Everyone travels for a different reason, but among Singaporeans, heading abroad usually goes hand-in-hand with hunting for great eats. Unless you’re familiar with the local blogosphere in the country you’re visiting, trawling the Internet for recommendations often leaves one with the same handful of locations to try. And if you’re on it, chances are at least two dozen other tourists will be too, especially if it’s a destination like Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is a favoured holiday spot amongst Singaporeans, thanks to its convenience, rich food and shopping options at an array of price points, and generally vibrant city. It’s a mecca for Cantonese food, with dining hotspots like Australian Dairy Co., Kam’s Roast Goose, Tim Ho Wan, and a smattering of Michelin-starred restaurants ranking high on articles online. To really experience the wealth of Hong Kong’s food culture, one should seek out its hidden gems, especially those with a higher ratio of locals to tourists.
On my recent trip, a friend of mine, currently based there, compiled an extensive itinerary for our week together. Food was a recurring — if not the only — theme for the trip. Through our stints around the city, we chanced upon some pretty great hidden food gems that weren’t just other-worldly levels of delicious, but budget-friendly too.
Here’s our top 5 picks, for you to bookmark for your next trip to Hong Kong. Just be prepared to walk a fair bit to get to each place. (On the bright side, this helps keep the calories off.)
(Feature photo: Street Grub Everyday. Cover photo: Never Too Sweet. All photos in the post credited to the author unless stated otherwise.)
- One Dim Sum previously held a Michelin star, beckoning a storm of attention in its direction that has since died down. Despite this, its quality remains on par with some of the best dim sum joints throughout the country — for a fraction of the price. Its char siew buns should be at the top of your order list. Glazed with sugar, and airy like a pillow, these picture-perfect buns house thick morsels of pork glazed in sweet and smoky barbecue sauce. Accompany it with its renditions of usual dim sum fare, such as the beef balls that put Tim Ho Wan’s to shame.
Shop 1 & 2, G/F, Kenwood Mansion, 15 Playing Field Road, Prince Edward
If you adore coconut desserts, 甜心 (tian ru xin) Dessert is the place to go. Skip past its Asian sweet treats and waffles in favour of its menu’s coconut section, where house-made coconut water agar jelly is topped with all manner of tropical fruit favourites — be it durian, mango, or more coconut. Those that come served in coconut bowls with Japanese caramel pudding may sound like an overly sugary nightmare, but the mellow, natural flavour of the coconut agar tempers any potential for the dessert being cloying.
Shop L8F, G/F, Shatin Lucky Plaza, 1-15 Wang Pok Street, Sha Tin
Dumpling and beef noodles are staples to eat when going to Hong Kong, but Sun Kee’s cheese noodles are worth going the extra mile for. The dish looks deceptively simple — plain Maggi noodles topped with cheese sauce and slices of pork jowl. But mix them together and you get a creamy, meaty mix of meat and sauce that’s any savoury lover’s dream come true. There are other options on the menu, but the pork jowl is Sun Kee’s crowning jewel.
Champagne Court, Kimberley Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Going to Hong Kong to eat sushi may seem reductive, but the burgeoning presence of Japanese food there makes it a promising avenue to explore. Hidden in a corner of shopper’s haven, Argyle Centre, is a hand and maki roll stall called 築卷 (zhu jian) that serves extremely generous, fresh portions for ridiculously affordable prices. Get a handroll packed with anything from uni to sashimi for less than S$8, and satiate yourself as you continue to shop.
Shop F123A, 1/F, Argyle Centre, 688 Nathan Road, Mong Kok
Cha chaan tengs (tea restaurants) are everywhere in the city. Many provide an authentically local dining experience, while others take this a step further by offering innovative dishes and novel décor. Café Matchbox is one such place, dominating a back alley in Causeway Bay with its cool, Hong Kong diner-style interiors and a menu packed with interesting bites. If you’re one that enjoys deviating from the traditional, the menu features snacks such as black sesame butter toast — a unique take on thick toast with peanut butter — or chicken pot pie in pea soup. Come during summer, and you might even get to play a couple of rounds on the ping pong table outdoors.
2 Sun Wui Road, Causeway Bay