Simply put, Hong Kong is a culinary Mecca. Local Hong Kongers are discerning eaters, so shoddy restaurants don't last for long. As a result, you can pop into almost any eatery for a great meal, from humble noodle shops to world-renowned dining palaces. Our best advice: just follow the crowds.
To get a sense of city life, spend one night on each side of Victoria Harbour. The Hong Kong Island side and the Kowloon Peninsula side each have their unique culinary charms. The subway is even easier to navigate than New York's, and you can get back and forth across the harbor in just about 10 minutes. For a food-focused 48 hours, here are our top picks from all over town.
Friday: Hong Kong Island
Lunch – Local Favorite
Hong Kong's dai pai dong (temporary outdoor food stalls) once covered the city, but in recent years have become scarce, a casualty of urban development. Today, just a few dozen remain, including Sing Heung Yuen (Food Stall No. 2, Mei Lun St., Central), one of the city's best known dai pai dong. Second generation owner Irene Li Oi Lin's family started the business in 1956. Sing Heung Yuen serves Hong Kong snack classics like yin yang, iced coffee mixed with milk tea; thick buttered toast topped with lemon juice and honey; and fresh, hand-squeezed tomato soup with noodles and beef. There's no sign by the stall, but you'll see small groups of locals sitting at plastic tables and chairs, partially covered by plastic tarps. If your Cantonese isn't up to snuff, just point at the items on other tables that you'd like to try.
Snack – Sweet Refresher
Central is a fantastic neighborhood for shopping, from modern housewares shops like G.O.D. (www.god.com.hk) to outdoor food markets, to high-end antiques shops. To refuel, stop into Kung Lee Sugar Cane (60 Hollywood Rd., Central) for a glass of sugarcane juice, which is gently sweet with grassy and earthy notes. For a cooling treat, try the sugar cane jelly, bite-sized pieces of jelly speared with a toothpick out of a bowl of sugarcane juice. Medicinal teas and herbal jelly are also available.
Dinner – Freestyle Cuisine
Alvin Leung, chef-owner of Bo Innovation (review), is one of the most exciting chefs in Hong Kong, if not the world. Leung's experiments find him using new cooking techniques (liquid nitrogen, dehydration) on traditional ingredients and applying ancient recipes to international ingredients. This newfangled approach may sound daunting, but the results are almost always delicious, such as dan dan noodles with pine nuts and grilled salmon roe; steamed foie gras with light Sichuan sauce and Chinese chives; and Wagyu beef with black truffle soy sauce. Dinner at the internationally celebrated venue will set you back more than $100 per person, but it's a value compared to other haute cuisine offerings in the city.
Nightcap – Ice Cold
For cocktails, Leung from Bo Innovation recommends Balalaika (33 Wyndham St., Mezz. Flr., Lan Kwai Fong, Central), a Russian vodka bar in the happening Lan Kwai Fong neighborhood. Customers can sit at the bar or don fur coats to enter the sub-zero vodka shot room.
Saturday: Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula
Brunch – Delectable Dim Sum
On the Hong Kong Island side, locals say the most classic dim sum experience is found at the 80-year-old Lin Heung Tea House (162 Wellington St., Central). Adventurous eaters will gravitate to selections like pig liver and tripe siu mai dumplings while others will be content with steamed buns filled with sweet lotus or chicken with sausage and egg yolk. Part of the fun is sitting at the communal tables with Hong Kongers who have stopped in for a quick bite before work. Just point at the items you want as the trolleys—piled high with dumpling-filled bamboo baskets—wheel by.
Shop – Terrific Tea
A quick MTR ride from Central to the Kowloon-side Yau Ma Tei station drops you near the Jade Market, a fun place to buy jewelry and home accessories. (Be ready to bargain – vendors will start out at double what they're hoping to get.) But for foodies, Ying Kee Tea House (192 Shanghai St., Yau Ma Tei, www.yingkeetea.com), a renowned tea shop, may be an equally enticing draw. The tea sellers will prepare tasting cups of anything you're interested in buying.
