Seven salads to beat the Hong Kong summer heat, from Thai favourites to superfoods
If the thought of a hot dish in this weather is enough to ruin your appetite, why not opt for a salad? Well-balanced and nutritious ones can be found all over the city: here are seven of the best, plus a few other recommendations
Hong Kong’s summer heat can be so unbearable that even the thought of sweating over a sizzling steak or boiling hot soup noodles can be enough to ruin an appetite. Forget slaving away in the kitchen, too. A better – and possibly healthier – option might be to tuck into a substantial salad.
Salads don’t have to be relegated to side-dish status; we’re not talking limp lettuce and tasteless tomatoes, but well-balanced, nutritious meals.
To save you the sweat, we traipsed around Hong Kong to find seven appetising options we hoped would leave us feeling as cool as a cucumber.
Green papaya salad at Mango Tree (HK$118)
You’ll find plenty of green papaya salads in Hong Kong, but the upscale Mango Tree in Elements mall presents a perfectly balanced take on the Thai classic. Not too sour, spicy or sweet, the dish was super crunchy, refreshing and teeming with textures – from the juicy pop of cherry tomatoes, to the satisfying crunch of toasted peanuts, small dried shrimps, and shredded papaya and long green beans. A hulking wedge of iceberg lettuce gave relief from the chilli but, plonked on the side of the plate, it felt like an afterthought. The salad was on the small side for a main course, but would work better shared with other small plates from the menu.
Shop 2032, 2/F Elements, 1 Austin Road West, West Kowloon, tel: 2668 4884
Fiat supreme salad at Fiat Caffe (HK$128)
Hidden in a Tsim Sha Tsui basement, Fiat Caffe is a sophisticated lunch spot with a wide range of salads. We had to try the Fiat supreme salad, which had us dreaming of Italy, with its juicy orange segments, ripe cherry tomatoes and a good mix of leaves coated in a balsamic vinegar dressing.
The dish was topped with a “candied egg”, which was basically half a soft-boiled egg that wasn’t unpleasant but had almost no flavour, making us wonder how long it had been sitting in the refrigerator.
There were a few thin slices of prosciutto on top of the salad, while chewy mini whole chestnuts studded the dish. We felt the pumpkin chunks were on the small side, and the smattering of sweetcorn felt like a pointless addition. At the pricier end of the dishes we tried, Fiat’s salad would make for a satisfying lunch.
Shop B131, B1/F Mira Place One, 132 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2808 4777
Superfood salad at Pizza Express (HK$128)
The most health-conscious salad lovers would do no wrong with the Pizza Express chain’s huge superfood salad. The colossal plate of dark green leaves seemed intimidatingly huge when it was lowered in front of us, but the foliage was balanced by lots of other ingredients, such as beetroot, mozzarella chunks, pumpkin, avocado and cucumber.
The plate was a little light on the promised lentils, which got lost in all the spinach and lettuce. It came very lightly drizzled with a sticky balsamic reduction – great for those avoiding more calorific dressings, but we felt it left the dish a little dry.
Multiple locations. We tried shop 182, Level 1, Moko, 193 Prince Edward Road West, Mong Kok, tel: 2321 2807
Buckwheat soba salad at The Restaurant by The Kinnet (HK$90)
This place in Sheung Wan is part of a complex that is described as a “wellness centre” and includes a gym and classes teaching handicrafts. The restaurant features healthy dishes designed by a dietitian to ensure diners get enough nutrients from soups, grilled fish and smoothies, to name just a few menu categories.
The Japanese-inspired salad we tried had a mild seaweed taste and used cold soba noodles made with buckwheat flour and touted as a healthier alternative to wheat. The nutty-tasting noodles made the dish more substantial, but not too heavy. There was a generous amount of shredded roast chicken – but we did find one piece that we thought might be undercooked – and moreishly crispy bits of deep-fried garlic. We felt there could have been more rocket on the plate and perhaps a sweet element, such as cherry tomatoes.
Catch this one while you still can. We just found out The Kinnet will shut on September 5.
Hillier Building, 33 Hillier Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 3968 7600
Prawn and avocado salad at Catch on Catchick (HK$128 – set lunch)
Small but trendy seafood restaurant Catch on Catchick in Kennedy Town offers a healthy weekday lunch set menu. We didn’t see the option to order the prawn and avocado salad on its own, but it was good value combo paired with a soup starter we really enjoyed, although the dessert was only a bit bigger than two spoonfuls.
The salad was small, yet generous on the ripe and creamy avocado slices nestled among soft butter lettuce and some watercress leaves. Chunky cubes of crumbly feta sat alongside four big, meaty and perfectly cooked prawns drizzled in a moreish “Catch” dressing, which tasted like a mild and thinned Thousand Island dressing.
95 Catchick Street, Kennedy Town, tel: 2855 1289
Mango, papaya and beef salad at Chom Chom (HK$98)
Hip SoHo no-reservation Vietnamese restaurant Chom Chom is so popular that we got there before 5pm to ensure we could snag a table.
The four salads on the menu include kaffir lime chicken cabbage salad; smoked aubergine with crab; and shrimp and pomelo salad. The one we tried – mango, papaya and beef salad – was packed with flavour, from the light aniseed of Thai basil leaves, to zingy chunks of stir-fried, lemongrass-marinated beef, and long, noodle-like pieces of papaya soaking up a mixture of chilli, fish sauce and herbs.
The dish was crowned with two big, crispy prawn crackers, which were great for scooping up the beef and juicy marinade. The salad would be a small dinner on its own, but can be paired with the restaurant’s refreshing rice paper rolls, like the summer paper roll (HK$88), for a more substantial meal.
58 Peel Street, Central, tel: 2810 0850
Roasted fresh fig salad at Le Souk (HK$95)
Walking into this restaurant, we were immediately transported to a souk thanks to the exotic lanterns on the blue ceiling, brilliant red comfy chairs and mosaic-like walls. By far the best presented dish we tried, Le Souk’s lovingly arranged roasted fresh fig salad was a feast for the eyes. Four succulent halves of fig came topped with the creamiest crumbs of goat’s cheese.
Each juicy piece was covered in honey and a delicately sweet orange sauce, framing a tumble of balsamic-drizzled leaves in the middle of the plate. A satisfying main course, the salad came with a generous side of pitta-style bread, which was perfect for packing with salad and cheese for a makeshift wrap, before mopping up the sticky sauce at the end.
4 Staunton Street, Central, tel: 2522 2128
Beef & Liberty
A new addition to the menu is the beetroot and pomegranate salad (HK$88), which includes endives and kale and is dressed with sherry vinegar.
Star Street Precinct, 2/F, 23 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2811 3009
We like the textures in the kelp and mung bean noodle salad (HK$158) that features pickled cloud ear, blanched hedgehog mushroom and Chinkiang vinaigrette.
108 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2873 3353
This is a good takeaway salad place, with such options as Cobb salad (HK$110), Asian salad (HK$90), and salad nicoise (HK$110).
2 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 6695 3623
You can’t go wrong with Jamie’s Burrata (HK$148), which has creamy Italian buffalo burrata with salad greens, herbs and extra virgin olive oil.
Shop 412, Level 4, Ocean Centre, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 3758 3333