Once upon a time, I ate all the food in Hong Kong. Okay, maybe not all the food, but I certainly ate a lot. In my defense, I also did an absurd amount of walking around the city. We're talking 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. days — I needed to eat to keep my energy up! Also, the food was amazing.
My gastronomic journey began on a random Wednesday night in the Causeway Bay neighborhood of Hong Kong. I had just arrived by myself after a few days in Thailand and was both dazzled by the energy of Hong Kong and aware that I had not eaten since the slice of surprisingly good pizza I bought at the Phuket airport. With food on my mind, I quickly found my hotel, checked in and, an hour later at 11 p.m., took off in search of Jardine's Bazaar, one of the oldest shopping districts in Hong Kong. The guy at my hotel concierge desk said I might find a place still serving food, but he didn't seem too sure of his suggestion. Since I knew nothing about the area and was now approaching high levels of starving, I decided to follow his advice.
Once at Jardine's Bazaar, I spotted a line of people extending out of a small restaurant. I could also see that inside was packed. Like, really packed. Maybe it's the New Yorker in me, but I'm always drawn to a line of people. To me, a line means something is either really good, in high demand or it's free — sometimes all three. Either way, I figured the odds were in my favor, and it was clearly a popular spot for a Wednesday night meal. That must be a good sign, right?
A few minutes later I sat across from an elderly gentleman who seemed oblivious to everything except his bowl of noodles. Fine with me because I knew that would be me very soon. With an uncertain glance at the menu, I decided to go with the shrimp wonton noodle soup. I didn't know at the time that the restaurant I had stumbled upon, Man Fai, was known for its squid ball noodle soup. I didn't even know what squid balls tasted like, so I admit to going with the less adventurous option of shrimp wonton. It ended up being a great choice and a nice way to start several days of eating in Hong Kong.
While I won't go into detail about everything I ate during my stay, I did have a few favorite meals worth highlighting:
Tim Ho Wan
The chances of me visiting the world's least expensive Michelin star restaurant while in Hong Kong were extremely high. First of all, Michelin star. Second of all, world's least expensive. It was a no-brainer. I set off early since I had read there could be long lines outside of Tim Ho Wan (see what I mean about lines?). My strategy worked — no wait plus I got to sit across from another elderly gentleman who only seemed interested in eating his food. Still fine with me, I thought as I ordered baked barbecue pork puns and glutinous rice with sausage and chicken wrapped in a lotus leaf. Both were really delicious, though I found the pork buns to be the star of the show. With my belly full and my heart content, it was off to do more walking (sorry, feet).
Joy Hing Roasted Meat
I heard about this place from my boy Tony B on his show The Layover. I love char siu, so I was ready for the amazingness. My feet were also ready for another break. I have to say, it was...solid. Not amazing, but really, really solid. I come from a Caribbean family, so like many cultures around the world I am always comforted by some variation of meat and rice, and this was no exception. It was a really good dish that was just shy of being fantastic.
I can't recall when I first heard about Yardbird. All I know is that it kept popping up again and again during my Hong Kong food research (don't we all do Hong Kong food research?). I was initially hesitant about going here because, unlike the other places, this wasn't a sit down, eat, get up and go kind of place. This place was trendy; the type of restaurant you book a week or two in advance and go with your significant other or group of girlfriends. Welp, I went by myself and squeezed my way up to the bar. It was the first time since arriving in Hong Kong that I had seen so many expats in one place, and they were all dressed to impress. I was okay with that and actually ended up chatting with a nice couple from New York City who were now living in Hong Kong. After they paid their bill and told me their recommendations, I struck up a conversation with the bartender Alex while enjoying my cocktail, yakitori and KFC — Korean Fried Cauliflower. The night ended up being a lot of fun, plus I got a free shot of sake, so that always helps.
Of all the places I visited in Hong Kong, I probably thought about Maxim's the most. This chain bakery has the best pineapple buns! They were so addictive! I couldn't walk by a Maxim's without running in and grabbing a pineapple bun to go. It's like the way I can't walk past macarons without buying some. Pineapple buns were my new macarons (just during that trip, not permanently). I even carried my new addiction back with me to New York and found myself on the hunt for good pineapple buns in Manhattan's Chinatown. Strangely enough, I found a place, bought my bun but then never went back. Maybe these treats are just for Hong Kong. And, unfortunately, I have no documentation because I ate them too quickly! That's what happens when you're a glutton.
When it was finally time to leave, my stomach protested, my heart sank and my mind vowed to return soon. I'm excited to be heading back later this year where I will, once again, eat all the food in Hong Kong.
Have you been to Hong Kong? What did you enjoy eating?