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Leave the jacket and tie at home, and take to the city’s neighborhoods for Hong Kong’s best food experiences. At these restaurants, ambience complements delicious, authentic food made from the freshest ingredients. Here are a five places to get a local's taste of Hong Kong:
1. At Yung Kee restaurant in Central, diners jam into the noisy space to dig into traditional Chinese cuisine. This busy dining room may not be the best place for a romantic evening out, but the roast goose is considered by many to be the best in the city. Cantonese specialities like braised supreme bird’s nest and sautéed frog legs with bamboo shots will give you a taste of authentic Hong Kong cuisine.
2. The most popular place for dim sum for tourists and locals alike is Central City Hall Maxim's Palace — perhaps because Maxim’s is one of the few restaurants in Hong Kong to still use a trolley to carry steamed baskets of pork buns and dumplings to each table. Sample classic dishes such as steamed chicken and mushroom buns while sipping chrysanthemum tea, then finish a meal with a traditional moon cake.
3. You can't leave Hong Kong without trying a plate of fresh seafood, and local residents know that one of the best places to find flavorful crab, prawns and fish is Lamma Island. The small fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan is where most visitors go, and for good reason; once you step off the ferry (you'll have to board at Central Pier 4 for the 30-40 minute journey), the first thing you'll notice is a row of seafood restaurants. Most of the dining options on this strip of the island allow guests to choose their own dinner from a tank of the day's fresh catch. Take your pick, have a seat at an outdoor table and order a round of Tsingtao for the table — you're about to dine on some of the finest fresh seafood in all of Southeast Asia.
4. Under Bridge Spicy Crab serves one of the most famous crab dishes around. In Hong Kong’s early days, the restaurant’s neighborhood of Causeway Bay was where diners came for fresh seafood caught in the harbor and cooked to order the same day. The traditional dish of typhoon shelter crab (made with crab meat, garlic, scallion, red chili and black beans) originated in this area, and today, it's made to perfection at this curiously named local joint.
5. Tsui Wah Cha Chaan Teng is a great place for everyday dining. In fact, “Cha Chaan Teng” means local diner in Cantonese. The first Tsui Wah opened in San Po Kong, and today, you can find the popular chain in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Macau and Wuhan. Still, the first location is a bit of a legend, so make a trip to enjoy an inexspensive lunch of fish balls and sliced fish cakes with rice noodles in fish soup noodles and a sweet cup of milk tea.
Char Siu Barbecued pork is one of the crowning achievements of Cantonese cuisine. You’ll see it on many menus, where it’s served on its own or as filling for cheong fun (rice noodle rolls) and char siu bao (steamed bbq pork buns).
Dim Sum refers to a collection of small dishes -- dumplings and buns, mostly -- meant to accompany tea, eaten mainly in the late morning or for lunch. It can be had in no frills shops, or some of Hong Kong’s finest restaurants.
Egg Tarts These golden pastries are are one of HK’s emblematic sweets. Try one hot out of the oven at Tai Cheong bakery, in Central.
Fresh seafood Fish are often bought and transported live to restaurants, where they live in tanks until you order your dinner. The seafood restaurants on Lamma Island draw big crowds, but the best steamed fish I’ve ever had has been at The Chairman.
Cha Chaan Teng These cheap and cheerful cafés (cha chaan teng means “tea food hall”) offer a great dose of local flavor. I go for a pineapple bun or Hong Kong-style French toast (golden fried and drizzled with syrup or sweetened condensed milk), and a glass of silky smooth iced milk tea, a local specialty you shouldn’t leave town without trying.
Hong Kong is known for its strong and unique food culture, and there are certain experiences that you just shouldn't miss.
Dim Sum: Dim Sum literally means touching the heart, but in practice, it's a delicious meal of savory and sweet dishes (not always so small), like noodle rolls, dumplings, fried squid, and sauteed vegetables. It's also a serious staple of Hong Kong cuisine and family life. Dim Sum was traditionally often served from carts which circled the dining room, but that's harder to find these days. For the dim sum cart experience, try Maxim's Palace in Admiralty, or Lin Heung Kui, in Sheung Wan. For a more elegant experience, go to the Four Seasons' Lung King Heen, often called the best Chinese food in the city.
Duck, Duck, Goose: Hong Kongers love their BBQ poultry. The best place for goose is the very delicious, very celebrated Yung Kee. For Peking Duck, try Peking Garden, where you can also watch the chef deftly hand-pull lo mein noodles. It's like magic.
Lamma Seafood: Hong Kong is full of fresh seafood, but for the full experience, head to quiet Lamma Island, where you'll eat overlooking the lapping ocean as you eat. The prices are good and the menu is enormous, featuring lobster, clams, prawns, whole grilled fish you choose from a tank, scallops in cheese, and more. Rainbow is a trusty bet, and offers a free ferry to the island from Central, upon reservation.
Fine Dining: It's worth splurging in a city that boasts some of the world's top restauranteurs. Some combine an exceptional meal with a fabulous setting, like the Asia Society's AMMO, where you can enjoy sublime Asian Fusion in what feels like a tropical glasshouse, overlooking the jungle.
Dai Pai Dong: Perhaps the most classic Hong Kong dining experience is the Dai Pai Dong, an outdoor stall where you can enjoy steaming plates of Cantonese food al fresco. The prices are unbeatable. Sadly, the stalls are fast disappearing. For a selection of food, try Stanley Street in Central, or Temple Street in Jordan.