For a serious foodie experience, I would head to Hong Kong faster than you could say barbeque pork bun. From street food to hole-in-the-wall teahouses and gourmet restaurants, the variety of food in this city is simply dazzling, so get ready to take your tastebuds on a joyride! If you’re keen to explore more than your usual Cantonese favourites, sink your teeth into some of the more peculiar local foods: many taste better than they look while others are not for the faint-hearted. Here’s my pick of unusual Hong Kong foods that your stomach will love (or loathe).
Yum cha is a must for every visit to Hong Kong. If you want to eat like a local, order a serving of Phoenix Claws, more humbly known as chicken feet. This beloved wrinkled treat is a fixture on yum cha menus where it’s often braised in a delicious black-bean sauce and served piping hot from bamboo steamers. The trick is to slurp off the gelatinous skin that melts in your mouth and spit out the tiny bones as elegantly as possible… trying to pick up these claws with chopsticks is another matter. If you have a soft spot for chicken skin, this is the dish for you. Try it for breakfast!
While the West is rediscovering the joys of offal, nose-to-tail eating never went out of fashion in Hong Kong. Offal still features proudly in the Hong Kong kitchen: who knew it could be so tasty? Continue the offal party at yum cha with gelatinous pigs’ trotters, stewed cow tripe and deep-fried fish maw (stomach). Congee – Hong Kong’s favourite comfort food – is paired with all types of offal: try pig-blood jelly or ox intestines. Savour offal skewers or tuck into steaming bowls of noodles in a tender beef brisket stew. If you’re game, sample shredded crunchy pigs’ ears and local favourite, succulent chicken testicles.
Century egg or 1000-year-old egg
This infamous delicacy is essentially fermented egg: chicken, duck or quail eggs coated in a muddy mixture of tea, salt, ash, lime and rice husks and buried in soil for several months. The resulting translucent-grey, jelly-like egg white with a dark grey/green yolk is definitely an acquired taste. Popular served with congee or as an appetiser with pickled ginger. Stinky tofu also rates highly in the potency factor.
Exotic animal products
What about snake soup for dinner (let us know if it tastes like chicken) or braised sea slugs? In Hong Kong, you’ll come across some pretty bizarre animals on the menu, and particularly in the Chinese medicine store. Many are prized for their health benefits with a price tag to match. For example Bird’s Nest is basically a swiftlet’s nest made from dried bird spit, cooked into soup. Thankfully, there are delicious faux versions of shark-fin soup and medicinal turtle jelly so you can get a taste of the real deal minus the environmental impact and burning a hole in your pocket.
And don’t forget to try a personal favourite of mine: jellyfish. Like much of Cantonese food, it’s about texture: crunchy strands of shredded jellyfish pickled in vinegar, chilli, soy and sesame oil are a tasty surprise for your mouth.
A special mention goes to a local version of hot toddy. If you feel you’re coming down with a cold, a glass of hot cola with ginger and lemon should do the trick!
Is your mouth watering yet? If so, get started on your own culinary adventure of Hong Kong.