Hong Kong is a country brimming with life. Its bustling streets emit the smells and sounds so unique to this country. Composed of a mostly Chinese population, Hong Kong is located on the border with China. This city state includes several islands surrounding the mainland that is a small, jutting peninsula. If visiting Hong Kong, be sure to learn a little survival Chinese to make traversing the city and finding great meals possible.
Gracing nearly every block in every neighborhood in this small city state is a street vendor’s cart, where some of the most unique and delicious foods in the country may be found. Whether its 1000 year old eggs, an exotic soup or meat on a stick, Asian culinary delights can be found on nearly every corner. Thanks to globalization, street foods from Hong Kong have made their way to American grocery store shelves, making it possible for everyone to sample a taste of the Orient. Nothing, however can take the place of experiencing first hand the mysteries of the Hong Kong street food experience.
Food for Health
Cantonese foods are classified by their health benefits. Characterised as heating or cooling and by their healing or detoxifying properties, is is very possible to develop a healthy eating plan from authentic Hong Kong dishes. Particularly healthy dishes, herbs and drinks are popular nationwide, and can be found at street vendor’s stalls all over the country of Hong Kong.
The universally happy atmosphere that accompanies food and drink is palpable in this bustling city state of over 7 million people. Often referred to as the Worlds Food Fair, dining on Hong Kong street food is on the top of most tourists’ to do lists. Due to the influence of Eastern and Western cultures in Hong Kong, a food enthusiast may indulge in many authentic cuisines as well as hybridized dishes combining aspects of famous foods from Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, India, Europe, and America.
Common Ingredients of Exotic Asian Foods
Some of the most common ingredients used in Cantonese cuisine include shiitake mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, salted duck eggs, kai-lan, also known as Chinese Broccoli or Chinese Kale, red beans, dried shrimp, hoisin sauce a reddish-brown sauce that’s salty, sweet, and spicy. Hoisin sauce is made from soybean paste, garlic, chilies, and various spices and can contain sugar and vinegar. Dried scallops, jujube, a red date, and lotus seeds are also very common ingredients used in East Asian cuisine. While these ingredients may be common to Asian dishes, not all of them are readily available to Americans living outside of major cities. For those seeking special ingredients, consider growing a medicinal herb garden and vegetable garden that will yield all the necessary ingredients to put authentic Asian meals on the table.
Pineapple Bread is a sweet bread originating in Hong Kong. It is very popular and found in nearly every bakery and street vendor. The surface of the bread looks a pineapple, hence the name. The traditional version of this break does not actually contain pineapple. Rather, it is comprised of sugar, eggs, flour, and lard. It’s high sugar content helps form a crisp surface with soft bread inside. Pineapple bread is best eaten while hot and fresh from the oven.
Roast Goose is a traditional specialty of Cantonese cuisine. It is a whole goose roasted with secret Asian spice blends. The meat is cut into small strategically sliced pieces that contain skin, meat and soft bone with every morsel. It is delicious dipped in a traditional plum sauce. Guangdong-style roast goose is of a special goose variety that only lives in that region of the word.
Cheong Fun in Sweet Sauce
Much like Mexican menudo, Cheong Fun contains pork intestines. These tender morsels are smothered in a fragrant sweet sauce, sesame oil and seeds and placed on a bed of steamed rice noodles or served without any accompaniment.
Curry Fish Balls
Nothing represents Hong Kong street food more than curry fish balls. Inexpensive to make, curried fish balls have been a favorite since the 1950s. The modern interpretation of this national favorite found in chain restaurants or the frozen foods section of grocery stores contains a paltry 20% fish. The remaining 80% is comprised of filler. However, Hong Kong street food carts sell ‘big golden fish balls’ that are actually made with real fish. The flavor is incomparable to any competing grocery store product.
Uncooked and usually served as a side for hot pot dishes, sushi balls can also be served over a bed of noodles in hot soup. In 2002, the daily average consumption of fish balls in Hong Kong is 55 metric tons (about 3.75 million fish balls).
