Every time I go back to Hong Kong, I order roast goose. It’s the unofficial dish of the city, a savoury, succulent feast of goodness with that crispy, melt-in-your-mouth skin that’s perfect on rice, with noodles, in soup. The last time I was in Hong Kong, I met a friend to share this iconic dish. It was so big, we couldn’t finish it. Yet the moment I left Hong Kong, I began counting down the days until I could savour its taste once again. That’s how good it is. But the culinary diversity of Hong Kong does not stop with roast goose.
This is a big, bustling city of almost 7.5 million people in 426 square miles / 1,100 square kilometers. Every single one of these 7.5 million people is fuelled by a culinary culture that’s the envy of the world. In Hong Kong, around every corner and on every street lies a restaurant or café inviting you to try something new, enjoy an old favourite, or stop for a moment and bask in the opportunities of such a big, dense, diverse space.
From the Heart
No food defines Hong Kong quite like dim sum. It literally means “touch the heart” in Cantonese, so think of it as Hongkonger soul food. You’ll find dim sum everywhere across Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Dim Sum is all about community; it’s meant to be shared. Go with fellow travellers or local friends, order two to three dishes per person, and savour the food over boisterous conversation and hot tea. Head to a teahouse for the quintessential yum cha experience, the Hongkonger version of brunch, where you can enjoy tea and the boundless variety of dim sum dishes. But there is no limit to what dim sum is in Hong Kong, from classics like shumai (minced pork dumplings), har gow (shrimp dumplings) and char siu bao (pork buns) to more modern innovations like abalone puffs and indulgent lobster bao.
Living the Star Life
Michelin ratings do not define a destination’s culinary impact, but they do showcase just how influential and innovative a culinary scene can be. In Hong Kong, there are 78 Michelin-starred restaurants offering fine dining that rivals any other city in the world. And you’ll find far more than Cantonese food here. Hong Kong bursts with culinary diversity, with exceptional restaurants serving food from all over the world. You can indulge your way through a 10-course prix fixe menu of French cuisine in an elegant, seventh-floor dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows showing the city below. Alternatively, dig into octopus tostadas and Andean vegetable salad in a friendly, down-to-earth environment. In Hong Kong, fine dining is as diverse as its citizens.
Just because Hong Kong dresses up well doesn’t mean it’s a place where appearances are all that matter. Dispense with pretense and hit up traditional cafés and food stalls to embrace the city’s culinary roots. Squeeze past fellow diners in tiny coffee shops, plop down on wooden stools, and enjoy traditional Cantonese favourites. Grab a milk tea and explore night markets and shopping malls to try delectable snacks, from bolo bao (pineapple buns) to fish balls in curry, lau po bing (wife cakes) to egg tarts, which have a smooth, glossy finish that is distinct from the Portuguese-influenced tarts of Macau. And, never, ever forget to order the roast goose.
Every time I’m in Hong Kong, I have roast goose, and so much more. And the moment I leave, the memories of those lingering, exceptional flavours always make me want to return.
This article was originally published in No. 31 of Globetrotting Magazine.
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