The Hong Kong Foodie tasting tour
As an expat in Hong Kong, I usually walk hurriedly past the several large and small restaurants that are brimming with locals; scared away by the Chinese-only signage and pictures/ displays of various unfamiliar-looking meats and food items. How do you even begin to know where to go, what to order, and how?
Hence, our dining-out tends to be limited to foreigner-friendly restaurants and bars across the city (And by “across” I mean – Hollywood Road, SoHo, Queen’s Road, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Kennedy Town, with a rare trip to the “dark side” a.k.a. Kowloon 😉 )
Determined to become more at home as residents of the city we live in, my sister-in-law and I decided to play tourists. And booked tickets for the Hong Kong Foodie tasting tour in Central and Sheung Wan.
We hoped that they would live up to their promise of delivering some of the best examples of local cuisine, with a dose of history and culture. And so it was that two Indians joined a motley crew consisting of tourists from Canada, Sweden, America and France, all led by a Hong Kong Chinese guide.
We started at a wonton noodle shop run by a brother and sister duo, whose family has been in this business for generations. I’d tried wonton noodle soup at another restaurant before and been turned off by the “smelly” broth, so I was a little apprehensive about this course. Turns out, you need to know the right way to have it. Our guide, Silvana, suggested that we add some vinegar to the dish…lo and behold…it completely changed the flavour of the soup! The shrimp inside the wontons was fresh and cooked perfectly and the noodles had a great springy texture. Before I knew it, I had polished off the entire bowl.
We then made our way around some dai pai dongs (open air food stalls that were once quite prolific in HK but now extremely scarce), past a restaurant that was highly recommended for its snake soup (haven’t mustered up the courage to go back to try that one as yet), through the wet market and into a little restaurant that would have been easy to overlook on the crowded street. There, it was some superb barbequed pork for everyone – Tender, fatty meat coated with a sticky sweet sauce, along with steamed rice soaked in the juices of the meat. Certainly a highlight of the tour for me… and for a majority of the other participants as well.
Our next stop was a juice shop for some freshly pressed sugarcane juice. As a person who has grown up drinking fresh sugarcane juice in India, I found the local version made from boiled sugarcane just too sweet for my liking. But some of the others in the group loved it.
We worked off our meals by walking up the steps to the mid-levels in Sheung Wan and reached a tea shop, where we got a short and very informative lesson on Chinese teas (some interesting info here) while sipping on freshly brewed Oolong tea. (Which, BTW is my new favourite… seeing as its benefits include anti-aging, aiding weight loss, improving skin & hair, preventing hair loss, etc.).
The next course was dim sum. Obviously, I’ve tried a lot of dim sum restaurants in HK, and was pleasantly surprised that the family-run restaurant that we headed to next, held its own among them. The dumplings with the fresh and juicy prawns were wonderful. The char siu baos with slow roasted pork inside golden, crumbly buns were delightful (very close to the ones at Tim Ho Wan – my personal favourite). And the spring rolls with their umami vegetable filling and delightfully crispy skin were just heavenly.
Surprisingly, we still had room for dessert. Did I say surprisingly? Of course not. There is ALWAYS room for dessert. And local Hong Kongers do love their dessert… if the plethora of bakeries and dessert places is anything to go by. Cantonese style egg tarts from a local bakery rounded up the culinary excursion. Pretty good, but I prefer Portuguese-style tarts with their flaky pastry cups and caramelized tops.
Sated (and a little better informed about our city), we headed home, each carrying a helpful pamphlet from Silvana, with details of several other recommended restaurants to try out in the future.
Final verdict: Informative, engaging, and above all, very, very yummy 🙂 . Totally worth it!