1000-Year old eggs
Though the description is an exaggeration, 1000 year old eggs are aged to perfection. These eggs may be laid by either ducks or quail. After gathering the eggs, farmers lay the eggs in a bed of clay, sand and salt and then bury them in clay pots. A few months later, the eggs interior becomes a gelatinous consistency. The shell turns a brownish black color. The yolk turns a dark green color and emits a powerful sulphuric scent. These eggs are dug up and brought to the street vendors where they are sliced up in various noodle dishes or sold whole.
Sago Mix is a traditional dessert popular in Hong Kong. Its main ingredients are Sago (similar to tapioca) and a variety of seasonal fruits. The sweet and sour taste of fruits incorporate, emitting a deliciously sweet, milky fragrance. Sago Mix is a top choice in the summer.
Birds Nest Soup
One of the most prized delicacies in Hong Kong is bird’s nest soup. Once a rare treat, this delicious chicken broth based soup may be purchased at select street vendor’s stalls. Served piping hot in thick bowls, this is a wonderfully aromatic pick-me-up is perfect on a cold winter’s day. Birds nest soup does contain small portions of swiftlet nest, hence the name of the dish. Like many other traditional dishes, this one is famed for its health benefits. Many overweight individuals have incorporated this soup into their weight loss programs, along with other flavorful low-fat dishes.
Demand for shark fin soup in Hong Kong and China is critically reducing the number of sharks in the oceans, so this traditional staple is getting harder to find on the streets. However, it is worth asking around to find a bowl of steaming, sumptuous soup. It’s slightly fishy flavor and unique, mouthwatering aroma guarantee that shark fin soup will remain on Asian vendor menus for years to come.
Served hot or cold, this drink is popular with the natives year round. Two thirds milky sweet tea and one third coffee, this hybrid blend is great on a muggy day served over ice. Enjoy this drink at any of the sidewalk cafes dotting Hong Kong.
Hong Kong-Style Milk Tea
Hong Kong-style milk tea consists of Ceylon black tea, evaporated milk and sugar. The tea should rest at the bottom of the cup and evaporated milk should float above it. Hong Kong citizens often say that a cup of milky tea should taste more like milk than tea. Lan Fong Yuen in central Hong Kong is famous for its original Hong Kong-style milk tea and open air cafes.
The natives of Hong Kong strongly believe in wasting as little food as possible. It is not uncommon for vendors to offer chicken feet. Wrinkled and loose skinned, chicken feet are a great snack for busy business people. The feet offer a very healthy alternative to fatty cuts and the meat is tasty, if a bit chewy and crunchy as well.
Faux Shark Fin Soup
In the past, many vendors used shark meat leftovers from restaurants as principal material of this snack. Nowadays, shark fin has been replaced by vermicelli as the main ingredient. Mushrooms, black fungus, pork, and other exotic ingredients are added just as the soup boils. Pepper, Zhejiang vinegar and sesame oil round out the dish nicely.
Wontons, known as chāo shǒu (or “crossed hands”), are often boiled into a broth, deep fried or steamed and smothered in sauce. Unique shapes are common to specific regions and cooking methods. The most famous wontons are Sichuan-style and are a celebrated snack in Chengdu. Wrapped in a very thin rice paper shell and stuffed with rich meat and vegetable filling, these tasty morsels can be bought stuffed with a choice of chicken, duck or pork.
Rickshaw noodles are a type of Asian fast food. This dish is a great value and is extremely popular nationwide. These instant noodles are made with a variety of ingredients, such as hogskin, fish balls, sirloin or carrots. The noodles may be served in soup, with sauce or plain. Due to the variety of ingredients, these dishes vary in composition and price.
A trip to Hong Kong may inspire more than cravings! Learn the recipes used by the Cantonese people and bring those foods home. Because they are delicious and healthy, many citizens living in the Americas love this style of cuisine. Make a living from starting a Cantonese style food truck, and bring those Asian traditions home!