As a sort of melting pot for Chinese cultures – or just a particularly cosmopolitan city of the world – it’s no surprise that Hong Kong has some of the best restaurants representing China’s various regional cuisines, outside of those native regions. Unfortunately it’s no longer any secret either. No worries: we’ve got the best of the best below for your perusal, to save you a whole lot of trial and error (including but not limited to expired winter melon). Happy eating!
The cuisine of Shanghai is commonly described as being rich and oily, with a lot of heavy brown sauces. There’s a grain of truth to this, as to any generalization, but the whole picture is much more nuanced. Xiao long bao deserves its fame (commonly called soup dumplings in the west) and we owe this pitch perfect dish to Shanghai. The dough on these should be refreshingly light, although the stew inside isn’t always. Also light in texture, if not in falvor, are the famous drunken dishes, made by immersing cooked meat (chicken is the most popular) in rice wine and seasoning generously for upwards of twenty-four hours.
At Shanghai Lu Yang Cun Restaurant, we recommend you get started with several cold dishes, chosen for their mix of flavors and textures. Variety is the aim here. Drunken chicken, pressed-spice beef, mashed soybeans with sesame oil, bean curd with fresh soybeans, preserved vegetables and jellied ham terrine all come to mind.
Then you’ll want to proceed to main courses. The tiny river shrimp here are delicious, cooked in tea leaves. Braised pork shoulders are also exceptional and prepared with care, as are the lion’s head meatballs (so named because the pork meatballs are cooked with Chinese cabbage leaves, which are said to resemble a lion’s mane) and stir-fried rice cakes. If you’re lucky enough to be here in winter, be sure to try one of the hairy crab dishes, famously native to Shanghai. The crustaceans, eaten primarily for their rich roe, are either steamed and served whole with brown vinegar and ginger slivers, or the meat and roe are taken from the shell, separated and served with noodles, bean curd or rice. Be warned – Shanghai hairy crab comes with a price tag.
Add: Shanghai Lu Yang Cun Restaurant, 11/F World Trade Centre, 280 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay
Tel: 00852 2881 6669
Price: About HK$300 (around £24) per person (much more expensive if you order hairy crab)
At Chiu Hui Guan (also known as Teochew) your meal begins and ends, as it should, with tiny cups of strong kung fu tea, which are used to cleanse the palate – but also to promote digestion. The cuisine here is from the Chaoshan Region of Guangdong Province. This region’s cuisine is noted for its lightness and bright flavors, and the signature dishes often include braised meats in master sauces, especially goose and bean curd. Meats are also frequently served warm or room-temperature, which leaves the flavor itself standing in stark clarity on the palate. White vinegar dipping sauces are common, and Chiu Hui Guan is no exception.
At this restaurant, the lu shui (master sauce), goose intestines and thick slices of fatty goose liver are especially good. If you’re going to try these parts of the goose, this is the place to do it. We also really liked the small, fresh oysters, prepared with eggs and starch to make an omelet that is drizzled with fish sauce (a fairly common seasoning in this part of China), or simmered with rice, preserved vegetables and broth for congee. The raw and cooked seafood dishes are also popular, although the case of steamed flower crab can be very expensive, as you might guess.
Chiu Chow people like taro dishes, such as clay pot duck with taro, or de-boned, flattened cooked duck that’s coated with mashed taro before being deep-fried. This is pretty much as great as it sounds – although not everyone appreciates the heavy sweet-and-savory tarot desserts, and we get that. Pan-fried noodle cakes served with sugar and vinegar is another classic of Chiu Chow cuisine, and another one for the sweet-and-savory canon. Check this restaurant out.
Add: Federal Mansion, 544-554 Fuk Wing Street, Cheung Sha Wan
Tel: 00852 2682 9118
Price: About HK$200 (£16) per person
Historically, the Hakkas were the nomads of China. Their name means “guest families,” because they migrated from roughly China’s geographic center to other parts of the mainland (and later to many other countries around the world). The cuisine reflects that diversity in some ways. Generally hearty and strong, it’s core dishes were also designed, frequently, with an eye towards ingredients that would be easy to preserve: salty, cured or pickled vegetables and meats are par for the course. Tofu is present in its many incarnations: fresh, pressed, preserved and dried.
At Chuen Cheung Kui, you want to go with the salt-baked chicken, steamed bean curd stuffed with pork, and the steamed pork belly with either preserved mustard greens or thick slices of taro. You’ll thank us later.
