Hong Kong’s cuisine is renowned for its exotic fusion of Eastern and Western flavors along with a wide variety of culinary delights. Its cultural blend, proximity to mainland China and reputation for quality have made Hong Kong the world’s undisputed Gourmet Paradise. As you would expect, good Chinese restaurants are abundant in Hong Kong. The variety of flavors, aromas, and textures of Chinese cuisine are sure to delight your palates. The most popular styles of Chinese cooking in Hong Kong are:
Cantonese is the best-known style of Chinese cooking worldwide. Ingredients are purchased and prepared the same day and cooked just before serving for its freshness and natural flavours. Few spices are used for seasoning. In many seafood restaurants, diners can choose live fish from the tanks. The price of seafood is determined on a “pay by teal” basis. A teal is a Chinese unit of measurement, approximately equal to 1.2 ounces. Dried seafood such as shark’s fin, abalone and conpoy, are often served.
Enjoy an old Cantonese custom of Yum Cha or “drinking tea” where Dim Sum is inextricably linked to it. Dim Sum are special Cantonese snacks steamed using bamboo baskets and paraded past on trolleys in restaurants. Hong Kong boasts the best international Dim Sum chefs, who prepare mouth-watering delicacies such as steamed pork spareribs, steamed buns with roast pork and har gao (shrimp dumplings) with translucent skin. There are usually three to four pieces with each plate or steamer basket having different price. When getting your tea cup filled, it is Chinese custom to tap your fingers on the table near your cup twice as a sign of reverence and thanks. Another style of Cantonese dining can be found at outdoor cooked-food stalls. These eating places serve some of the best but very simple seafood, noodle and rice dishes in an alfresco atmosphere.
Chiu Chow cuisine is known for its tantalizing taste sensations and refined poultry dishes. The Chiu Chow flavors originated around the Swatow district of eastern Guangdong province and are now among the most popular in Hong Kong. Piquant sauces often enhance dishes, with tangerine jam for steamed lobsters and broad-bean paste for fish. Duck and goose are Chiu Chow favorites. Spicy goose is served with vinegar sauce and garlic. Many Chiu Chow classic dishes are light and tasty, with abundant use of vegetables. Chiu Chow chefs are skilled vegetable carvers, creating fine flowers, birds, dragons, and phoenixes from carrots and melons. The pungent Tiet Kwun Yum oolong tea served in tiny cups before and after a meal is a digestive aid.
Rich and sweet flavours are the hallmark of Shanghainese cuisine. Shanghai does not have a definitive cuisine of its own, but refines those of the surrounding provinces. Its flavours are heavier and oilier than Cantonese cuisine, featuring preserved vegetables, pickles and salted meats. Thousand Year-Old eggs served with pickled ginger are perhaps Shanghai ‘s best-known culinary creation. Beggar’s Chicken is a legendary dish wrapped in lotus leaves, covered in clay and oven-fired to perfection. It was baked in the ground in olden times. Other popular dishes include hairy crab, “eight treasure” duck, “drunken
chicken, braised eel and yellow fish. Dumplings, breads and noodles are served more often than rice.
Originated in the imperial courts, Peking ‘s stylistic dishes are fit for an emperor. This cuisine is renowned for its use of the best ingredients. Noodles, dumplings, and breads are served instead of rice. The most famous dish is the Peking duck. To achieve the prized crisp skin, the duck is air-dried, then coated with a mixture of syrup and soy sauce before roasting. The skin is thinly sliced and carved at the table and the slivers of skin are wrapped in thin pancakes with spring onions or leeks, cucumber, turnip and delicious plum sauce. Other popular dishes include sizzling plates of seafood or meat, and succulent beggar’s chicken.
Szechuan & Hunan
Szechuan and Hunan cuisine are renowned for the intensity of their fiery flavours. Landlocked Hunan ‘s chilli-rich cuisine are similar to that of western China ‘s Szechuan province. Chilli, garlic and the unusual “strange sauce” enliven many dishes. Mustard sauce complements duck’s tongues, and minced bean paste forms a pungent and powdery coating for fish or scallops. Honey sauces are favoured for desserts such as water chestnut or cassia-flower cakes.
Szechuan food includes some of the spiciest dishes in China . Chillied bean paste, peppercorns and garlics are widely used. Chicken, pork, river fish and shellfish are popular ingredients, and noodles or steamed bread are preferred to rice. However, not all Szechuan cuisine is spicy. Common cooking methods include smoking and simmering, which allow peppers and aromatic seasonings time to infuse food with tastes and aromas. Traditional dishes include crispy beef, deep fried with kumquat peel, and duck is the premier Szechuan specialty.
Hong Kong ‘s vegetarian cuisine is well regarded for its healing and nutritional qualities. Soya bean is processed into bean curd or tofu, is the major ingredient used in vegetarian cuisine. The curd is prepared to taste and look similar to roast duck, barbecued pork, salted chicken, scallops and other delicacies. China’s treasury of mushrooms and other types of fungi add variety to the vegetarian cuisine.
The distinct flavors of Chinese wines are designed to perfectly complement your meal. Unlike western wines, Chinese wine is distilled from rice, millet, and other grains, as well as herbs and flowers. The popular rice-based Xiao Qing, Yellow Wine, is best served warm. It tastes similar to medium-dry sherry and goes well with a wide range of Chinese cuisine, especially during the cool season. Millet based Gao Liang and Mao Tai are fiery, with an alcoholic content of 70 percent. These are definitely best sampled after a hearty meal. Wu Jia Pi is a sweet herbal wine believed to have medicinal values.