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Our six day stay in Hong Kong would not be complete without a food tour! Hong Kong is a major foodie destination and with so many delicious dishes to try and amazing food stalls and carts at the markets, we wanted an expert guide to show us around and give us a bit of an explanation into what we were seeing.
And so we were booked and ready for the Kowloon food tour with Eating Adventures. We met Yan in the Mongkok area (one of the busiest districts in Hong Kong, with a bit more of a local feel) at 2 pm and with only one other person on the tour we were ready for our first stop.
Stop #1: Roast Goose
Roast goose is a specialty in Hong Kong and it is always served with a lightly sweet plum sauce. The goose comes with a crispy skin on the outside, a layer of fat, and super tender meat on the inside. This has not been filleted so you are provided with a special bowl for spitting out the bones (not to be mistaken for your eating bowl). Since the goose is oily you want the plum sauce to neutralize that oily taste and provide a contrasting flavor.
As Yan explained, in Hong Kong restaurants they normally serve warm water or tea for free during meals, as it is considered no good for the body circulation to drink ice water. She said people will even go as far as bringing a thermos with them wherever they go (and it is true, we did see this). A fun fact Yan shared: in the department stores in Hong Kong the most sought after item is the thermos!
Yan has an enormous amount of food information to share and I felt like she could not speak fast enough to communicate everything she wanted to tell us! We came to learn that the geese are coming from mainland China, and you want the ones with the short neck and short legs, with a weight of 3.5 kilograms. The last five days before they are slaughtered, the geese are fed a diet entirely of rice and vegetables to increase the fat and meat on the geese. Once they are brought to the restaurant they are marinated in a mix of ginger, rice vinegar and 5 spices (just the name, each restaurant has their own set of five spices), they are then marinated and roasted.
Dave and I both thought the roasted goose with the plum sauce was simply delicious, the lightly crisped up skin with the layer of fat and tender meat was perfectly complimented by the sweet plum sauce, and the rice was there to soak up all the extra sauce. A delicious first stop.
From there we walked through a local street market where we saw fruits, veggies, meat products, a full stop chicken stall where the live chickens are held in cages and you can have them freshly slaughtered for you.
As we came to learn the people in Hong Kong (and mainland China) eat everything with legs except the kitchen tables, and everything that flies except the airplane. We knew this from our travels in China, but it always is interesting to be reminded of this fun fact in person.
We learned than peppy Yan herself is from Hong Kong but her father is from mainland China.
I loved walking through the bustling Mongkok area and to witness first hand this living and breathing neighborhood.
It’s always fascinating to see the stores selling every single part of the animal. Us Americans can get squeamish easily and some people are only accustomed to eating fish fillets and chicken breasts, so a walk through a local Hong Kong market can be a pretty eye opening experience.
Time for stop number 2 – a cake shop where we were trying Hong Kong style egg tarts. This small local shop has been here for over 20 years and we loved seeing Yan interact with the shop owner who gifted her a clementine branch (as is customary to gift for the first day of work after the Lunar New Year celebration). Dave and I first tried fell in love with egg tarts in Portugal so we were happy to see the European influence has played it’s role in the bakery culture here in Hong Kong.
On to stop # 3 – a local tofu shop. Here we would be trying Dao Fu Fa : a silky smooth soft tofu pudding in a sweet syrup. In this tofu shop they still make tofu by themselves and there are only 10 places left like this in Hong Kong because of high rents. Due to high rents in Hong Kong it is difficult for small independent shop owners to keep their places running, and places open and shut down quite frequently. High turnover is key, and in some places you will politely be asked to leave after finishing your meal.
Although I can’t say sweet tofu pudding is my dessert of choice, I loved trying it, and with a bit of brown sugar Dave really enjoyed it.
As we walked through the fish and seafood market Yan explained that 85% of the fish is from overseas and what is from the Hong Kong area is majority farm raised. Unlike in other places here we saw the fish mongers scaling and gutting the fish while it was still alive, and once the head was chopped off you could still see it moving around a bit with the gills expanding and contracting. Definitely an interesting sight.
A fun fact that Yan shared was that people who have skin rashes due to the humidity in Hong Kong will be told to drink turtle soup.
