One of the things I was looking forward to the most in Hong Kong was the food. With roots in Hong Kong and the immense availability of delicious Chinese food in Vancouver, I had grown up eating many typical Hong Kong dishes. I was eager to discover how similar or different these things are.
With that in mind, I enlisted the help of the Hong Kong Foodie Tours to explore the Sham Shui Po area of Hong Kong. I had previously visited the neighbourhood the day before to visit the famous Michelin star winning dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wan, but had mostly glossed over the rest of the district.
We met our tour guide, Fiona, at the Sham Shui Po MTR station. We were provided a bottle of water and a packet of tissue, both essentials for enjoying meals around Hong Kong. The group consisted of 8 people, myself included. Some had taken Hong Kong Foodie Tours’ other offering around Central on Hong Kong Island and wanted to try the other tour. If they were coming back for a second round, the tour must be good! I was excited to get started. Fiona explained that the food we were about to experience on this tour were simple foods, but they are all prepared in a traditional way.
A Typical Hong Kong Breakfast
Our first stop was for a typical Hong Kong breakfast of pineapple bun and milk tea. Pineapple buns and milk tea are staples in my household. In general I’m pretty indifferent to pineapple buns, but this was was amazing. So soft and fluffy and it was huge! Some people like to eat it with butter inside, but I never did it growing up and find it a strange concept. Pineapple buns were named so because of the pineapple like pattern on the top of the buns. The topping is made from a mixture of butter, sugar and egg.
I absolutely love milk tea. This tea is nothing like traditional English breakfast tea, but it is a derivative of it. There is a special method of making the tea using a stocking (sometimes the tea is known as stocking tea) that makes it so rich in flavour. And the milk that is used? Condensed milk. There is one particular brand as well that is popular. Look for the black and white spotted can. Restaurants will advertise that they use it because so many people prefer it.
Stop number two was for some plain rice noodles, something a little more traditional, but also a breakfast food. I love rice rolls, or cheong fun, especially when they’re pan fried with a bit of soy sauce – a common dish found on the dim sum table. However, these were simply steamed and served with some peanut sauce, hoisin sauce and sesame seeds. The restaurant we visited was incredibly busy and some maneuvering was required to get our group to fit. Don’t be surprised if you have to share tables. It’s the Hong Kong way.
More Than Just a Food Tour
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that while yes, this is a food tour and we were going to be eating our way around, it actually turned into so much more. Throughout the tour we would stop and talk about Hong Kong and about the neighbourhood that we were in.
We discussed social issues and even the current occupy movement around the city. These parts of the tour offered a fascinating glimpse into life in Hong Kong in the past and present. It was kind of interesting to hear about how people lived, conditions of their apartments, because I could relate them to stories I heard from my parents. Apparently, my grandfather even own an apartment in the Sham Shui Po area when he was young. Maybe I walked right by it and didn’t even know.
Spot three was for some dessert: tofu pudding. Here it was served with sugar and your choice of a ginger or sugar syrup as demonstrated by our tour guide. I’m not the biggest fan of tofu pudding and even with the added sugar, I didn’t like it any more than normal.
Next up was for easily one of my favourite dishes: braised goose and pork knuckle. The goose was tender and flavourful, perfect with a bowl of rice. I ate up my full portion as I listened to my guide describing this type of cooking commonly found in Guangdong Province. While I wouldn’t have had any problems eating around a bone and then spitting it out, I know many people would, so the restaurant has removed the bones, making it much easier to eat.
Shopping the Neighbourhood
Our guide took us through the wet market in Sham Shui Po, an area I probably wouldn’t have wandered through on my own. We wandered into different shops seeing how fresh noodles are made, what kinds of strange dried fish there were and just watched the locals go on their daily shopping trip.
We met a knife expert in his shop where we watched him hone knives that he was making. I tried taking a photo of him hard at word, but his hands were going so quickly, all I got was one big blur.
Our fifth stop was for some baked goods. A variety of cookies were packaged up into a bag and handed out. At this point I was so stuffed and I knew we had one more stop so I tucked them away in my bag to enjoy later. I spotted a bunch of delicious looking Chinese baked goods at this store and desperately wanted to browse, but we had to move on.
The final stop was for some shrimp roe noodles which I had never had before. While it had an interesting texture, I really enjoyed this bowl of noodles, especially with the side of broth that came with it. When we walked into the restaurant it was completely packed from wall to wall of people slurping down their meal. I was shocked when I found out that the restaurant had just opened less than 15 minutes prior to our arrival and there was already a line forming outside. This is some good stuff and clearly popular with the locals.
And with that, our tour guide walked us back to the Sham Shui Po MTR station and bid farewell, leaving the rest of us happy and full.
Should you go on the Hong Kong Foodie Tour?
Most definitely yes! I had a great time exploring the neighbourhood of Sham Shui Po, an area most tourists are not likely to visit. Having a guide pointing you in the right direction is of a great help. She took us to places that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have found – like that last shrimp roe noodle place. I loved that the tour was about Hong Kong and the neighbourhood too, not just the food that you’re eating. They ensured everyone was comfortable and provided extras that most tourists wouldn’t have thought to bring along with them (aka tissue paper and a water bottle). I loved that they gave everyone a map of the area that highlighted the places we visited as well as other recommended restaurants in the area. This is so handy for extra explorations after the tour especially since you can’t do it during the tour. And most of all, for being a food tour, you definitely get stuffed to the gills with food.
But what about allergies?
They’re willing to work around your allergies and food restrictions. All you need to do is let them know ahead of time. Your tour guide will also ask again during the tour. We had one individual on our tour group that doesn’t eat pork, so they made all the necessary arrangements for him.
Any other considerations?
One thing to note is that on this tour, there are no washrooms along the way. Only the first and last restaurants have washrooms and the first is a squat toilet. Not so fun if you have a tiny bladder like me, but I managed fine. Another thing to consider is the cost. Each tour runs 690 Hong Kong dollars which works out to be about $90 USD. It’s definitely not a budget experience, but if this is your first time in Asia and Hong Kong, the dining out experience can be overwhelming. This tour gives you a great introduction to what it is like to eat out while in a somewhat more comfortable environment.
I’ve never been on a food tour before, preferring to do my own research and going on the adventure on my own, so I honestly had no idea what to expect. Hong Kong Foodie Tours completely blew me away. I had such a great time and learned a surprising amount despite how familiar I am with Hong Kong food and culture. Be sure to book early as these tours are small and they fill up quickly. Do it and be prepared to eat!
Have you been on a food tour before? Would you try these foods showcased on this tour?
Disclosure: I was a guest of Hong Kong Foodie Tours on their Sham Shui Po Food Tour. All lip smacking, full bellies and opinions are my own. I had a great time on this tour and only wished I had time to go do the other one in Central!