Photo Credit: Lon Lee
Comfort food is food that associates with your individual or cultural specific kind of nostalgia. It particularly means a lot when you are away from home. As you consume comfort food, it recalls your memories from the good old days and its familiarity relieves you from the feeling of insecurity, anxiety, and stress.
With the Michelin Guide 2016 edition dedicating a new section to introduce Street Food, Hong Kong comfort food are getting back to the table. Yet, apart from the classic comfort food, it also introduces us with their new modernized versions. Let’s see what are comfort food for HongKongers!
Congee, “jouk” 粥, is the ultimate Cantonese comfort food that does not only warm your stomach, but also your heart. Pour a small amount of rice in the pot, simmered low and slow for hours with water, then you may add all manner of things in it, ranging from fresh beef slices to dried fish skin. The key to preparing a nice bowl of congee is patience. Congee is the best-cooked under mild fire and you must stir it from time to time. If you are lazy, grab a bowl from restaurants below, they are equally good in their way depending on whether you are a classic or avant-garde type of food lover.
Classic: Congee in Mui Kee (妹記), Shop 11-12, 4/F, Fa Yuen St Market, Mong Kok
New: Congee made with barley, and jazzed up with multiple, flavour-packed toppings – beef floss , Japanese seaweed, a soft onsen egg, and a fried dough stick (“yau za gwai”油炸鬼) in The Bottle Shop Central, Shop 1, 17 Bridges St, Central, 2799 4899
Steamed rice paper rolls, as known as “Cheung Fun” 腸粉 in Cantonese, is one of the typical grab-and-go food in Hong Kong. Made with thin sheets of steamed rice paper rolled together into sausage-like tubes and served with a mix of sauce, it can save you from your starving tummy while you are on the way.
Classic: Served with little more than squirts of hoisin, soy and chili sauces and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds in Hop Yik Tai (合益泰小食）, G/F, 121 Lam St, Sham Shui Po
New: Served with a rich lobster sauce and generous chunks of lobster and a dusting of dried fish roe for extra umami in Lobster Bobo by Eddy（龍蝦寶寶）, Shop A, G/F, Haleson Bldg, 1 Jubilee St, Central, 3971 0933
The most fulfilling Hong Kong comfort food is probably beef offal noodles. Slow-cooked beef offal, usually tripe and intestines, served with noodles in hale and hearty soup. Every sip is filled with the rich taste of beef offal. Plus, it is always hard to find offal elsewhere, especially when eating animals’ intestines are not that well-accepted in western culture, making it more bounded as being a typical kind of Hong Kong comfort food.
Classic: Kau Kee（九記牛腩）, G/F, 21 Gough St, Central
New: Presented like Japanese ramen, served with fresh beef from one of the city’s best butchers, stock made with grilled beef bones, noodles from an artisanal maker in Taiwan Min Saam Gun （麵三館）, G/F, 43 Gough St, Central, 2388 6982
Wonton is a traditional Chinese food and each region has its own variations. In Hong Kong, wonton usually refers to dumplings filled with pork and shrimp, served alone or with noodles in soup. While in other parts of China, it may be filled with vegetables, chicken or beef, and served with chili sauce instead.
Classic: Mak’s Noodle, G/F, 77 Wellington St, Central
New: Molecular Wonton at Three Dice Kitchen, Shop 2, Haven Ct, 137 Leighton Rd, Causeway Bay. Combining pork and shrimp in dried powder form and wraps them in an edible film of potato starch and soy lecithin. It is served with dashi, the Japanese consomme, and the wonton wrapper disappears once the molecular dumpling is submerged.
Toast is not traditionally Chinese, but it has captured people’ hearts and souls ever since its launch in Hong Kong’s own breed of diners “cha chaan teng” (茶餐廳). For years, toasted sandwiches are filled with scrambled eggs, cheese, condensed milk and many more fillings that you name it and you got it. With a cup of Hong-Kong style milk tea or iced lemon tea, toast is HongKongers’ all-year favorite for afternoon tea.
Classic: Australian Dairy Company, G/F, 47-49 Parkes St, Jordan
New: Toast with a rainbow of flavored grilled cheese (tomato, basil, and lavender) and cheddar, emmental, gruyere and mozzarella at Kala Cheese Toast, Shop 6, G/F, Cheong Tai Bldg, 4 Tsuen Hing Path, Tsuen Wan, 3706 5432
Eggette Waffles, “Gai daan zai”雞蛋仔, is perfect comfort food to share. These freshly made waffles are special in their little egg-shaped protrusions. They have crispy outer layer, but sweet and soft inside. Undeniably, HongKongers are irresistible of “Gai daan zai”. When its rich butter smell penetrates in the air, we just naturally walk all the way down the street just to get a pack of hot and freshly made “Gai daan zai”.
Classic: Master Low-key（低調高手）, Shop B3, G/F, 76A Shau Kei Wan Main St East, Shau Kei Wan
New: Serving eggette waffles with ice-cream, and adding anything from chocolate to pineapple to even ham and cheese Oddies Foodies, 45 Gough St, Central, 2750 2111
French Toast is another non-traditionally Chinese comfort food introduced and modified by cha chaan teng in Hong Kong. The local version of French toast is made by dipping a peanut butter or kaya( Malaysian coconut jam) sandwich in eggs and deep fry it. Every bite of Hong Kong-style French toast is mixed with enjoyment and guilt, having known that it has an extraordinary high-calorie count.
Classic: Shui Kee Coffee（瑞記咖啡）, Shop 17, 2/F, Sheung Wan Municipal Services Building, 345 Queen’s Rd Central, Sheung Wan
New: French toast served with foie gras butter at Second Draft, 98 Tung Lo Wan Rd, Tai Hang, 2656 0232
Do not be disappointed if you cannot find pineapples in pineapple bun. It earned its name from the sweet and crackly sugar top instead. Having a long history in both cha chaan teng and local bakery, pineapple bun is one of the top picks for afternoon tea. This little sweet-savoury delight gives HongKongers a break from their strained work life.
Classic: Kam Fung（金鳳茶餐廳）, G/F, Spring Garden Mansion, 41 Spring Garden Lane, Wan Chai
New: Pineapple bun filled with Japanese-style deep-fried pork chop, with that extra crunch and sweetness from the pineapple at VEA, 29/F-30/F, The Wellington, 198 Wellington St, Central, 2711 8639
HongKongers are natural food lovers. Many are still hunting for sweets after a fulfilling dinner. Their daily food journey would not be completed without Chinese dessert soup, like a hot bowl of milky tofu skin and egg soup in the winter, or a sip of cold mango sago with coconut milk in summer.
Classic: Yuen Kee Dessert (源記甜品專家), G/F, 32 Centre St, Sai Ying Pun
New: By using the quick-freezing properties of liquid nitrogen, popular Chinese dessert soup is transformed into ice-cream at Lab Made, citywide including 6 Brown St, Tai Hang, 9355 4476
Hong Kong Comfort Food Map
Let’s explore both classic and new versions of Hong Kong comfort food by following the map below!
As a newly launched section, the part about street food in the Michelin Guide 2016 edition may not be a completed one. Leave a comment below and tell us what you think should also be on the list.