It’s one of those few pleasantries we all need to survive. A habitual necessity that’s made ten times more enjoyable in Hong Kong.
1. Breakfast – Polo Buns
Traditionally, a Cantonese breakfast can be quite savoury, with instant noodles and meat broths a popular go-to. A western tongue might naturally hoo-har a breakfast menu of salt and spice, so if you’d prefer to err on the side of continental, try a Hong Kong butter polo bun – or bo lo bao if you’re ordering in Cantonese.
Also known as a pineapple bun, these little treats don't feature pineapple, but are soft and doughy with a sugary cookie-dough lid. Fresh out of the oven every ten minutes, slide in a thick wedge of butter and let it melt all over the crumbly insides. And in case you were wondering about its relation to the pineapple, it’s meant to resemble one.
2. Morning Coffee – Milk Tea
Here in NZ we love a flat white. In Hong Kong it’s all about the milk tea.
A combination of assorted tea leaves, run through a sackcloth strainer and poured into a teapot of evaporated or condensed milk. It’s said the filter bag is responsible for the smooth, intense taste and can be served both hot or on the rocks – AKA cold.
And if you’re still yearning for a coffee fix, order the Yin-Yang style, which is a silky-smooth mix of coffee and tea.
3. Elevenses - Congee
It’s time for elevenses – HK style. Opt for a bowl of congee, which is basically rice porridge. Also a good option for breakfast and late night eats, congee is available around the clock.
Traditionally it’s the raw ingredients that add the flavour, such as roast duck, crab, century eggs and pulled pork. They’re added to a continuously boiling pot of rice porridge. Hearty HK comfort food; get it down you.
4. Lunch – Yum Cha
Having originated on China’s Silk Road, when weary travellers would stop for road-side tea and snacks, yum cha roughly translates into ‘more tea’.
A social experience, round up the clan – or a few new-found HK friends – and get ready for a constant offering of small plates, bowls and steamer baskets; packed to over-flowing with bite-sized dumplings, pork buns, rice rolls and of course hot green tea.
5. Snack Time - Egg Tart
Time to nip into a bakery and indulge in a HK egg tart.
The egg tart is of Portuguese origin; introduced into Hong Kong during the 1940s by Portuguese colonisers and at that time, mostly in Hong Kong’s Macau. To this day the Macau version is still slightly different, with a caramelised top that’s been slightly scorched. However, you’ll find the majority of tarts offer a crumbly short crust or a flaky puff-pastry exterior. As a general rule, HK egg tarts are eggier and not as sweet as their western counterparts - but just as addictive.
6. Dinner – Beef Brisket Noodles
Dinner. The hour of beef brisket noodles.
Come 7pm, it’s likely you’ll smell the beef before you see the stew; a rich aroma of slow cooked meat, infused with a punch of Asian spices, it’ll have been bubbling on the stove for at least three hours. Traditionally this soup-like mixture uses the brisket part of the cow; the toughest cut from the lower chest, hence the slow cook. By the time it touches your lips, the meat will fall away like a great meaty mass of tenderness – and then there’s the flavour-infused mountain of noodles to guzzle through. Don’t be shy to slurp; the chef will see it as a sign of a job well done.
7. Pudding - Glutinous Rice Balls
Order a serving of Jin Deui. Better described as glutinous rice balls oozing with black sesame or red bean paste. They're rolled in crunchy crushed nuts and fried until golden. And the best part? If Hong Kong philosophy is to be believed, the more you eat, the more it should bring your family gold and silver.
8. Suppertime – Cha Chaan Teng
There's always space for a bedtime snack. Fortunately for the late night foodie, Hong Kong is a city that loves to eat around the clock. Take to the streets and find one of many late night cafes, also known as Cha Chaan Teng. As cheap as they are numerous, these local, fuss-free eateries are almost everywhere – and super wallet friendly. Serving everything from scrambled eggs to French toast, pies, pork buns and macaroni.