Hungry for Hong Kong

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Hungry for Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s roster of eclectic eateries rivals that of any city. For a true entrée into the city's culinary culture, venture into its beloved noodle houses and traditional cafés.

By Emily Chu, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by CSP_strippedpixel/age fotostock
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    Comfort Food on the Street
    Eating like a local means sampling a treat from a street vendor. In Hong Kong, the sweet, buttery aroma of gai dan jai, or bubble waffles, lures people of all ages to street stalls. When done right, the outside of the waffle is crisp and the spongy filling is quickly addictive. The sight (and smell) of fish balls, swimming in vats of curry sauce, is hard to resist; and brave souls can take bites of beef tripe and tendons. These cheap snacks, previously sold from carts, have become a convenient comfort food for many locals and are sold in kiosks and shops on busy street corners.
    Photo by CSP_strippedpixel/age fotostock
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    Exquisite Eats
    Its two Michelin stars give this chic space culinary clout that is enhanced by the elegant decor. With eye-catching art on the walls—as well as art talks, screenings, and temporary exhibits of international contemporary works—and a lovely garden terrace, Duddell's feels like an art collector’s private home, where you can enjoy a traditional Cantonese feast. For the only Italian restaurant outside of Italy to be graced with three Michelin stars, visit 8½ Otto e Mezzo. The osso buco betrays chef Umberto Bombana's northern Italian roots, and the lobster salad, served with osetra caviar and champagne dressing, shouldn't be missed.
    Photo courtesy of L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
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    Classic Hong Kong Meals
    Locals lead cosmopolitan lives, but their appetites never weaken for recipes reminiscent of old Hong Kong. Hong Kong–style cafés, or cha chaan teng, are beloved for their eclectic menus, offering casual Hong Kong dishes as well as Western meals prepared Hong Kong–style. Stop for quick and affordable staples such as fried noodles and baked pork chop rice. At the famed Tsui Wah Restaurant in Central, pair a beef brisket curry and rice with yeen yeung, a signature mixture of coffee and milk. For classic Hong Kong cuisine served nice and haute, head to Spring Moon, at the Peninsula Hotel, where you can enjoy your small bites in a stylized 1920s Shanghainese dining room.
    Photo by Emily Chu
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    Eating in Motion
    Fishing was historically a critical Hong Kong industry, and the seafood restaurants here are some of the most unique in the world. In Aberdeen Harbour, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant is particularly unforgettable. Book a table on the colorful roof deck for local grouper, abalone, and prawns, and admire the restaurant's neon reflection on the water. A novel way to combine great food with a classic city tour, the double-decker Crystal Bus rolls past Hong Kong’s most famous sites while you nibble dim sum prepared by One Dim Sum.
    Photo by Doug Hansen
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    Vegetarian Fare
    Traditional Buddhist vegetarian fare can be found throughout Hong Kong, where the religion is accorded much respect. Make a reservation for a table or for traditional floor seating at Pure Veggie House, and order from its famous 18 Luohans menu, where the dishes are based on Buddhist precepts. Combining traditional tea service and vegetarian dim sum in a colonial-era building, lovely LockCha Tea House serves pure unblended teas and veg dim sum, from steamed turnip cake to Korean cabbage rolls and stir-fry spinach noodles with vegetables. You can also find vegetarian fare at Buddhist sites in the city, like the restaurant at the Po Lin Monastery and the café tucked in peaceful Nan Lian Garden.
    Photo by Paolo Negri/age fotostock
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    Noodling Around
    Mak’s Noodle also claims to serve the city’s best wonton noodles. Visit both to make an informed vote for the city’s best bowl. Noodle houses are usually packed with customers, so prepare yourself for the possibility of sharing a table with strangers. But soothing bowls of tender beef brisket, broth, and rice noodles are best eaten in this convivial atmosphere. Against the backdrop of fun kung fu decor, Dragon Noodles Academy kicks up some seriously tasty noodles, including its signature lobster soup noodles—hand-pulled Lanzhou noodles served with chunks of Boston rock lobster.
    Photo courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board
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    Dim Sum
    A tableful of food shared in good company will touch the heart. That's what the name dim sum means in Cantonese, and for speakers of any language, it's a dining specialty comprising a multitude of dishes served in bite-size pieces. In just one sitting, fill your plate with piping-hot har gow shrimp dumplings, lotus paste sesame balls, and chicken feet. Visit retro-chic Lú Fēng on the Peak; the views are breathtaking when the skies are clear, and the dim sum is terrific. Some of the best dim sum in Hong Kong can be found in a 1950s Shanghai–style café with wooden booths and tile floors. Few call the restaurant by its long and somewhat odd name (Dim Sum The Art of Chinese Tidbits), instead calling it simply Happy Valley Dim Sum. 

    Photo courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board
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    Sundowners over Hong Kong
    Sightseeing doesn’t end at sundown. In fact, one of the best ways to appreciate Hong Kong’s skyline is from a seat at one of its elegant bars. Shoot up to the 118th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong to toast the city from Ozone, the highest bar in the world. Order a martini prepared by a master mixologist, and gaze down at the city's other mighty skyscrapers. Maybe it's only half as high up, but the views are still impressive from Café Gray Deluxe Bar on the 49th floor of the Upper House, one of Hong Kong's most exclusive boutique hotels. The bar’s 46-foot-long white marble bar is as legendary as the views.

    Photo courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board
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