Add: 7/F-8/F Phase 1, Causeway Bay Plaza 1, 489 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay
Tel: 00852 2577 3833
Price: About HK$150 (£12) per person
The cuisine of Sichuan Province, in South-West China, is most famous for its ma la flavors – the numbing (ma) sensation that comes somewhat mysteriously from Sichuan peppercorns (and nothing else) and spicy (la) from the many varieties of chilies served in a variety of ways (fresh, dried, preserved). These loud flavors are used primarily in sauces or soups. But a good Sichuan meal won’t be one-dimensionally tongue-destroying. The judicious use of other seasonings like soy sauce, salt, sugar, vinegar and sesame paste all have their part to play, and help to balance the flavor interplay of Sichuan cuisine.
Sichuan House is one of the newer Sichaun restaurants to open in Hong Kong, and the delicious food and exceptional service also make it one of our new favorites. Try the “mouth-watering chicken” (a direct translation). The poached fish or beef in chili oil are also extraordinary, and this is a better place than many to try mapo doufu (tofu in chili and bean sauce). End the meal with a caramelized apple or banana fritters.
Add: 7/F M88, 2 Wellington Street, Central
Tel: 00852 2521 6699
Price: About HK$250 (£20) per person
The most obvious difference between food from Hunan and the cuisine of nearby Sichuan is the near absence of the eminently conspicuous Sichuan peppercorns. Most people know only of the spicier Hunan dishes, but the food can also be surprisingly light and the flavors delicate. There’s also an assertive smokiness mixed in there, applying to some meats.
At Café Hunan, the innocuous-sounding stir-fried potatoes with hot and sour sauce is a knockout – and among the spiciest things on the menu. The Yin Yang Fish Head is a good counterpoint, completely covered on one side with yellow chilies and on the other with red ones. It looks incendiary, but is actually mild as long as you don’t gnaw on the peppers. Also the stir-fried pork with Youxian dried bean curd and the stir-fried baby chicken. There’s a lot to eat here so come hungry, on a date, or both.
Add: CKoon Wah Building, 420-424 Queen’s Road West, Sheung Wan
Tel: 00852 2803 7177
Price: About HK$150 (£12) per person
There’s more to Beijing’s culinary tradition than just the infamous duck, but Beijing Home has a good one. The more humbling offerings, for some reason though, seem to stand out more. We recommend the snacks, like the Beijing-style pig skin (more like a cold jellied terrine), salad with peppers, cucumber and bean curd skin and – best of all – the shredded tripe with mustard (never underestimate the Beijinger’s enthusiasm for tripe). Also delicious are the Beijing-style crisp lamb, and excellent dumplings with thick, chewy and handmade wrappers, filled-to-burst with scrambled egg and tomatoes.
Add: 7/F Island Beverley, 1 George Street, Causeway Bay
Tel: 00852 2761 3300
Price: About HK$125 (£10) per person
While some might consider this a “poor cousin” for those who can’t get into the nearby China Club, the food here is better. Really. One of the most stylish Chinese restaurants in all of Hong Kong, the interior features plush chairs, dark woods and bright accents. There’s an updated-retro décor vibe to the whole thing, and elegantly presented and beautifully cooked Cantonese classics are on hand.
Try their delicious take on barbecued pork coated in honey before being roasted to succulent tenderness. A delicate rendition of wok-fried minced pigeon in lettuce also stands way out, as does the boneless duck – moist and tender to the point of almost being confit, covered in mashed taro before being deep-fried. The service is excellent.
Add: Shop 222, The Galleria, 9 Queen’s Road Central, Central
Tel: 00852 2526 8798
The purple and gold color scheme at this double Michelin-starred joint might scream royal to the point of feeling a little garish, but Tim’s classic Cantonese dishes more than make up for any aesthetic crimes. With an entire section of the menu devoted to rare dried ingredients like bird’s nest, sea cucumber, fish maw and abalone, this place really earns its rep. Fortunately, there are also more familiar but exceptional (in their own way) favorites like pomelo skin with shrimp roe, roast pigeon, and braised good with pork tenderloin.
In winter, we recommend checking out the excellent rendition of warming snake soup available here, and, if you’re feeling up to it, one of the three versions of the whole crab claws steamed with winter melon or egg white. Hint: the one deep-fried with salt and pepper is a masterpiece.
Add: GF and 1F, 84-90 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan
Tel: 00852 2543 5919