Afternoon Tea – Colonial Flavor
The spectacular Peninsula Hotel (Salisbury Road, The Lobby Lounge, Tsim Sha Tsui, www.peninsula.com) is home to the city's best afternoon tea service. You can while away the afternoon chatting over pots of tea and snacking on scones, finger sandwiches, and excellent pastries (including fruit tarts, mousse cakes, crêpe rolls, and financiers). Arrive early (service runs from 2 pm to 7 pm) or you may have to wait an hour or more for a table.
Aperitif – River Boat
Every night at 8 pm, buildings on both sides of the river dazzle in a synchronized light show set to music. The best place to enjoy the show is along—or on—the river. For a special treat, jump aboard Aqualuna (Pier 1, Tsim Sha Tsui, www.aqua.com.hk), a traditional red-sail Chinese junk boat, for a 45-minute cocktail cruise. If you can, take the 7:30 departure so you're on the water when the show starts.
Dinner – Lacquered Duck
A three-minute walk from the pier will deliver you to Peking Garden (3 Salisbury Rd., 3rd Flr., Tsim Sha Tsui, 852/2735-8211, reservations recommended) for dinner. The house specialty at the Northern Chinese restaurant is roasted Peking Duck, which is presented whole at the table then cut in glistening slices, and served with crepe-like pancakes, hoisin sauce, and thin-sliced scallions. The remaining duck meat is minced and stir-fried with vegetables, then served with lettuce cups. Also recommended: deep-fried jumbo prawns in sweet garlic chili sauce, and hand-made noodles with shredded pork.
Midnight Snack – Savory or Sweet
If there's any room left in your stomach, head to the Temple Street Night Market (on Temple Street, between Jordan and Kansu Streets, near the Jordan MTR station), where seafood restaurants set up tables in the middle of the street, serving spicy chili crab, fried snails, and stuffed clams, among the scores of ocean-derived delicacies. Or, for dessert, many food vendors serve sweet, eggy bubble waffles and chilled mango smoothies with chewy tapioca balls.
Sunday: Kowloon Peninsula
Breakfast – HK Diner
You may not recognize Temple Street in the daylight, but it's home to a classic breakfast spot: MIDO Café (63 Temple St., Yau Ma Tei). With a retro, diner-type feel, this eatery has been in business for decades. Start with a light breakfast of perfect pineapple buns (baked buns with sugary, crunchy topping—they look like pineapple, thus the name) and milk tea, or go for the signature baked rice with spareribs or fried noodles with spicy eggplant and minced pork.
Lunch – On the Go
Work off some calories by walking north to Mong Kok, a densely packed pedestrian area that is busy day and night. Each street has a specialty: electronic stores on Sai Yeung Choi Street, ladies clothes on Tung Choi Street, and sporting goods on Fa Yuen Street. Weaving in and around these streets, you'll find street foods galore, including Hong Kong classics like grilled octopus, stinky tofu, tempura-fried eggplant and green peppers, and fish balls (processed fish formed into balls and deep fried, then strung onto kebab sticks, and dunked in sweet-spicy sauce). They sound daunting, but are delicious. Other favorite on-a-stick treats include stewed tripe, siu mai dumplings, and meatballs.
Last Bite – Free Chinese Pastry Class
On Sundays, the Hong Kong Tourism Board hosts cake-making classes with chefs from the famous Wing Wah Cake Shop (various locations, reservations required through HKTB: 852/2508-1234, 12 pm–1:15 pm or 3 pm– 4:15 pm, limit 10 people per class). Depending on the day, you might learn how to make moon cakes (pastries filled with lotus-seed paste and egg yolks) or "wife" cakes (flaky dough filled with winter melon almond paste and spices).
Planning Your Trip
- For planning information, check out our Hong Kong Travel Tips
- For Lodging recommendations, see our Hong Kong Hotel Reviews
- For Restaurant recommendations, visit our Hong Kong Restaurant Reviews
Photo credits: (1) Dai-pai-dong/food stalls; flickr member marvinl; (2) Dan dan noodles , photo by Erica Duecy; (3) Lin Heung Tea House; flickr member/chee.hong; (4) Tea at the Peninsula Hotel; photo by Erica Duecy; (5) Temple Street Night Market; photo by Erica Duecy; (6) Chrysanthemum tea and curry fish ball at a Mong Kok stall, flickr member/laughlin.