So we all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day to get you going. You are spoiled for choice in Hong Kong when it comes to breakfast. You can easily get the usual, western choices from croissants to a full English breakfast. But they don’t really reflect the “east meets west” food fare in Hong Kong—a wonderful fusion of Chinese and western cuisines. Here are some of the classic breakfast choices from Hong Kong that I would love to wake up with any morning.
To fully experience the breakfast culture in Hong Kong, you must visit a cha chaan teng—local diners that make your stomach happy round the clock. Cha chaan teng literally means “tea restaurant”. It’s a very suitable name as a good cha chaan teng always makes a mean milk tea—the signature beverage in Hong Kong. The good stuff is called “silk stocking milk tea” as rumours had it that the tea was strained through a silk stocking to encourage smoothness. But don’t worry, a sackcloth is used instead, nowadays. A good cup of milk tea is strongly brewed and expertly combined with milk—evaporated milk, to be exact. When a hot cup of milk tea is served in front of you, don’t reach for the sugar just yet. Enjoy the smoothness and richness of the milk tea first in its original form, and then add sugar later if you have a sweet tooth. In case you really need your caffeine fix in the morning while not wanting to miss the famous Hong Kong milk tea, you can go with a cup of yuanyang that gives you the best of both worlds. It literally means “mandarin ducks” that are known to go in pairs, just like the coffee and milk tea in it—about three parts coffee and seven parts milk tea.
But you rarely see locals having only a hot beverage for breakfast in Hong Kong. Light eaters will pair the hot drink with a baked good such as an egg tart or a pineapple bun. If you are hungry, you can join the locals and order one of the breakfast sets. A breakfast set usually includes a hot beverage (or throw in an extra few bucks for a cold one), toast served with eggs (fried, scrambled, sunny-side-up, you name it!), and a macaroni or noodle soup. Yes, you heard it right. Soup for breakfast!
Macaroni soup is a breakfast staple in Hong Kong. It’s macaroni cooked (usually a little past al dente) and served in a broth—a very simple yet comforting food. Breakfast macaroni soup usually has slivers of ham on it, but sometimes it comes with sausages or spam instead. You may add a dash of white pepper to the macaroni soup to give it some kick. You’re not expected to drink the soup part, as it’s usually just some salted broth that serves the purpose of keeping the macaroni moist and warm.
If you order a noodle soup, the decision process does not stop there. You then need to decide what it is served with. The basic noodle soup is served with fried egg and some sort of meat (think sausage or ham again). But the more adventurous eaters who can stomach strong flavours early in the morning should try the satay beef noodle soup. A hot bowl of instant ramen noodle soup topped with thinly sliced beef and a generous serving of satay sauce will definitely wake your taste buds up.
If you want a more Chinese-influenced breakfast, dim sum is your answer. Dim sum refers to bite sized dishes that are savoury or sweet, and they can be steamed, fried or baked. When locals go for dim sum in Hong Kong, they call it yum cha which literally means “drink tea”. So it comes as no surprise that dim sum is always served with bottomless tea—unlimited tea for a small fee. Dim sum restaurants can get quite noisy as Hong Kong people enjoy catching up with friends and family over dim sum. It has become a weekend ritual to have dim sum for breakfast or brunch. So you may see people lining up for hours outside of dim sum restaurants on a Sunday morning.
Most dim sum restaurants nowadays simply offer you a dim sum order form to choose your dishes, but some traditional places still have steaming dim sum carts moving around the room. Chasing down carts that carry your favourite dim sum can be a fun exercise to work up your appetite. To name a few common dim sum dishes, there are dumplings prepared in a number of ways, steamed buns of various fillings, other meat based dishes such as chicken feet, and of course, a great variety of desserts.
But if you want a quieter morning with mellower breakfast food, you should look for a local congee place instead. Congee is considered a comforting breakfast that is easier on the stomach, though Cantonese congee is usually packed with yummy ingredients. Look for congee places that are busy making deep fried bread sticks which are essential to a complete congee breakfast experience. If you are very hungry, try to pair your congee with some steamed rice rolls, steamed rice dumplings, or soy sauce fried noodles too.
Here is one of the most popular breakfast spots in Hong Kong that serves one of the best scrambled eggs and toast that go with the popular macaroni soup.
Pack Your Bags
The best time to visit Hong Kong is fall as it’s often dry with a moderate temperature (around 20-25°C). June to August can be hot and rainy. July to September is the peak typhoon season. Winter in Hong Kong is relatively mild due to its subtropical climate.
Travelling to Hong Kong by air will allow you an opportunity to explore the busy, famous Hong Kong International Airport on Lantau Island. Inside the airport, you can find the usual shops and food joints—but also an education park, an IMAX movie theatre, and even a multi-media golf place.
Getting around Hong Kong by public transport is easy and fast. The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system covers most of the city and runs from early in the morning to after midnight. And there are also taxis, buses, mini buses, trams, and ferries. Keep in mind that buses and trams require exact change. So it’s much more convenient to get an Octopus card, an electronic smart card, and load it with some cash. It allows you to hop on and off various public transport without worrying about purchasing tickets each time. You can even use the Octopus card to pay for food at some grocery stores and fast food restaurants.
For more information about Hong Kong, check out the webpage of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.