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Hong Kong - Food and Drink

Hong Kong is famous for its food. Many dishes are inspired by Mainland Chinese delicacies or taken from the Guangdong province, where Cantonese is spoken. A savoury dish famous in Hong Kong is Roast Goose, and geese are commonly hung up in the windows of restaurants. The Guangdong-style goose is roasted whole with top secret ingredients then served carved, with equal portions of soft bone, skin and meat. The dish is finished with a rich plum sauce. A sweet dish which is a favourite in Hong Kong is Sago Mix. This dessert consists of a Tapioca like ingredient called Sago and a range of fruits which are in season at the time of making. It is a sour and sweet dish which has decades of history behind it. Yum-Cha is a Chinese style of brunch tea linked to Hong Kong and synonymously drunk with Dim Sum, another common meal enjoyed by Hong Kongers.

A traditional dish in Hong Kong for breakfast is Congee(式粥). Here is a link to the recipe for Chinese Congee with Pork and Century Egg which takes around 1 hour 15 mins to prepare and cook.

A dish which is infamous in Hong Kong and typically eaten daily is Hong Kong-Style Wonton Noodle Soup.(香港式的馄饨汤面) Here is the recipe to create this dish which takes around 1 hour 15 mins to prepare and cook.

A vegetarian street food favourite, or accompaniment to a meal is Chao Xiao Bai Cai (Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy 炒的小白菜). This is fast to cook and prepare taking only 15 mins in total.

A dessert which is typically eaten daily in Hong Kong is Red Bean Dessert Soup (紅豆沙). The prep and cook time for this dish is 3 hours.

Generally speaking there are no such things as typical meal times as these vary per person and per family. Hong Kongers work long and hard and their mealtimes reflect that. Locals love their food and have many mealtimes throughout the day. Some locals may have morning breakfast in certain Cantonese restaurants (早茶) as early as 2am. Such restaurants close at 5am and are not open during the day. An additional later breakfast can occur at 10-11am, a light lunch from 1-2pm, afternoon tea of local tea and snacks at 3pm too. Dinner can vary at any point between 9pm-12am and it is not uncommon for people to have another small meal at 1am.

In terms of drinking alcohol in Hong Kong, attitudes have changed greatly over the last 20 years. With so many Western style wine and cocktail bars, imported beers and pubs popping up in the ‘going out’ districts of Lan Kwai Fong and Knutsford Terrace the consumption of alcohol with meals is now common. Beer and imported beer is a favourite of expats and locals alike, though it is consumed in different ways. Locals often have beer with their lunch or afternoon meals. Locals would not tend to drink at home, or open a bottle of wine to unwind. Alcohol is linked to celebration and socialising for locals who are not big drinkers themselves. Sometimes in karaoke bars alcohol can be used as a penalty during dice games, and as as part of a tradition of ‘dunking’ the groom during weddings. Older generations still drink rice wine, which was the traditional spirit of choice many years ago.

It is common now to have bottles of wine in the centre of tables as a display of affluence when entertaining work colleagues or during business meals - not all of which may be drunk. Commonly found shops such as Circle K and 7/11 sell alcohol and pop the tops when asked. You may find in tourist areas groups stood outside such shops drinking beer. This is entirely allowed and not frowned upon by locals. Policemen also would not challenge you. Be wary however if you were to be intoxicated with an open drink or in local areas where the behaviour would be more obvious and potentially worrisome for locals.

Younger locals who suggest going for a drink after work will probably mean tea rather than alcohol, whereas work colleagues in western companies or on Hong Kong Island will probably mean alcohol.

Tea is absolutely woven into the fabric of Hong Kong culture. In work you will find many Chinese people have flasks with tea inside which they repeatedly fill with hot water. In the streets you will see locals drinking their favourite kinds, which could range from flower and green tea to imported teas such as Hangzhou’s Dragon Well tea and Fujian’s Tie-guan-yin tea. For locals, much eating and tea drinking is done at home with their families. Bubble milk tea and standard milk tea are popular to drink in cafes and to buy on the street, particularly by young people. Younger generations also enjoy cold bottled tea drinks which you can buy from convenience shops with combinations such as black tea and lemon, chrysanthemum tea, peach and many other fruit flavours.

Eating out, Yum Cha will be drunk with Dim Sum. In restaurants and banquets house tea is poured usually in the form of Jasmine Tea, which is free to consume and is topped up regularly by staff. There are a variety of expensive and grand High Tea experiences in Hong Kong, led famously by the colonial elegance of The Peninsula Hotel which is regarded as the most lavish in Afternoon Teas and most extravagant in terms of environment.

Tea generally is a way of life but it is a tradition that is valued in part of society and very much regarded during times of celebration such as Chinese New Year. Tea drinking brings families and friends together to enjoy a taste and to celebrate life and luck. Tea is an everyday occurrence but special tea occasions include weddings, celebrations, apologies, family gatherings and signs of respect.

Hong Kongers enjoy food intensely. It is a passion shared amongst the population from younger generations to older and many a debate and conversation arises around it daily. Food is considered to be closely linked to health and it is not uncommon for doctors to advise you in terms of foods to have and avoid during illnesses. On the street cafes known as Ha Can Teng (茶餐厅) are important in the average local worker's life. They are a guaranteed tasty meal with typical dishes on offer such as congee and noodles at a low price. Hong Kongers are frugal and most often eat at home or very cheap eateries.

They adore special times of year such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, when they can create all kinds of festive food at home and buy Moon cakes, which are cylindrically shaped firm cakes with a red bean or lotus paste mealy filling with a boiled egg yolk in the centre or perhaps a salted duck egg. Food is seen as a great present during celebrations, so expect gifts of biscuits or cake. Likewise, if there is a business meeting locals like to take clients to restaurants to impress and treat them to the food they regard as the best.

Hong Kongers are busy people and expect food to be fast. This means you can either grab it and go or if you are stopping in a local cafe, service must be fast and efficient.

In terms of what locals consume, they prefer simple flavours with ginger and soy because they enjoy the natural flavours of food. Also enjoyed are spicy meals such as shrimp with ginger chilli sauce which tourists and expats may find extremely hot. Generally, although Western takeaways such Macdonalds and pan European restaurants are fast consuming the modern dine out market, Hong Kongers try to eat plain, simple and nourishing food. There is a philosophy behind the balance of foods eaten. There are the Yin - cooling and Yang - heating types of foods. Heating foods for example may contain fats and be dry or spicy. This must be balanced out by a cooling food which may be lean, soft or wet. Food therefore is usually presented in the traditional form of a soup or broth, rice and meat or fish.

Food is enjoyed little and often, though expats are usually amazed at how much locals can eat, but bowls are small and chopsticks naturally pick up less food. Snack foods are a huge business in Hong Kong and there are endless packets of flavours and varieties in supermarkets and mini markets. These are usually bought by the younger generations who enjoy sampling new flavours and trends and also like to see new Western additions appear on the shelves.

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