Known as a gourmet paradise, it’s no wonder there’s no such thing as dieting when in Hong Kong. The varieties of street food are endless as the road stretches on and on and little pushcarts and stalls line the sides of them. From savoury soupy bowls of noodles and offals to convenient little snacks like curry fish balls and intestines, to sweet treats like egg waffles and put chai ko, Hong Kong has it all.
There’s so much more to Hong Kong street food than just har gau, siu mai and polo bau. With so many amazing foods around you, it’s hard to decide where to start. Beginning on the streets of Hong Kong, here is our list of iconic street snacks you shouldn’t miss out on.
Perhaps one of the local’s absolute favourite has to be beef offals, known as ngau jap in Cantonese. A street-side delicacy, the stew often contains innards such as the pancreas, chewy intestines and stomach, and spongy lungs. For an extra kick, mustard is sometimes added too.
There’s no need to worry about the smell of the offals. Only fresh offals are used and arrive daily before undergoing 10 hours of hand-cleaning, drying and stewing before being sold. The essence of the stew is made up of over 20 spices and sauces to create that rich umami gravy.
BLACK SESAME ROLLS
Sometimes referred to its nickname as “photographic film” due to its appearance, black sesame rolls are a refrigerated dim sum dessert. These sweet treats have a firm jelly-like texture that’s smooth and soft. The ground black sesame is turned into a paste before being rolled up, giving it this lovely nuttiness and earthiness to the dessert.
Unfortunately, despite its vast popularity in the 70’s and 80’s, it’s not that commonly found now, so you’d have to do a bit of digging in order to find these delectable refreshing treats.
Affectionately known as ce zai min, a bowl of cart noodles is very much uniquely Hong Kong from the choice of noodles to the ingredients and the soup base. This cultural icon is, in a sense, a really fancy yet cheap bowl of maggi mee, yet is also so much more.
Each street vendor and shop make their soup broths a little differently, and each of them has their own unique toppings. Common toppings include pig intestines, chicken wings, radishes, pig blood and pork neck. If you’re not in the mood for soupy noodles, do give their satay sauce dry noodles a try.
CURRY FISH BALLS
It would be rude not to include this iconic street snack into the list. Curry fish balls are a classic upon classic and a definite must-have. There’s something about having cheaply made fish balls (which are more flour than fish, really) that readily soaks up the flavours of the curry, resulting in a burst of spiced savoury goodness when you bite into it.
These morsels are so small that you can easily pop them in your mouth one after another and then order another bowl. For a change in mouthfeel and taste, they’re commonly served with radish and cuttlefish too.
COLD SHAKEN NOODLES
If you love having shaker fries or just shaking your food in general, this is another must-have while you’re in Hong Kong. What it is is a packet of cold noodles, with as many or as little toppings and sauce as you want, and then you shake it up till everything is evenly mixed.
It takes a bit of trial and error for you to find your golden combination, but with ingredients such as intestines, gizzards, sausages and seaweed, regardless of sweet, savoury, salty or creamy, there’s something for everyone.
DEEP FRIED PIG INTESTINE
It definitely doesn’t sound appealing, but put aside whatever preconceptions you might have and give this iconic street food a try, after all, locals constantly crave for this skewered snack. Freshly fried, the outer layer is extremely crispy, almost bacon-like in both consistency and taste. The insides are no longer impossibly chewy but have a slight bite to its mostly soft and tender texture.
The taste is similar to that of liver, devoid of any repulsive smells as the intestines are meticulously cleaned before cooking. It’s recommended to pair sauces such as hoisin, chilli or mustard with this snack to further amplify the natural flavour ingrained in each layer of the intestine.
Another quintessential favourite has to be gai daan zai, usually translated as egg waffles, egglets, bubble waffles, whatsoever. Its popularity has spread to other countries, but still, no one does it best like the experts in Hong Kong.
This sweet, egg-rich waffle is a treat in itself, with its hollow crisp shell on one side, and a fluffy cake on the other, with each pocket of the waffle releasing that fragrant mouthwatering eggy smell we all know and love when you tear into it.
PUT CHAI KO
Put Chai Ko is a popular snack sold by street vendors and little roadside bakeries in Hong Kong. These little pudding cakes are palm-sized and sweet in taste, made from red beans, brown sugar, rice flour and wheat starch, and are served at room temperature.
These childhood favourites used to be sold on two bamboo stick skewered through the pudding cake for customers to hold onto, but nowadays they’re more commonly sold in individual plastic bags for better convenience.
A healthier alternative to most of Hong Kong’s otherwise heart-stopping delicacies, roasted chestnuts are a feature of Hong Kong’s autumn and winter. They’re typically prepared in the same cart as sweet potatoes and quail eggs.
The chestnuts are slow-roasted in the hot cinders to give a more aromatic smoky flavour to the sweet nutty flesh that machine roasted chestnuts are unable to replicate. They’re best eaten while still hot, and chances are you’re better off buying a kg of them at one go as it’s hard to stop eating once you start.
SAD SUPER HOT NOODLES
The name can be more literally translated as “Heartbroken Sour Spicy Noodles”, but rest assured these noodles will leave you crying cathartic tears. These noodles pride themselves on being so sour it makes you salivate and so spicy that it makes you cry.
The noodles are chewy and soak up all the fiery heat from the soup, layered with red chilli oil on top and interlaced with crunchy peanuts and pickles. Depending on the spice level you choose, the pain varies from a mild tingle to a fire ignited in your mouth, leaving you perspiring and crying by the end of the bowl.