A Hong Kong food and culture tour guide’s favourite restaurants, from Ngau Kee to The Chairman
Daisann McLane, director of Little Adventures in Hong Kong, learned Cantonese so she could find the city’s best places to eat. A fan of local classics prepared to perfection, she reveals what she has discovered
I’ve spent 15 years obsessing over Cantonese food and eventually it turned into my business. My motivation to learn Cantonese was to find the best places to eat and get dishes that are not on the English menu.
Years ago, I met journalist and restaurateur Lau Kin-wai. At he and his son’s restaurant, Kin’s Kitchen (5/F, W Square, 314-324 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2571 0913), they innovatively revive neglected Cantonese classics and create new ones. This is where I take jaded foodie friends. I order the braised pork belly with Yunnan mushrooms, the lightly fried fermented tofu from Puning, and the house-smoked chicken. Your mind and taste buds will explode. Lau is also an advocate for locally produced foods and on their menu is rice grown in Lantau’s Yi O village.
I shared a fancy bottle of Bordeaux with Lau and his wife years ago in a small restaurant called Ngau Kee (2/F, Chai Wan Municipal Services Building, 338 Chai Wan Road, Chai Wan, tel: 2546 2584). It has moved several times but recently got back to its dai pai dong roots. I think it’s way better than many more well-known places. I happily trek out to taste favourites like fried aubergine stuffed with fish paste and delightful steamed custard.
A fine dining restaurant I like is The Chairman (18 Kau U Fong, Central, tel: 2555 2202). Everyone loves the flower crab with Shaoxing wine, but I adore their version of mui choi kau yuk (preserved mustard greens with pork belly), with fresh dates adding sweetness and thicker texture – perfect for spooning over rice.
Speaking of classics, the Hong Kong University Alumni Association (Room 101, Yip Fung Building, 2 D'Aguilar Street, Central, tel: 2522 7968) has the lock on a few old Cantonese creations. Almond pigs lung soup, shrimp toast, and sweet and sour pork are benchmarks, and the canteen knocks these out of the ballpark. You need to go with an HKU grad, but it’s worth it.
On a more humble scale, For Kee (200 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2546 8947) is a family-run cha chaan teng serving possibly the city’s best sandwich – sliced curry beef with caramelised onions on white toast. The beef is tender, the onions sweet, and there’s just enough of a bite at the finish from freshly ground black pepper. It belongs in the global sandwich pantheon alongside the best Cubano, banh mi or New York pastrami.
Hong Kong dining: an eager home cook’s favourite restaurants, from dumplings and dim sum to Duddell’s and Dot Cod
My pick for roast meat is Sun Yuen Restaurant (327-329 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, tel: 2541 2207) where the siu lam (roast pork belly) is absolute crackling heaven in a bite. The sifu behind the counter will often cheer me up by dropping a rich, creamy hunk of barbecued duck liver into my palm.
My latest hidden find is Fai Che (53 Peng Chau Wing On Street, Peng Chau, tel: 2983 8756). The small storefront run by the welcoming Kan family has a soup that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The almost creamy fish broth, fragrant with celery and bean sprouts, has squares of fried tofu stuffed with cuttlefish bobbing and floating. As an added bonus, they happily let you bring your own fish from the nearby market, to be steamed or fried to perfection.