Hong Kong has always been known for both trend-setting and for jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to what’s hot and what’s not. This is particularly true when it comes to food.
Here are 10 of the biggest food trends of the 2010s, or “teens” – and aren’t we grateful they emerged?
Not content with just deliciousness, over the last 10 years, we developed a desire for fun, funny, and even subversive items at yum cha. Some of the most iconic items included Disney and Pixar characters, elegant swan-shaped taro pastries, and Gudetama or yellow custard buns that spewed rich, eggy goodness when you poked their mouths with a chopstick.
Huge and fluffy, yet light and impossibly airy, one of the most popular desserts in the last couple of years was the Japanese souffle pancake. It doesn’t hurt that they’re more photogenic than their Western counterparts or that they come in a variety of flavours, not to mention toppings. Plus they fulfil our cuteness craving – there’s something adorable about their floofiness on a plate.
The teens saw a wave of artisanal, independent coffee shops, and ever fancier caffeinated creations. No longer was a flat white or cappuccino (even with soy milk) considered fancy; coffee-drinkers needed to learn a whole new vocabulary, and be able to discuss with their barista bean provenance, ideal temperatures and the difference between iced, cold brew and nitro brew.
Seeing how popular sushi has always been in the city, it seemed only natural that poke shops would do well. After the first branch of Pololi opened in 2014, the bowls of raw fish and rice caught on, with plenty of other restaurants trying their hand at the refreshing, filling, Omega-3-packed dishes.
Hong Kong has long had a deep, pure love for all things Japanese, especially the food, and this was best reflected over the last decade in the explosion of ramen (and tsukumen, the variety that involves cold noodles dipped into hot broth). New restaurants opened frequently, and found themselves with dozens of people lining up to sup their umami broths (seriously; when Ichiran Ramen opened in Causeway Bay in 2013, a record was set for the longest continuous queue, with people queueing for 196 hours). Despite the city’s endless list of soup noodle options – from wonton mein to chicken noodle to pho – our passion for the chewy Japanese variety remains unchallenged.
Burgers are a perennial favourite here (as evidenced by the number of McDonald’s in the city), but in the last 10 years, burger-makers (burgeristas? burger masters?) have been far more focused on bringing the “perfect” burger to fans of the patty in a bun. From independent stores like Honbo and Burgerman, home-grown chains like Beef and Liberty and the long-awaited arrival of iconic US brands Shake Shack and Five Guys (not to mention the appearance on menus across the city of burgers made using Impossible or Beyond “meat”), there are dozens more burgery options for every taste and wallet.
Not even a city where the average avocado costs more than your week’s transport fees – if you live on an outlying island – was free from this delicious, somewhat pretentious brunch choice. If you weren’t ordering it at the most insta-friendly breakfast spots, chances are you were making your own at home for the ’Gram.
There’s definitely a theme here – yet another Japanese ingredient that appeared in everything from froyo, soft serve, mochi and mille feuille. In good news for anyone worried that their love for the green stuff in desserts is damaging their health, matcha is actually believed to have many health benefits, thanks to the antioxidants it contains. Still, we don’t recommend you give up on your regular fruit and veg intake just yet.
Before luxury Paris bakery Laduree opened an 852 branch in 2012, we were pretty blissful in our ignorance of these crisp-coated, creamy-centred bites of joy. Once we tried them, we were hooked, and soon had strong opinions on the best shops, ideal size, and whether or not savoury macarons were an acceptable option (#TeamEw).
Yeah, we’ve had zhun ju lai cha in HK for EVER, but the last decade of boba choices got creative. From cheese-foam-topped (cream cheese and condensed milk) versions, local ingredient-laced teas (winter melon! chrysanthemum! red bean!), and guaranteed sugar rush beverages (hello Oreos!), experiments by bubble tea shops across the city have guaranteed the refreshing favourite isn’t going anywhere.