Hong Kong culture, being the perfect blend of British tea-drinking customs and the rich history of tea in China.
The traditional way of drinking tea in China is straight, without any milk or sugar. It was only under British rule that the people of Hong Kong began to adopt many British eating habits, including adding milk to tea.
The drink combines evaporated milk and strong black tea to give it a smooth and rich flavor and is now a staple drink that can be found in most casual dining restaurants across Hong Kong.
2 – Yin Yeung（鴛鴦）
Yin Yeung (or Yuenyeung) is a beverage that was born in the kitchen of a Hong Kong diner. It is a drink that combines equal parts Hong Kong-Style Milk Tea with coffee, making it stronger and more caffeinated than the former while still retaining the sweetness and fragrance of the latter.
In Cantonese, the word ‘Yin Yeung’ (鴛鴦) is used to describe two dissimilar items that unexpectedly complement each other. While this term is often used to refer to couples, it’s used to describe how the unlikely combination of coffee and milk tea makes the perfect midday drink.
3 – Hong Kong-Style French Toast（港式西多士）
Introduced into the Hong Kong food scene during British rule around the 1950’s, chefs have innovated the original recipe over the years to make it a dish unique to the island.
Hong Kong-style French Toast is made by spreading butter and kaya jam on two slices of milk bread, dipping it in egg, and panfrying it in oil. It is then served with condensed milk and syrup drizzled on top.
This is a must-order breakfast item when you find yourself in a Hong Kong cafe.
4 – Hong-Kong-Style Borscht（羅宋湯）
Borscht was brought to Hong Kong by Russian immigrants fleeing Russia during World War II. Unlike traditional Russian, Ukrainian, and Eastern European Borscht, the immigrants that made their way to Hong Kong had to adapt the traditional recipe to use readily available ingredients.
Because beets are not native to Hong Kong, chefs opted to rely on tomatoes instead. Also, sour cream is not commonly used in Hong Kong and Chinese dishes, so it is omitted completely.
This is why Hong Kong Russian Borscht is a brighter red compared to the traditional borscht, which is more magenta in color.
Related: Hearty Borsch Recipe (Eastern European Sour Soup to Feed the Whole Family)
5 – Baked Pork Chop Rice（焗豬扒飯）
Baked Pork Chop Rice is a fan-favorite dish. It is considered ‘western food’ by many Hong Kong people because it requires baking, and baking as a cooking method isn’t commonly used in traditional Chinese cuisines. The inclusion of cheese also makes this a Western dish.
This casserole dish is prepared by laying fried pork chops on a bed of cooked rice, ladling tomato sauce over it, and finally topping it off with parmesan cheese. It is then placed into an oven to be baked at high heat to melt the cheese.
Hong Kong Food Unique to the Region
6 – Bubble Waffle（雞蛋仔）
This street vendor snack is probably one of the most well-known Hong Kong snacks. You can often find these being sold on the side of the streets rather than inside restaurants. Because these are sold on the street, bubble waffles are commonly eaten by hand.
Bubble waffles are made by pouring egg batter into a round waffle mold, giving it that ‘bubbly’ appearance. Fun fact: in Cantonese, this Bubble Waffle is literally known as “Mini Chicken Eggs” because the round dough pockets look like little eggs.
7 – Pineapple Bun（菠蘿包）
Pineapple Buns are considered Hong Kong’s Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Hong Kong government. Unfortunately for pineapple lovers, this pastry has nothing to do with pineapples at all.
Bread was introduced into Hong Kong under British rule. However, at the time, the people of Hong Kong found that plain bread tasted too bland. The solution for this was to add a cookie-like pastry on top of the bread dough and bake them together. This combination was perfect for the palate of Hong Kong people, and thus, the Pineapple Bun was born.
The reason for this dish to be named Pineapple Bun is because the cookie portion of this bun has somewhat of a pineapple-like appearance.
8 – Egg Tarts（蛋撻）
Probably the most emblematic representation of Hong Kong gastronomy, egg tarts are a must-try if you find yourself in Hong Kong.
