Cantonese cuisine is at its finest in the culinary capital of Hong Kong, yet it’s often the case that tourists, and sometimes even local expats, miss out on some of the best mom-and-pop eateries and traditional delicacies that the city has to offer.
Many of these cha chaan tengs (Hong Kong-style cafes), restaurants and stores – selling everything from fresh egg noodles to every form of tofu imaginable – have been firmly established in neighbourhoods for decades, their lunchtime queues stretching easily around the block. Hapless visitors, if undeterred by the waiting crowd, are often left scratching their heads over the complex looking Chinese menu and quickly find themselves on the receiving end of hurried waiters and hungry customers with a serious case of stink-eye.
[Also see our travel article "The Street Food of Hong Kong"]
Offering insight into where locals like to go and what they like to eat, Hong Kong Foodie introduced its Sham Shui Po Foodie Tour in May this year, a follow up to its highly successful Central and Sheung Wan tasting tour. Diving into the heart of a district rarely visited by tourists, Foodie participants get a taste of the culinary, historical and architectural flavour of working class Sham Shui Po – a district as yet left relatively untouched by the city’s zealous urban-redevelopment schemes.
Stops along the walking tour include tastings at six family-run eateries, and at the dried seafood stores, fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, traditional bakeries and cookware shops that make the area an attractive destination for adventurous foodies, although (thankfully) the tour bypasses the snake soup shop – keep your eyes peeled for the cobra in its flimsy looking wire cage.
Start the day with a cup of lai cha (Hong Kong-style milk tea), an early morning pick-me-up, and freshly baked bo lo bao (pineapple bun) before exploring the neighbourhood with a knowledgeable guide. Learn how chiu chow braised goose and pork knuckles have been adapted to better suit local tastes, and head right into the back of a busy noodle shop for a glimpse into the traditional noodle-making process. Those equally as interested in dishing up the meals will delight in the cooking supplies store, where a huge array of woks, strainers and high-quality kitchen knives fill every available space.
Taking guests not only on a culinary but also a cultural journey through the eclectic district, the guide will also highlight the oldest buildings in the area and point out the best streets for all kinds of shopping. Make sure to turn up hungry. Running from breakfast time until lunch, the tour takes visitors on an authentic edible journey that is well off the beaten tourist track.
Sham Shui Po Foodie Tours run for three hours and 45 minutes, and are limited to small groups of eight people. The cost is HK$690 for Adult Foodies (aged 15 and up) and HK$490 for Young Foodies, including all tastings.
To book a tour or for more information go to hongkongfoodietours.com
Photos by Kim Campbell