Sham Shui Po Food Tour with Hong Kong Foodie
As I was planning my trip to Hong Kong in September I knew that I wanted to do a food tour. Let’s be real…I always want to do a food tour, but after hearing so much about the food scene in Hong Kong I wanted to make sure I went with a company that would really explain the history and culture behind the food. I came across Hong Kong Foodie Tours and saw they had a few tour options; I ended up choosing the Sham Shui Po foodie tour and it was seriously the best food tour I’ve been on. At the end, both my mother (who has been on numerous tours with me) and I agreed that it was one of the highlights of our entire trip.
Our tour guide, Carrie, told us all about Hong Kong society and history, her personal experiences living in Hong Kong, and the history behind all the restaurants we ate at. One thing I loved about this tour specifically is that Sham Shui Po is a working class area of Hong Kong, not one of the touristy areas with fancy restaurants. These restaurants were where the locals were eating and they were all family owned and had been passed down for generations. In addition to stopping at the restaurants, Carrie also took us through the markets and local specialty shops.
The first stop on our tour was Kowloon Restaurant, a Hong Kong style cafe. This stop really set the tone for the rest of the tour - as we walked in there were no open tables and Carrie (our tour guide) starting asking people to move to make room. But not just move down a seat, they actually picked up all their things and moved to a table with strangers. Carrie explained that this is customary in Hong Kong culture - the restaurant spaces are so small that you often can’t take a table to yourself, everyone wants the owner of the restaurant to have as much business as possible, so they will just move around and fit however they can. She told us to remember this for the rest of the stops and not to feel weird asking people to move around.
After getting our seating situation in order, we sat down for Hong Kong Style Milk Tea (nai cha) and Pineapple Buns (bor lo bao). The milk tea is also referred to as pantyhose tea or stocking tea because of how it is made, straining it through a large tea sock that resembles pantyhose. Don’t worry - there are no actual pantyhoses used in this process. The tea is black tea with condensed milk, making it pretty sweet. I really enjoyed it!
Pineapple Buns are not what you might think - there is actually no pineapple in them at all, they are named that because of their appearance! It is actually a sweet bun with cracked sugar on top. A very, very large sweet bun - this thing was the size of my face and I ate it all. You absolutely cannot got to Hong Kong without trying a Pineapple Bun, they are sooo tasty.
Up next we headed to Hop Yick Tai for another traditional Chinese style breakfast - rice rolls! We put our new space making skills to use as we sat down and Carrie ordered rice rolls (ju cheung fun) for the table. In addition to seating, Hop Yick Tai also has a stand in the front so people can get the rice rolls to go. Carrie told us this is one of only a few traditional rice roll places left in Hong Kong, they actually make everything themselves and don’t order the rice rolls from a big factory, as many places have started doing.
The steamed rice rolls come out plain and there is hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and sesame seeds on the table so you can dress it yourself. Instead of using chopsticks on this slippery dish, there are toothpicks on the tables so you can stab them and pick them up easily. This was one of my favorite things that we had - although it was extremely simple, I loved the flavors.
After two breakfast meals (they were large portions) we took a walk through the fresh market where we saw all sorts of meats, seafood, and produce as we worked up an appetite for the next meal. Carrie also took us to a knife shop that has been in the same family for generations and is one of the only ones left; we were able to see one of the owners shaping the knives himself which was a fun experience - I kept my distance though.
The next stop was A1 Tofu Company where we had a Tofu Dessert (dau fu fa). What was really interesting about this stop, was that they make all of the soybean milk and tofu in the shop and we got to see the machine working and hear about the process. The tofu “soup” was actually delicious - it was very silky and sweet, almost like a custard.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a day in Asia without eating some dumplings. Seriously - I ate dumplings every single day of my trip. Our next stop was Yuen Fong Dumplings where we had Cabbage & Pork Dumplings and Watercress & Pork Dumplings (gao zi). I loved this stop because we got to see the dumplings being made, it was clear these women knew what they were doing - they didn’t even have to look at the dumplings as they made them!
Now it was time for another walk to give our stomach time to digest. This time we headed into a few specialty shops that had dried ingredients for a variety of uses - cooking, medicine, etc. I will say, if you are a vegetarian you may want to skip going in this shop. While many of these ingredients we would NEVER consider consuming in America, it was interesting to learn about their uses in Asian culture. For example, the dried gecko on a stick - this isn’t eaten straight off the stick, it is actually used to make a broth that is said to help with asthma and breathing problems. I was particularly interested in all the dried mushrooms, I LOVE mushrooms and there were so many varieties here that I had never seen or heard of before.
After that interesting stop, we headed to Eight Angels Cake Shop, a traditional Chinese bakery. Carrie told us that typically we would try a few different types of cookies, but because it was the mid-Autumn festival when we were visiting, we were going to have moon cakes! These days, there are a ton of variations of moon cakes that appeal to everyone’s taste buds; the traditional ones were a salted duck egg yolk, surrounded with lotus or red bean paste, and cooked with a thin crust. We voted to try the traditional one and to be honest, I really enjoyed it! It was a really nice combo of savory & sweet. You also don’t eat the entire thing, they are extremely rich so they are cut into wedges and shared with family and friends.
Our last stop was Lau Sum Kee Noodle, a noodle shop that is one of the last places in Hong Kong still making noodles using a traditional bamboo pole method. This method has been passed down through generations and involves sitting on one end of a bamboo pole while rolling out the dough - we didn’t get to see them doing this in action, but Carrie pulled up a video on her iPad to show us the process.
The dish we had here was Egg Noodles with Shrimp Roe (ha zi lo meen), a specialty that many high profile foodies have come to eat, including Anthony Bourdain whose picture with the owners is hanging on the wall. This dish was really interesting, the noodles are served dry with a broth on the side that you can combine as you like. It was pretty salty but very flavorful, I would definitely order it again.
No surprise, I was extremely full by the end of this tour. The portion sizes were very generous and I had no room left to eat anything else. I’ve said many times that my favorite way to explore a new city or culture is through the food and this Hong Kong Foodie Tour was a great way to do that. I highly recommend them if you are heading to Hong Kong and I plan on doing another one of their tours when I visit again!