Hong Kong Travel Guide - with Wired Destinations
Hong Kong Dining – with Wired Destinations
Hong Kong a Gourmet's Paradise
Hong Kong is justifiably noted as one of the culinary capitals of the world. Its relative prosperity and the preference among its citizens for entertaining in restaurants rather than at home mean that Hong Kong has perhaps the highest number of eating places per capita in the world. Besides having the finest selection in the world of restaurants offering indigenous Cantonese cuisine, Hong Kong also has a seemingly endless supply of other Chinese, Asian and international restaurants.
Hong Kong people don't eat to live – instead, they live to eat, and meals with friends or colleagues are absolutely fundamental to social interaction. Chinese usually greet each other and foreigners by asking, "Have you eaten yet?" This is not an invitation to dine but reflects the important connection between eating and wellbeing.
Every year, Hong Kong's passion for food culminates in a two-week festival of excess known as the Hong Kong Food Festival, generally held in March.
Hong Kong’s Cantonese Cuisine
Most Hong Kong residents originate from the neighboring Chinese province of Guangdong, where Guangzhou, or Canton, is located. Hence, Cantonese cuisine is the staple of Hong Kong. This is the style of food which people around the world generally know as "Chinese food", and there is nowhere better than Hong Kong to sample its endless range of taste and excellent quality. Having said that, you're in for a big shock if you're expecting the Westernized Cantonese food is found outside of Canton itself.
Cantonese food is fresh to the point of obsession. The amount of time that has elapsed between a fish swimming in the tank and being on the plate is generally minimal. This type of food is oilier than most regional Chinese cuisines, although much emphasis is also placed on natural flavors, steaming and light stir-frying. Popular Cantonese dishes are too numerous to mention but include steamed fish with light soy sauce and ginger, stir-fried vegetables, roast goose or roast suckling pig and sweet-and-sour spare ribs.
Dim sum is an extremely popular form of Cantonese food consumed only in the morning and afternoon – don't embarrass yourself or your hosts by asking for dim sum in the evening. It is a series of delicious little snacks which often come in baskets. In traditional dim sum restaurants, waiters and waitresses trundle round trolleys laden with dim sum and you pick the ones you want from the selection.
In more up-market restaurants, you are given dim sum order forms and tick off the required items. The most popular dim sum items are: ha gau (shrimp dumpling), siu mai (prawn and pork dumpling), pai gwat (steamed spareribs), chun guen (spring rolls), cha siu bao (steamed barbecued pork buns) and cheung fun (steamed rice flour rolls with barbecue pork, beef or shrimp).
Hong Kong’s Regional Chinese Cuisines
The most popular regional Chinese cuisines besides Cantonese are: Chiu Chow, Beijing, Sichuan and Shanghainese.
Chiu Chow food is rich and prominently features goose and duck as well as seafood. Chiu Chow chefs are generally considered the masters of two of the most expensive Chinese delicacies: shark's fin and bird's nest. Tiny cups of an extremely strong tea, tiet kwun yum, are generally served before and after meals in Chiu Chow restaurants.
Beijing food is extremely rich due to the Imperial court history. It makes liberal use of strongly flavored vegetables, herbs and spices, including peppers, garlic and coriander. Noodles, dumplings and bread feature more often than rice in northern cuisines such as this.
A particular Beijing favorite with Westerners is Peking duck, in which the crispy skin is wrapped in thin pancakes together with spring onions, cucumber and plum sauce. Another popular northern dish is beggar's chicken. The bird is stuffed with vegetables and herbs, sealed with clay and slowly cooked. The guest of honor is usually invited to smash open the cooked chicken with a mallet.
Szechuan food is very spicy. Restaurants in Hong Kong often combine Beijing and Szechuan dishes together, with the result that it can be difficult to tell which is which. Popular spices include star anise, fennel seed, chili and coriander. Smoked duck is a very popular Szechuan dish. As with Beijing food, noodles and steamed bread feature more heavily than rice, though in the Hong Kong restaurants you are almost certain to be served rice as well as noodles and bread.
Shanghai food makes much of steamed dumplings and tends to be rather heavier and oilier than other Chinese foods. One delicacy for which Shanghai is particularly renowned is hairy crab, which is available only in the autumn and much sought after in Hong Kong. Other Shanghainese favorites include hot-and-sour soup, drunken chicken, yellow fish and braised eel.
If you want to enjoy eating Chinese food in Hong Kong, getting to grips with chopsticks should be one of your priorities. The thin ends of the chopsticks should point towards the food with the tips exactly together. Hold one chopstick firmly between the joint of your thumb and the inside tip of your index finger. Then, hold the second chopstick between the tip of your thumb and the tip of your first finger. The first chopstick remains rigid while you move the second, or upper, chopstick in a pincer motion to pick up the food.
Hong Kong’s Southeast Asian Cuisine
Hong Kong also has many restaurants specializing in the hot and spicy food of other Southeast Asian countries, especially Thai food, which has become extremely popular in recent years.
When eating Chinese food, it is a good idea – if possible – to go with a large group of people so that you can try more dishes than if you only order your own meal. If you look around in Chinese restaurants, you will see there are very few tables for two but many big round tables of boisterous colleagues, friends or families all tucking in to their food together. If you want an intimate dinner for two, avoid Chinese restaurants altogether, as they are almost without exception noisy and rarely romantic.
There are few rules as regards table manners. Hong Kong people tend to eat with great gusto, and slurping soup or talking at the same time as eating seems to be quite acceptable. There are, however, some rituals that tend to be followed. The Asian style of eating is to order several dishes of food, which are put in the middle of the table and shared by all diners. Bowls of rice are separate, however. The usual way to eat rice is to pick up the bowl to your lips and scoop the rice directly into your mouth using the chopsticks.
It is considered impolite to take food from the centre of the table and put it directly into your mouth – transfer the food into your own bowl before you eat it. The superstitious also regard it as bad luck to turn a fish over to extract the flesh from the under side, as this symbolizes the capsizing of a fishing boat.
If you are hosted to dinner or lunch in formal and traditional circumstances, it is customary not to finish all the food in the centre, so as to avoid embarrassing your host, who may feel that he or she has not offered enough food.
Tea is generally served as a matter of course in restaurants, and the pot is constantly refilled throughout the meal. Note that it is considered impolite to refill your own cup without first filling the cups of fellow diners, even when their cups are not yet empty. You are often asked to choose which type of tea you would like for your table.
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