Budget food you won’t want to miss in Hong Kong
Wallet-friendly delicacies
Published: Jun 29, 2017 09:47 PM

The Star Ferry in Hong Kong Photo: Xu Liuliu/GT

For some, Hong Kong is a paradise for shopping at the various big name flagstores - from Channel to Louis Vuitton - as well as boutique stores that can be found everywhere on the streets. For others, Hong Kong is the place where East meets West, and so experiencing the city's scenic spots as well as its two amusement parks Hong Kong Disneyland and Hong Kong Ocean Park is a priority.

However, for many food enthusiasts like myself, Hong Kong is a place where you can satisfy your appetite for local and fusion food.

Different from other destinations in the world, in Hong Kong, you can find not only authentic Western cuisine, from French to Spanish dishes, but also cheap and yummy street food and local Cha Chaan Teng (tea restaurant) dishes like macaroni, milk tea and instant noodles. A lunch for less than HK$80 ($10) at one of these restaurants will leave you feeling deeply satisfied.

A frequent visitor to Hong Kong in recent years, I'm eager to share some of my favorite dishes that I have nearly every time I head to the city. The most important thing to keep in mind is that these dishes are also a favorite of locals and not just something put on menus for tourists.

Beef noodle soup Photo: Xu Liuliu/GT

Representative dish

If you asked me to choose one dish to represent Hong Kong, I would have to choose wonton noodles, which many people tend to look down on.

You may wonder how a small bowl of common wontons and noodles can stand out among the many delicious dishes one can have in Hong Kong.

Well the truth is that making a bowl of wonton noodles isn't as easy as it looks. A bowl of wonton noodles is usually served with steaming hot soup with shrimp wontons and garnished with chives, instead of the leafy vegetables that many Chinese mainland restaurants use.

As a veteran wonton noodle lover, I have sampled the wonton noodles served at countless restaurants throughout the Chinese mainland, as well as in Singapore.

A bowl of wonton noodles must meet three requirements to truly be considered worthy in my eyes.

First of all, the wontons must be made of real prawns with a little bit of minced pork thrown in. ­Second, the noodles must be smooth and thin and feel a bit crisp when you bite into them - the secret to this lies in adding eggs to the dough that the noodles are made from. Third, shrimp eggs must be added to a broth made from dried flounder.

Almost every street restaurant in Hong Kong serves wonton noodles. For me, I prefer to the Michelin-starred Ho Hung Kee restaurant located in Causeway Bay, the Chee Kei restaurant chain which has branches covering Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, as well as the time-honored Mak's Noodle and  Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop.

Shrimp dumplings Photo: Xu Liuliu/GT

Perfect brunch

It used to be that whenever I lined up in front of Tim Ho Wan, the dim-sum specialist located in Central, and found myself surrounded by travelers from places like Seoul, Toyko and New York, as well as Taipei and Singapore, I couldn't help but wonder why people from Taipei and Singapore would bother lining up for hours to have the very same dim-sum they could enjoy at the Tim Ho Wan branches located in their own cities.

I could understand why those from the West or Japan and South Korea would be eager to get a taste of this inexpensive dim-sum restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet and Michelin Red Guide Series, but why the others?

My question was later answered during a trip to Singapore. Entering a Tim Ho Wan there, I wondered why there were no lines. However, after I got a taste of one of my favorite dishes I realized that the Tim Ho Wan in Central is the only one worth lining up for.

In my experience, the best time to go to avoid hours of waiting is around 10:30 am on work days. In most cases, you should only have to wait less than five minutes.

Curry beef noodle soup Photo: Xu Liuliu

The best dishes you can order to accompany your Pu'er tea are the baked buns with BBQ pork, prawn dumplings, vermicelli roll stuffed with prawn and steamed egg cake. If you have an open mind, I recommend you also try the vermicelli roll stuffed with pig's liver and the steamed chicken feet with black bean sauce.

Spending less than HK$100 per person, you and your friends can have the perfect brunch.

From there you can wander the IFC Mall in Central and other boutique shops nearby before taking the Star Ferry heading to Kowloon.

One of the top ten must-visit attractions in Hong Kong, the Star Ferry offers passengers the most exciting yet cheapest way to appreciate a splendid sea view of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon for only HK$2.5.

French fries Photo: Xu Liuliu/GT

Kowloon eats

After a roughly 10-15-minute ride, you will find yourself in a place quite different from Hong Kong Island - more travelers, crowded streets, neon shop signs everywhere… and of course, more street food stalls.

Curry fish balls, egg waffles, egg tarts and Siu mai are very popular eats among both tourists and locals. Since the 1950s, curry fish balls have been Hong Kong's most traditional street snack. You can see people enjoying these on practically every street corner.

For meat-lovers, I recommend a small vendor, Fei Jie's in Meng Kok.

The menu mainly has squid, pork, turkey kidneys and intestines. If you don't know what to choose, then go with the stall's signature dish, which includes small intestines, squid tentacles and turkey kidneys. Before you order, make sure you tell your server if you want mustard or not. 

Hong Kong is home to many other wallet-friendly street stalls that I haven't mentioned. Feel free to explore on your own and no matter what you choose you really can't go wrong. 

Chicken feet Photo: Xu Liuliu/GT