From Formica tables and brightly coloured plastic chairs to fancy linens and silverware –Hong Kong’s diverse and mouth-watering cuisine is irresistible.
Dai pai dongs are Hong Kong’s most archetypal eateries and a one-of-a-kind cultural experience. Dai pai dong translates to ‘stall with big license plate’, which refers to the non-renewable licenses handed out by the government to embattled families after World War II, giving them permission to run hawkerstyle food stalls in order to make a living.
Once there were hundreds of these stalls occupying almost every street corner across the city. Today, there are only around 30 left, making them a disappearing culinary institution. Serving staples such as milk tea, dumpling soup and fried rice, these open-air kitchens are still typically found on the side of the road or down laneways. Offering some of the best and cheapest eats in the city, these vendors cook from generations-old recipes, but just as often, whip up western dishes using local ingredients and/or techniques to create something that is familiar yet very different.
While dai pai dongs are an essential element in Hong Kong’s culture and culinary scene, the city also attracts some of the world’s best chefs and restaurateurs, all of whom contribute to a highly regarded dining scene. This is evident from the presence of more than 60 Michelin-starred restaurants found across the city and surrounds.
Travellers can begin their discovery of some of the world’s finest restaurants in Hong Kong by following the latest edition of the Michelin Guide, or by trying one of the popular foodie tours, which serve up a wide range of culinary experiences, with a few history facts and figures thrown in for good measure.
If you’re all about being guided by your tastebuds, here are a few ideas to get you started.
For an excursion that combines modern and traditional cuisine, take a walking tour of Old Town Central by following the guidebook at your own leisure. Or try the Hong Kong for Foodies four-day itinerary, where you’ll not only savour a range of dishes across Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, but also gain an insight into some of the lesser known neighbourhoods.
Hong Kong staples include dim sum, congee, roast meats and noodles, but there are plenty of weird and wonderful dishes for you to try, too, such as curry fish balls, snake soup and century egg, to name a few.
Specialty foodie markets
If you’re a true foodie at heart, head to the local food markets to eat like the locals. Favourites include Chun Yeung Street at North Point and Dried Seafood Street and Tonic Food Street at Sheung Wan, both on Hong Kong Island; the wet markets Sai Kung Seafood Street at Sai Kung in the New Territories; one of Hong Kong’s oldest thoroughfares, Shanghai Street at Yau Ma Tei in Kowloon; and the Local Specialty Market at Tai O on Lantau Island.
Book an inspirational cooking class and take home a new skill to share with your family and friends. Learn to master the wok, whip up some dim sum or identify your spices with lessons to suit every palate.
With more than 14,000 restaurants, Hong Kong is one of the world’s pre-eminent dining destinations, and culinary discoveries can be made just about anywhere in the city. However, these are the neighbourhoods where food is a major drawcard.
Hong Kong Island
Soho East (Sai Wan Ho)
Think waterfront pubs, cafes, restaurants in a relaxed atmosphere as patrons dine alfresco and local residents walk and practise Tai Chi along the waterfront.
South of Hollywood Road, you’ll find the wining, dining, swanky nightlife side of Central. Here, upmarket bars and exotic restaurants are set amongst fashion boutiques, art galleries and antiques shops in historic and narrow streets.
Starstreet Precinct (Wan Chai)
What used to be home to Hong Kong Electric’s first power plant is now a fashionable dining neighbourhood with design-driven lifestyle stores.
Stanley Main Street
Visit Stanley Market and enjoy alfresco seaside dining along the main street of a small fishing village. The food is international, the restaurants are laidback, and the South China Sea views are amazing.
The East (Wan Chai)
The epitome of Hong Kong’s fusion characteristics which seamlessly blends ancient Chinese architecture with Western colonial buildings. Here you’ll find Asian and international cuisine, quirky antiques shops and luxury boutiques.
Tsim Sha Tsui East
A strip of bars, restaurants, alfresco dining, cafés and nearby five-star hotels ensure something to suit every taste.
Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
A cosmopolitan collection of bars and restaurants offer a welcome respite from teeming Tsim Sha Tsui, European, Chinese and Asian-inspire cuisine.
Knutsford Terrace & Observatory Court
Tsim Sha Tsui may be a little hectic for some, but at Knutsford Terrace, the only thing hectic is the choice of more than 30 restaurants with cuisines spanning the globe.
Sham Shui Po
Go where the locals go for a great mix of adventurous morsels, affordable meals, authentic fare and old favourites.
From luxury hotels to cha chaan teng classics, there’s an afternoon tea to suit every occasion and budget. Favourites include the Lobby Lounge at Hong Kong Inter-Continental Hotel and The Peninsula, both in Tsim Sha Tsui; Tiffin at Grand Hyatt, Wan Chai; Mandarin Oriental, and The Lounge at Four Seasons, in Central, and Tea Saloon by AnotherFineDay just off the Mid-Level Escalator, also in Central.
Restaurants with a view
Why not pair your meal with a magnificent view? Hong Kong is famous for restaurants featuring stunning vistas. You’ll have amazing views of Central and a choice of drinking and dining options at SEVVA, while expansive views of Hong Kong’s skyline can be seen through the floor to ceiling windows at Hutong. Book a table for around 7.30pm to watch the nightly performance of the light and sound show, A Symphony of Lights. The best views of Victoria Harbour can be seen from 101 floors up at Le 39V and for ocean views with an eclectic menu, dine alfresco at The Pulse on Repulse Bay.
Download a list of Hong Kong’s most highly awarded restaurants.