I’ve been in Hong Kong for nearly 10 months and I’ll admit I haven’t embraced the local cuisine.
I mean, I enjoy Yum Cha and Dim Sum but until this week I hadn’t really ventured out to eat all the cool and crazy Cantonese delights.
And it’s not because I wasn’t keen, I just didn’t know where to start!
So I signed up for a local food tour so I could learn to eat like a local!
I roped in my Drum Jam pals, James and Lisa, and we headed to the hustle and bustle of Mongkok, which literally means ‘Busy Corner.’
Mongkok is actually the most densely populated suburb in Hong Kong and I’ve even heard it takes the crown as the world’s most packed neighbourhood!
Despite the intense crowds, this area of Kowloon is a foodie hot spot and the perfect destination to try Hong Kong’s most beloved dishes and to get the inside scoop on the hidden Cantonese gems.
We began our tour with the suggestion of tasting durian.
This super stinky fruit is known to taste like heaven and smell like hell, which isn’t far from the truth!
I’ve seen and smelt plenty of durians whilst travelling through South-East Asia but never bothered to try it. So this was the perfect opportunity.
Our small group of five food adventurers quickly discovered that you either love or hate durian.
Personally I quite enjoyed the sweet custardy flesh and apparently the Cantonese enjoy it too.
The theme of fruit and vegetables continued as we ventured into one of the busiest and most dynamic wet markets in Hong Kong.
The vast majority of produce looked amazing (and often very oversized!) and it was great to have our guide’s insight on what-was-what and how to cook with each ingredient.
As we wandered through the thriving lanes of the wet market, shop vendors touted their wares on microphones, or just yelled loudly, and locals poked and prodded everything from cuts of meat, chicken livers and in(famous) chicken feet.
If you wish to select a little or not so little chicken for your roast dinner, you can take your pick from the live poultry available.
Point out the one you want and these smiling female assassins will whip out the back and chop it’s head off for you (thankfully I didn’t witness this, but James did).
We also watched with interest as the locals vigorously inspected the many varieties of eggs under the bright lights.
For the first time I saw what a salted egg actually looked like (the black and white stripy eggs) and learned that you have to brine them for between 20-30 days!
If eggs are your thing, Hong Kong is the place to visit!
In addition to the salted eggs we saw soft blue duck eggs, ornately speckled quail eggs and learned that pigeon eggs are the most expensive eggs you can buy.
Pigeons are my least favorite bird, so I wasn’t too keen to take a dozen home.
Lining the wet markets are a number of different shops that sell everything from crocodile skin, sea cucumbers, deer bones and so much more.
Our guide informed us that when locals aren’t feeling their best they head to a traditional Chinese medicine store, explain their ailment and the owner will hand over all the different ingredients for a healing soup.
If you’ve got a cough why not try some crocodile skin?
Or maybe you need to boost your amino acids, purchase some deer bones.
Have trouble with blood clots? Throw a few sea cucumbers into your soup!
As my egg fascination faded I was then hit with the overpowering and rather too familiar smell of dried seafood (It was just like walking down Dried Seafood Street in Sheung Wan).
From dried to ‘alive and kicking’ seafood (well, more like ‘flapping’) the abundance of fresh crabs, rainbow trout, prawns, and gigantic pieces of grouper was overwhelming
The Cantonese love their seafood so these vendors were over run with locals jostling to get the freshest ocean delights.
As we neared the end of the wet market we stopped to investigate the Cantonese bakery where again there was a hoard of hungry locals swarming around the sweets.
Our guide purchased deep-fried red bean pastries covered in sesame seeds, chewy banana sweets and the famous golden egg tarts, which had all just been baked!
It was a toss-up between the egg tart and the red bean cake as to which one was my favourite! They were so delicious and I have a feeling I may overindulge on these goodies in the future!
There were so many amazing looking sweets to choose from, including Hong Kong’s famous pineapple buns (which don’t actually have any pineapple in them, but that’s ok!).
It’s here where you can buy a cool tea, which will supposedly cure any ailment, from a cough, running nose, liver issues to a headache.
The dark brown to black liquid is made from medicinal herbs and ground up turtle shell, and is supposed to relieve the heat and humidity of the body.
Lisa purchased one of these traditional drinks to help her sleep. I’ll have to check in to see if it helped!
Another very traditional Cantonese dish that has medicinal benefits is snake soup.
With some trepidation we all had a bowl of shredded strips of snake in a broth of black mushrooms and seafood.
The finishing touch was a garnish of crispy rice crackers and shredded kaffir lime leaves. It wasn’t bad!
Apparently snake soup isn’t easy to cook so many locals venture out for this dish as it has the ability to enhance your metabolism, skin appearance and gives you an abundance of energy!
As our bellies began to expand we continued wandering through the overcrowded streets of Mongkok to a small and very authentic restaurant.
The walls were covered in Chinese-only menus and we sat at a communal table much to the amusement of the locals.
We feasted on fish congee, which is pretty much like rice pudding.
Congee is comfort food and locals usually slurp up this white creamy stuff at breakfast or very late at night.
We also tried out the famous roast goose and devoured the juicy and tender meat. Goose is significantly more expensive than duck, so this was a real treat!
We still had three more stops to go and although I was feeling full my eyes lit up when I saw that we were stopping at a street food snack stand!
I’ve always wanted to try these yummy smelling delights but was a tad wary.
Here we enjoyed steaming skewers of curried fish balls and roasted duck for the grand total of $3 HKD (which is about 50 cents in Australia).
I will now be heading to one of these street food vendors instead of Macca’s when I need a quick and cheap meal!
On a high after the hearty skewers we made our way to a specialty tofu hot spot where we enjoyed a bowl of Dao Fu Fa, a silky smooth tofu dessert sprinkled with yellow sugar.
This corner shop was pumping and plenty of locals lined up for tables so they could gobble up a multitude of different tofu treats.
It’s hard to believe but we still had another stop to go on this food tour!
Our final destination was a quaint but highly reviewed Dim Sum restaurant.
Even though our stomachs had reached capacity we still managed to try tasty mushroom buns (which weren’t actually mushrooms!), delicious prawn dumplings as well as my favourite hot custard dumplings that were made to look like little piggies!
It was fantastic to get out and experience Hong Kong like a local and hear about Cantonese culture and history. I definitely feel more connected to my new home and I’m keen to take the leap and explore solo in the future!
If you’re interested in experiencing the Hong Kong food trail I can highly recommend Hong Kong Eating Adventures.
They run daily tours on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon as well as in other Chinese cities.
Hong Kong Eating Adventures made sure we experienced the best of Cantonese cuisines from a local’s perspective and their tour packages really are value for money.
They also like to keep the group size small, which makes it a really pleasant and personable experience.
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