At first sight, Central may seem a bit stiff with all its banks and luxury retail, but even the suits need some dai pai dong (street hawker) action to kickstart the morning. Yue Hing (Shop 82, Stanley St, Central) is famous for its chaan daan ji – sandwiches filled with scrambled egg, lettuce, peanut butter and luncheon meat. The ingredients are about as un-Chinese as they get, but when they’re combined, few things say “Hong Kong” like this.
With several baristas taking away trophies at the World Barista Championships, Hong Kong’s specialty coffee industry is on the rise. Caffeine connoisseurs should head to Cupping Room (Shop LG, The Centre Mark, 287-299 Queen’s Rd Central; enter on Cleverly St; facebook.com/CuppingRoomHK). Speak to the baristas and you’ll be amazed by their knowledge and dedication to the humble coffee bean.
Go a little earlier than the lunch rush (which starts at around 12.30pm) to get some of the city’s best roast goose at Yat Lok (G/F, 34-38 Stanley St, Central). This is a classic Cantonese-style barbecue shop, so they make roast goose and pork, and chicken poached in soy sauce too. Try a plate of rice with sheung ping (two choices of barbecued meats) – I’d go for roast goose with char siu, or barbecued pork glazed in malt sugar.
Ask a local if there’s a food that epitomizes Hong Kong, and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you it’s an egg tart. Inspired by the British custard tart, this palm-sized pastry has a sweet, jiggly, golden yellow center of soft-set custard, and is encased in either puff pastry or a buttery piecrust. Honolulu Coffee Shop (176-178 Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai), is known for its impossibly airy, flaky layers of puff pastry. Although you can buy some for takeaway, I’d suggest sitting in the classic cha chaan teng (a local café, or diner) and nibbling on it with some Hong Kong-style milk tea on the side.
It’s unconventional to eat dim sum for dinner (it’s usually eaten for breakfast or lunch), and it was traditionally only served in larger restaurants. But in recent years, small, independent dim sum-only eateries like Dim Sum Square (G/F, Fu Fai Commercial Centre, 27 Hillier St, Sheung Wan) have been amazingly popular. They make each little plate or basket to order, and unlike in large restaurants where you’d feel obliged to order more, you’ll find plenty of diners ordering just a plate of rice paper rolls here, or a basket of beef balls there. Don’t miss the baked barbecued pork bun – the sweet, crisp, crumbly topping and savory filling make for a rollercoaster of contrasting textures and flavors.
The philosophy behind Chinese medicine means that locals are constantly trying to improve their health through food – even dessert. Cong Sao (G/F, 11 Yiu Wa St, Causeway Bay) serves up thick, luscious bowls of sweet soups, made with ingredients like freshly ground black sesame, almond milk and egg white.
For a tipple or two…
Have some respite from the intensely busy markets and streets of Mong Kok with a locally-brewed craft beer at TAP: The Ale Project (15 Hak Po St, Mong Kok; thealeproject.com). There’s a great range of beers on tap, including one of the city’s most successful craft beer companies of late – Young Master Ales.
If you’re back on Hong Kong Island, there are plenty of watering holes serving up carefully crafted libations. The Woods (L/G, 17 Hollywood Rd, Central; thewoods.hk) is a hip, subterranean den for inventive twists like the Oak Whisky Sour, made with French oak-infused rye and maple syrup.
Also read: 9 unique experiences to try in Hong Kong
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Smile magazine.