Hong Kong: Food – Top 3

Everyone who knows me, knows that food is a giant part of my life. It’s the main reason I won’t be on the cover of men’s health anytime soon, but you know, I can live with that. Hong Kong has a rich culinary history, starting with the local Cantonese cuisine, the food brought in by the British, to the food of the Imperial Chinese cooks who fled the Boxer Rebellion in the 1920s. While the Michelin guide hasn’t come to Australia (we have Chefs Hats anyway), it has gone to Asia, and the most amazing thing I found is that some of the places I liked going were Michelin starred restaurants. And I simply went there for great food at under AUD $20 a head. So here are the top three places you really should visit when you’re in Hong Kong if you want some amazing food.

1)      Tim Ho Wan – Central, IFC Mall.

Baked BBQ Pork Buns Pineapple Bun style. Probably the most outstanding dish on the menu. Or the only outstanding dish on the menu according to some.

Baked BBQ Pork Buns Pineapple Bun style. Probably the most outstanding dish on the menu. Or the only outstanding dish on the menu according to some. Photo by Daniel Ang. I was too busy eating to take one. Whoops!

Tim Ho Wan is a place I first visited when it was a tiny hole in the wall in Yau Ma Tei on the mainland side of Kowloon. I think the official opening hours were somewhere around the 11 AM to 2PM and then 5PM to 10PM mark if what I read on the shop front was any indication. The gaggle of desperate people around the front suggested otherwise. Also the fact that we rocked up at one and were told we could be waiting two hours for a table. We got in about 45 minutes later, but that more or less set the scene for this Michelin starred dim sum restaurant. When you approach to get a table you’re handed a menu (English or Chinese) with a number scribbled down on it and you choose what food you want to order and in what quantity—personally I highly recommend the baked pork buns. If you’ve ever had a chicken pie at a good yum cha with its pastry soft, short and crumbling with that hint of a sugar crunch before biting into the creamy pie filling, it’s a bit like that, only with the sweet, sticky succulence of amazing BBQ pork on the inside. The restaurant has become a bit of a chain with a number of outlets, but the easiest to find is the one in Central, IFC mall. It’s where you go to access the in town check in for your flight out. There was still a forty minute wait for a table when I rocked up on Sunday, and we still sat at communal tables as the staff tried to squeeze everyone in. And the food still arrived piping hot and tasty about five minutes after we sat down. That’s what I call a la minute cooking. Expect to spend about $100 HKD per head if that, or approximately AUD $12-$15.

2)      Dim Dim Sum, G/F, 7 Tin Lok Lane

Another Dim Sum chain restaurant, Kris, Jared and I stumbled upon Dim Dim Sum after looking for something close to our hotel on TripAdvisor (they have an app—download it before you go). Apparently there’s one on the mainland side in Mong Kok, but the Wan Chai branch was a place I ended up going to twice, and the boys went a third time without me while I was catching up with family friends.

Rated in 2011 as one of Newsweek’s top 101 places to eat in the world, DimDim Sum certainly lives up to the hype. As something of a tourist magnet, the staff are trilingual and there are menus in English. They operate much on the same principle as Tim Ho Ran—they hand you order forms and pencils and you indicate a quantity of what you want to eat—but are a bit less popular, although I’m not sure why. DimDim Sum are a bit more adventurous with their food, and you’ll find Xiao Long Bao with black truffle (Xiao Long Bao are the round dumplings that have hot soup inside of them in addition to the meaty filling) and piggy custard buns, which are awesome, but in my experience the custard inside tends to split when steamed, so I highly recommend the rice noodle rolls, or Cheung Fan, which is sheets of rice noodle wrapped around a filling of pork, beef, prawn or something similar and then steamed. It’s one of my favourites and it’s gluten free, so good for celiacs like Jared. Also get a plate of their stuffed peppers. And by pepper I mean big green chilli.

3)      Seafood on Cheung Chau Island

I never thought I'd ever see these on the menu anywhere. But they're very tasty. Even if tourists need scissors to open them up.

I never thought I’d ever see these on the menu anywhere. But they’re very tasty. Even if tourists need scissors to open them up.

Hong Kong is famous for its seafood. And everyone knows that when you go to Hong Kong, you go to Lamma Island for a seafood meal. Only if you really want to go for a good seafood meal, you bypass the tourist trap that is Lamma Island, and hop on the ferry to Cheung Chau. Get the Mantis shrimp–you know, the creature that strikes with the force of a .22 calibre bullet when it attacks and can break aquariums. Actually, the frequently do. They taste like big, very sweet and juicy shrimp, and I highly recommend them. There are two ferries that go to Cheung Chau, a cheaper ‘slow’ ferry with seats open to the possibly humid air and a deluxe area up top with tables and air conditioning, and a fast ferry with air conditioned seating and no tables. I’d suggest going with whatever is leaving next, as they’re not as frequent as the trains, but if you catch the slow ferry, pay a bit more for the deluxe seating and bring a travel game. Cards against Humanity is my pick, but that’s just me.



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