While Hong Kong has an overwhelmingly international outlook – it was founded as a trading port, after all – the population is mostly Chinese. And most of the Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong are Cantonese, given the city’s location on the edge of Guangdong province.
That said, you can happily satisfy cravings for all kinds of regional speciailties, from the rib-sticking dishes of Shanghai to the spiced lamb of Xinjiang, at this high-low range of Hong Kong Chinese restaurants.
At its core, Cantonese cooking is about capturing the innate flavours of good ingredients. In today’s dining landscape, where more is more, that philosophy can sometimes be lost. Not at The Chairman , one of the most respected Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong serving up modern Cantonese fare. The staff start by sourcing the best produce from local fishermen, farms and producers, and build on them with meticulous techniques. Camphor-smoked goose, for instance, takes days to marinate, steam, smoke and fry before it’s proudly served whole – off-the-bone tender and full of flavour. Steamed fresh flowery crab is another showstopper (and Instagram favourite), served in chicken oil and accompanied by flat rice noodles.
18 Kau U Fong, Central; +852 2555 2202
The world’s first Chinese restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars, Lung King Heen is the full package: brilliant Cantonese food, sterling service and unobstructed panoramas of Victoria Harbour – and a lengthy waiting list. Book well ahead, be it for meticulously made dim sum, roast goose or seafood (steamed lobster with scallop dumpling is a signature). If that seems too indulgent, ask about the Well Feeling menu, a selection of lighter but no less scrumptious dishes created in collaboration with a nutritionist.
4/F, Four Seasons Hotel, 8 Finance Street, Central; +852 3196 8882
One of Hong Kong’s most impressive harbourside dining rooms, Lai Ching Heen is also somewhere you’ll find Cantonese dishes cooked to perfection. Being at sea level on the Kowloon side means you get postcard-perfect views of Hong Kong Island’s coastline. At lunch, enjoy dim sum presented like exquisite jewels; at dinner, there’s a vast selection of traditional dishes that celebrate the seasons with the freshest ingredients. If you have a large group, pre-order the Peking duck, which is served with a full arsenal of condiments that heighten the experience.
Lower Level, InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 2313 2323
Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital city, is further than Toyko from Hong Kong, so it’s unsurprising that the cuisine of Xinjiang is relatively unknown in the coastal city. Ba Yi is one of the few places to offer a taste of China’s far northwest, where the protein of choice is lamb. Nose-to-tail eating is encouraged at this no-frills neighbourhood spot, with dishes such as lamb offal soup offered alongside major cuts like ribs, shank and shoulder, which are rubbed with copious amounts of cumin and roasted. If you want a break from lamb, order a shredded potato salad or consider the spicy chicken stew.
G/F, 43 Water Street, Sai Wan; +852 2484 9981
The well-loved halal restaurant Islam Food started as a dai pai dong (street stall) back in the 1950s, and it’s been famous for pan-fried beef buns – flaky hot pockets filled with impossibly juicy beef – for almost as long. Queues are known to form during peak hours, so go off-peak if you can, or try the branch a few steps away on Ta Kwu Ling Road. The menu is mostly Chinese, with Shanghainese and Sichuanese influences, and a few curries in the mix, thanks to the founder’s experience cooking in a police canteen during Hong Kong’s colonial years.
G/F, 1 Lung Kong Road, Kowloon City; +852 2382 2822
Chaozhou, also known as Teochew or Chiu Chow, is a city in eastern Guangdong with its own distinct culture, dialect and culinary style. That’s what is celebrated at Chao Hui Guan, which loosely translates as ‘a gathering place for Chaozhou people’. The decor is sparse apart from old photos of Chaozhou lining the walls; the food is what you’re really here for. You’ll find classic dishes such as goose poached in soy augmented with five spices, served sliced, at room temperature like charcuterie; deep-fried tofu with fermented soybean sauce; and taro in a crispy, just-caramelised sugar shell.
G/F Federal Mansion, 544-554 Fuk Wing Street, Cheung Sha Wan; +852 2682 9118
With dishes such as beggars chicken (chicken baked in a pastry case) that require diners to break the case with a mallet tableside, and Peking duck with all the fixings, as well as nightly noodle-pulling shows, Peking Garden pretty much guarantees a fun night out, especially when dining with kids or a large group. The food is of consistently high quality, and you can take your pick from the themed private dining rooms or a seat in the main dining area, with windows that overlook Victoria Harbour.
3/F, Star House, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 2735 8211
Zhejiang is the name of the province that borders Shanghai, known for its love of freshwater seafood as well as hearty, sweet braised meats. This restaurant , tucked away on the second and third floors of a nondescript building, is a favourite among those with Zhejiang and Shanghai heritage, as well as discerning local foodies. Towards the end of autumn, keep an eye out for hairy crabs, freshwater crabs from the region that are highly prized for their rich, yolky roe – and added to everything from stir-fried niangao (glutinous rice cake) to xiaolongbao (pork soup dumplings).
Kiu Fu Commercial Building, 300-306 Lockhart Rd, Wan Chai; +852 2877 9011
Even Hong Kong’s most ambitious chilli fiends are challenged by Qi’ s spice levels. This one-Michelin-starred restaurant does a modern take on Sichuan food and has an expansive menu that covers everything from the classics like shuizhu beef (sliced beef cooked in a chilli oil soup) to contemporary favourites such as prawns in salted egg yolk sauce. It has plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes too, so you don’t have to miss out on the tongue-numbing spices just because you’re eating plant-based.
2/F, J Senses, 60 Johnston Road, Wan Chai; +852 2527 7117