Traditionally, there are two different types of egg tarts, split based on the tart shell: butter and meringue. The butter shell is a harder, cookie-like shell, whereas the meringue shell has a fluffy, flaky texture.
The filling is the same between the two shells. In recent years, there has been a push to innovate and modernize egg tarts by introducing new fillings, such as matcha, cream cheese, and strawberry.
9 – Swiss Chicken Wings （瑞士雞翼）
Swiss Chicken Wings are prepared by boiling chicken wings in a vat of soy sauce and sugar, giving the wings a savory-sweet taste.
Contrary to what its name might suggest, the origin of Swiss Chicken Wings has nothing to do with Switzerland or the Swiss people. While the exact origins are unknown, the urban legend states that an English-speaking tourist was telling the chef that the wings were very sweet, but the chef mistook ‘sweet’ for ‘Swiss,’ and the name has stuck ever since!
10 – Hong Kong-Style Hot Pot（港式火鍋）
While Hot Pot is a staple dish of many Asian cuisines, it makes use of Hong Kong’s agricultural landscape, which is unique to the island chain by including different seafood. You can often find many Hong Kong people buying crabs, shrimp, oysters, and fish balls to eat in their hotpot.
Hot pot is often eaten in the winter because while Hong Kong has a sub-tropical climate, many homes do not have central heating and can get very cold even if the winters are short.
11 – Typhoon Shelter Fried Crab (避風塘炒蟹)
Traditionally, Hong Kong was a fishing port with many fishermen and women. The chain of islands is prone to typhoons, and these fishermen and women would often need to dock for safety and wait for the typhoon to pass.
The Typhoon Shelter Fried Crab was created by the fishermen and women who would cook the crabs they harvested that day by deep-frying them with scallion, chili, and garlic.
While this dish was originally considered to be a ‘poor person’s dish,’ it made its way over to the mainland of Hong Kong where it is now well-loved and hugely popular.
12 – Sampan Congee（艇仔粥）
Sampan Congee is unique in that it originated from the Tanka people. The Tanka people are one of the three indigenous ethnic groups of Hong Kong and were known for living their entire lives on Sampan boats, which is where the name Sampan Congee comes from.
Sampan Congee is a savory rice porridge dish that is cooked with fish balls and other fresh seafood caught during the day and is topped with peanuts and scallions.
13 – Curry Fish Balls（咖喱魚蛋）
This streetside snack is a favorite for many young students, who would often find themselves eating this snack on the way home from school or extracurricular classes.
Curry itself isn’t a type of traditional Hong Kong dish. However, while under British rule, many Indian nationals were also brought over to Hong Kong to assist the ruling class. This migration also brought over many traditional Indian dishes, including curry.
The people of Hong Kong enjoyed the taste of curry and decided to make it their own by adding fish balls to curry, and thus Curry Fish Balls were created.
14 – Deuk Deuk Tong（啄啄糖）
Deuk Deuk Tong is a confectionery that is created by boiling maltose and letting it cool rapidly to harden it. Street vendors then chip away at it so that this candy can be eaten in bite-size pieces. The name is derived from the tapping sound of the small hammer used.
This confectionery used to be a lot more common in the past when street vendors were more prevalent. However, as regulations on food safety became stricter, the number of street vendors decreased to the point where it is now hard to find a vendor selling Deuk Deuk Tong. Hence, if you do find, be sure to try it.
15 – Cart Noodles（車仔麵）
Another Hong Kong street food specialty, cart noodles, traditionally, were served by vendors pushing a cart full of noodles and toppings, as the name suggests.
Customers would then come and pick the toppings of their choice based on what the vendor had available on a given day. This would typically be rice noodles and other seafood toppings.
Nowadays, like many traditional street foods, cart noodles were met with pushback from food safety regulators, and vendors either stopped selling altogether or moved into brick-and-mortar shops with an even greater selection of toppings and noodles.
16 – Siu Mei（燒味）
Siu Mei is also known as Hong Kong Style Barbeque to most people. Common meats that are barbequed are chicken, goose, duck, and pig. You’ve probably seen them hanging inside a Chinese restaurant next to the window.