It was amazing to have Yan answer all our questions about everything we were seeing at the market – including the bags of dried shark fins pictured below (for the high price of $185 USD for the bag).
Yan was simply brimming with fascinating information at all times during the tour.
On to the most adventurous stop on the tour – stop # 4 – a snake soup shop. The small and intimate looking shop has been here selling snake soup for over 60 years (and as you can see from the poster in the background even Andrew Zimmern has enjoyed a bowl)
We learned that the snake soup is made with water snake or python and is soup is a favorite of locals (while we were there a man walked in and ordered a huge bowl). It is made with mushrooms, ginger, chicken and snake meat. Snake meat is apparently consider the best meat among all other meats but since snake meat is alkaline it is mixed with chicken meat which is more acidic, for a balance of flavors. The soup is frequently eaten with fried wontons and slivered lemon leaves for a nice addition of flavors.
Lining the side of the shop is snake gallbladder wine which can be good for you if you’ve lost your voice or are having throat problems. The snake soup tastes similar to a hot and sour soup in consistency, though obviously with a bit of snake meat thrown in. If you hadn’t told me beforehand I never would have known I was eating snake soup.
On our way to stop # 5 we passed by a local spice shop which makes its own blend of spices the way it has for years.
And then we were ready for dim sum! At this place Yan took over the ordering making sure we would sample a wide variety of different dishes include fried shrimp stuffed wontons, peppers stuffed with shrimp paste,
teriyaki sauce stuffed eggplant, shrimp dumplings, and a rice roll with deep fried fritters with shrimp inside. Dim Sum means touch your heart. At the restaurant we went to they make the dim sum in a more innovative way. They started us off with cups of puer tea which I personally loved.
Yan also shared the secrets to a good shrimp dumpling. You see there must be at least 7 folds and you should be able to see through the wrapper to the shrimp. The shrimp dumpling is the first thing to order at a dim sum restaurant and if it’s no good, nothing else should be trusted their either.
I loved everything at the dim sum restaurant though my favorite have to be the shrimp dumpling and the rice roll stuffed with a fried fritter and shrimp. The contrast of smooth, and crunchy flavors in the rice roll was exquisite and we really did have a solid shrimp dumpling on our hands here.
Then it was time for a bit of street food. Fish balls here we come. We learned that people in Hong Kong wat fish balls almost everyday, and while the allure is lost on me I did enjoy sampling one curry fish ball. There is no shortage of exotic (for us Americans) street food to sample in Hong Kong including skewered pork fallopian types, deep fried pork intestines, etc. Fun fact: 3.75 million fish balls are eaten a DAY in Hong Kong. That is a LOT of fish balls.
Now it was time to move on to dessert so stop #7 was a small shop selling sweets and here we sampled a glutinous rice pastry stuffed with red bean paste. This shop has been here for over 40 years and we learned that here in Hong Kong the most popular dessert fillings include lotus paste, red bean paste and mung bean paste. I am normally not a huge fan of the red bean dessert filling, but since it was smooth here without chunky red beans mixed in, I actually quite enjoyed this glutinous rice pastry, which is pan fried instead of baked. I can definitely see myself eating a whole lot more of these.
For our last stop we went to a shake and waffle stand. Here we were treated to a matcha red bean smoothie. As the ultimate matcha lover I loved this smoothie (even though the chunky red beans do kind of get stuck in the straw). This was the perfect ending to a fun food packed afternoon.
Overall we loved our time with Eating Adventures food tours. I have been on food tours all over the world but Hong Kong has the most interesting and exotic cuisine in my opinion so it is the perfect place to go on a guided food tour. Yan has so much information to share and is incredibly well informed and the perfect food tour guide.
We had a great time on the tour and by the 5:30pm ending were so stuffed we didn’t even need dinner that night. If you’re interested in food Hong Kong is the place to go on a food tour and have a local guide lead the way! We ate at tiny shops that we would have never stumbled into on our own and this created a totally unique dining experience for us.
To book a tour head to the website: http://www.eatingadventures.com/ where you have 2 tours to choose from each at 675 HKD ($85USD).
*Thank you to Eating Adventures for hosting us on this tour. As always all opinions expressed here are our own**