Time of Year: 3 days in early January
Must Bring: Layers! Light sweaters and a jacket. Comfortable walking shoes since HK is very hilly.
Accommodations: I typically use Airbnb but I found a deal at the Butterfly Hotel that was pretty sweet. $100/night and no fees/taxes. I would suggest staying on the Kowloon side and doing day trips over to the Hong Kong Island/Central side. This hotel was very conveniently located.
Back in 2011, before I ever lived in NYC, I lived and “studied” in Hong Kong for 6 months. This is when I realized that the big city, over stimulating, can-get-anything-at-any-time life was for me. I was getting my hustle and bustle, grit and grime fix in NYC, but I craved to see how my big city Hong Kong roots would seem to me 8 years later. It’s hard to imagine travel with a blackberry and no data plan. No wonder I was always getting lost back in the day. This time around I was well equipped with a very smart phone and I was able to access the most unassuming and incredible restaurants with just a little research. Here’s my food list!
Yu – (Soulja boy tell ’em). If you keep reading after that terrible joke I appreciate you haha. This was our first stop off of the plane. I love anything spicy, especially mouth numbing tingly spicy! It’s hard to let the flavors of the food shine and not mask it with pure spice. This place was able to find the perfect balance. We asked for the spice level to be medium-high which was more than enough. I like to add a cold crunchy vegetable to balance out the heat. Order the cucumbers and lotus root, the latter was my favorite dish of the meal. The Dan Dan noodles are the best I have ever had. Wish we ordered 2. The Szechuan chicken was our main dish. If this is your first time trying this make sure you eat AROUND the chilis. Rookie mistake. We also ordered the sliced pig ear because, when in HK!
Chifa – Dumpling House. A modern take on Chinese cuisine in a beautiful and bright space. We noticed an exceptional attention to quality and detail in every dish. I’m not a vegetarian but saw many veg options for those who are interested. We had the ceviche and turnip cake to start. The ceviche was so flavorful, fresh and light. Perfect contrast to a heartier fried turnip cake in a tamarind peanut sauce. Mains include the Violoet Xisu Long Bao, Char Siu and Chifa Spicy. The restaurant is owned by Pirata Group who owns about 10 restaurants around Hong Kong. We were so impressed by the service and food that on our next trip we will try more of their restaurants.
Sun Kee Congee – When in Hong Kong make sure to visit both the Kowloon and central side. This congee spot is a great way to start your day when visiting the Kowloon side. I had some other congees in HK but this one was by far the most flavorful and the Youtiao (fried bread sticks) were some of the lightest and crispiest I’ve ever encountered. We ordered one chicken and one beef. Make sure to add white pepper and a splash of soy sauce before digging in. I feel like I’m kind of becoming somewhat of a congee connoisseur…. cool.
Mammy’s Pancakes – I used to drop in for an egg waffle pancake at Mammys back in 2011. When I went to google if it’s still there, I learned that it’s now michelin star rated! A must have treat while in Hong Kong. Another spot to visit while on Kowloon side.
Se Wong Yee – Walking around Causeway Bay I saw a steady stream of locals going in and out of this spot. It peaked my interest and after some research I learned that it has “the best snake soup in all of Hong Kong”. Snake soup wasn’t on my list but now it was. I was ready for some unfamiliar flavors but to my surprise I encountered a light and lemony version of hot and sour soup. It was SO tasty. I told a friend “you have to try snake soup, it tastes just like chicken”. She replied “I think I’ll just have chicken soup then”. Ha! I call that mental gymnastics for the less adventurous eater but there’s no guts no glory in chicken soup. Snake soup – Do it!! Order the set that includes duck sausage and a side salad (rare encounter in HK). We also got the roast duck and chicken which were excellent.
Ho Lee Fook – I came because of the punny restaurant name, I’ll come back because of the melt in your mouth short ribs. A trendy spot in central that also has some great food. No reservations so be prepared to potentially wait. Not a big deal since there are plenty of spots to grab a pre-dinner drink in the area. Get the crispy chicken wings. Moms dumplings were delicious. The Roast Wagyu Short rib was melt in your mouth soft you didn’t even need a knife to cut through it. It was so dark that I don’t have any photos- sorry!
The Iron Fairies – While we waited for our table at Ho Lee Fook we went and watched some live music at the Iron Fairies bar. The interior is insane. I can’t even imagine how much $ went into building this bar out. There are butterflies hanging from the entire ceiling and all the tables are made of iron with hundreds of fairy figurines. Felt like this place could get really dancy and fun later into the evening.
Madame Fu – I went with a friend for a drink at this restaurant. The restaurant is built into the old police barracks. The space has multiple themed rooms like a pink room and a whiskey room. All very pretty. We sat on the balcony and had a few. I did have the pork belly bites which were bomb.
Ted’s Lookout – A tucked away spot for a casual beer while exploring the hilly streets of central.
My tourist attraction list comes from the 6 months I spent living in Hong Kong. I prioritized eating and leisurely walks on this trip (gluttony with a side of my New Years’ workout resolutions). If jet lag has you waking up before the crack of dawn, take advantage of it and do the touristy day time attractions early so you can beat some of the massive crowds. One of the coolest parts about HK is how easily accessible beaches and lush nature excursions can be. An hour ferry ride and you arrive at some of the most beautiful islands that feel a world away from the buzz of the city. If it’s your first time in HK, doing at least some of these is a must.
Lantau Island – One of my favorite of the islands you can access from HK. This is where you can see the Tian Tan Buddha – a massive bronze buddha statue. 260 steps to get to the base of the big guy and access the lush views of Lantau.
Lamma Island – Quick ferry ride brings you to rickety fresh seafood shacks and gorgeous hikes.
Victoria Peak – Take the Peak Tram up 1,800 ft to see HKs most notable viewz. Go early in the morning before it’s a tourist zoo.
Tsim Sha Tsui – This is a harbor front area on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. Known for it’s nightlife and shopping on Nathan Road. Watch the HK skyline put on a nightly light show every night at 8pm.
Happy Valley Horse Races – One of my favorite weekly activities was going to the horse races on Wednesday nights. Super fun experience that is unique to Hong Kong. Get your stadium food and drinks, place some bets, and watch the horses giddy up!
Repulse Bay – If you want a beach day this is a good option
Stop into a Sasa and stock up on face masks for all your friends! The waving cat figurine is an amusing gift as well.