While Siu Mei is typically served on a bed of rice with a side of vegetables, you can also find the dish in other Hong Kong food as well, mainly in dim sum dishes like Barbeque Pork Buns or Siu Mai.
Hong Kong Food with Chinese Influence
17 – Wonton Noodles（雲吞麵）
Wonton noodles originated in China, but today are more of a mainstay in the cultural landscape of Hong Kong. This dish was brought over to Hong Kong by Chinese people during the Cultural Revolution.
Wonton noodles traditionally is a dish of egg noodles and seafood. In fact, even the wonton wrapper is made from egg noodles as well, wrapping a fresh shrimp in the center and using fish stock as a soup base.
18 – Tofu Pudding（豆腐花）
Tofu Pudding is a dessert that is often eaten in the summertime. The coolness of the tofu helps lower your body temperature and hits the spot in the middle of a summer heatwave.
While you will be able to find this dish across mainland China or in countries with large Chinese communities, Tofu Pudding in Hong Kong is unique in that it is only eaten as a sweet snack by Hong Kong people. It is very uncommon to eat it as a savory dish, whereas it is more common to see Tofu Pudding eaten as a savory snack everywhere else.
19 – Cantonese Rice Cakes（茶果）
Cantonese Rice Cakes are similar to Japanese mochi. The cake is made of gluttonous rice with a savory filling, usually peanuts or red beans, wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed.
This confectionary is served on steamed bamboo leaves with tea on the side, which is why the literal translation of the Cantonese Rice Cakes is known as ‘Tea Sweets.’ You’ll be able to find this snack more commonly on the outer islands of Hong Kong.
20 – Wife Cakes（老婆餅）
Another popular traditional Hong Kong pastry, wife cakes are flat, round pastries with a sweet winter melon paste filling and a flaky outer crust.
There are many stories involving the origin of this confectionary, but all of them revolve around a man creating this snack to impress his wife. This cake is still found in many Hong Kong bakeries and restaurants.
21 – Clay Pot Rice （煲仔飯）
Clay Pot Rice is a casserole dish that is cooked using a traditional Chinese clay pot along with different types of protein, often Cantonese sausage or marinated beef, and vegetables. The clay pot allows for the rice to cook faster and produces a fragrant scent.
The earliest recorded evidence of Clay Pot Rice dates back two thousand years ago. To this day, you’ll still be able to find this dish served as it was traditionally prepared in specialty shops or in restaurants.
22 – 24 Flavors（廿四味）
When the weather gets too hot or when you find yourself eating too many heaty foods, a cup of 24 Flavors is just what you need.
24 Flavors is a traditional Chinese herbal tea that contains 24 herbs. There’s no set recipe for this drink, with the only requirement being that 24 herbs, give or take, are used in the tea.
The herbs used are boiled for several hours, giving the tea its renowned deep brown-black color. Depending on which herbs are used, the tea’s taste can be smoother or bitter, but the drink is always nourishing and filling.
23 – Rice Pudding（砵仔糕)
Hailing from the Chinese province of Taishan, this chewy confectionary was brought over to Hong Kong as part of the wave of immigration during the Cultural Revolution.
Rice Pudding is a sweet dessert made of brown sugar and gluttonous rice, steamed in a small bowl and topped with red beans. It is served on a long stick to make it easier to hold.
Nowadays, many shops have tried to modernize this snack by creating new flavors, such as strawberry, matcha, and banana.
Hong Kong Food Summary
When visiting Hong Kong, I urge you to put trying foods, visiting food markets, and taking street tours very high up on your agenda.
The foods of Hong Kong are like nothing else on this planet. They bring together a staggering array of flavors, combinations, and influences, enchanting with their aromas, captivating with their appearance, and singing to stomachs and souls across the island with their sumptuous flavors. I do hope you find a special place in your heart for all these dishes!
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Contributor: Sharleen Kwok is a copywriter with a wealth of knowledge about Hong Kong cuisine and culture, having grown up on the islands.
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