What Your Kids Should Eat in Hong Kong

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Little bites let you try lots of dishes

Much of the “Chinese food” we are familiar with in the West comes from the mass emigration from Southeast China’s Guangdong and Fujian provinces in the 1800s. So you might think that Hong Kong, at the intersection of those two lands, would have similar flavors to what you eat in your North American town. But, you’d be mistaken! While “North American” Chinese dishes in the 1800s-1900s were improvised from limited and often-substandard resources, in Hong Kong chefs and families could draw upon the freshest quality ingredients from the sea in front of them and the farmlands behind, plus ready access to the trade routes from India to Japan for spices and rare delicacies.

As the British built up Hong Kong, they also created a conduit for talent and learning to flow back and forth with Europe, so that not just English but also French, Italian, Greek, Persian, and Arabian influences came to the colony’s native Cantonese cooking. And after reunification with the mainland, the city had an intense period of catching-up with regional Chinese styles.

So today’s Hong Kong food scene is truly like nowhere else on Earth, and every block has something unique to offer your family! Here are some signature dishes to get you started:

 Image by  Jason Jacobs  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Jason Jacobs via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Dim Sum:

We’ve put a whole article up about how great this dining concept is; and yes, there are wonderful restaurants specializing in these small plates all over. But Hong Kong is the town that perfected the style. You simply can’t take the kids here and deny them the stories they’ll tell their friends about all the weird dishes they saw! Be sure to grab some of these off the carts:

 Image by  Takeaway  via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 license

Image by Takeaway via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 license

·      Char Siu Bao

These puffy steamed buns are great for pulling apart and sharing. The dough is a simple, soft bread and the filling is a slow-roasted sweet pork, dripping in its honey-textured sauce. Sometimes you’ll see them baked instead of fried, and with that technique the restaurant will glaze the tops so they are golden and shiny. They’re a great to-go item!

 Image by  Ralf Roletschek  via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 license

Image by Ralf Roletschek via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 license

·      Shumai

These open-faced dumplings are made with finely diced pork, shrimp, and mushroom (so all the flavors mix together), and often have a tiny decoration on the top, like fish eggs, carrot, or peas. They’re meant to be eaten in just one bite.

 Image by  ZhengZhou  via Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0 license

Image by ZhengZhou via Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0 license

·      Hargow

“Crystal skin” shrimp dumplings, so thin you can see through them, but still strong enough to be held with chopsticks – just for one bite. Very light and meant to show off the flavor of the shrimp.

 Image by  Chaw Chun Wa  via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 license

Image by Chaw Chun Wa via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 license

Congee

We call it “the ultimate comfort food” for its warmth and simplicity. Some parts of China consider it children’s food, but in the south it’s universally eaten for breakfast or as a mid-day side dish. The flavor in the porridge comes both from the stock the rice was cooked in, as well as the choice of add-in ingredients. A basic congee will have some snappy strings of ginger, a little bit of onion, and a little bit of meat. But the bowl is a canvas for what you and the cook want to add! Congeee will be served at a dim sum restaurant, but there are also shops that specialize in it, and those are worth checking out.

 Image by  Heyheyng  via Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0 license

Image by Heyheyng via Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0 license

Egg Waffles

Regular waffles are wonderful except they’re hard to walk around with and eat on the go. Clever street-food vendors in the 1950s in Hong Kong created special skillets with egg-shaped pockets that allowed the batter to puff so the outside is crispy and the inside is cakey – with enough space between the puffs that the whole waffle could be rolled up in a cone, and pulled apart to be snacked on while walking or riding. Look for street stands selling these at any time of day, or dedicated bakeries for them.

 Image by  ProjectManhattan  via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 license

Image by ProjectManhattan via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 license

Roast Pork

It’s easy to work up an appetite walking down the street in Hong Kong when restaurants place their glass-faced roasting ovens right along the sidewalk! Duck and goose is common to see, but most of all will be big slabs of pork: the bright red, glazed and sweet char siu; and the crispy-skin juicy pork belly known as siu yuk. It’s sold as a main course to share at restaurants, but at many grocery stores you can get some to go at their deli counters.

 Image by  Yinan Chen  via Wikimedia Commons, Public domain

Image by Yinan Chen via Wikimedia Commons, Public domain

Wonton Noodles

Impossibly skinny egg noodles swimming in a light fish-based broth make a nest for several paper-thin shrimp-and-pork dumplings. It’s always made fresh because the noodles will fall apart if they stay in the broth too long. Never a main course, but a perfect side dish to something fried or crispy (so you can dunk it in the broth before you slurp the whole dish down!)

 Image by  Luluhenryc , GNU 1.2 license

Image by Luluhenryc, GNU 1.2 license

Pineapple Buns

A completely misleading name for a sweet treat – the bottom half of the bun is a soft, sweet bread dough, while the top is basically a sugar cookie. The top is scored and the cookie crust starts to caramelize during baking, so it looks like a pineapple skin. Sometimes these will be stuffed with sweet fillings or barbecue. These will be part of any restaurant’s breakfast menu, and you can pick them up at most bakeries and convenience stores.

 Image by  Homkinsming  via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 license

Image by Homkinsming via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 license

Egg Tarts

Tiny little eggy custard pies: what’s not to love? Smooth and creamy with just enough pie crust in a bite to give a contrast in texture – and one of these tarts is usually only two bites (about the size of a peanut butter cup.) It’s not sugary sweet and while the flavor is a bit like scrambled egg, it still feels like a dessert.

 Image by  T1NH0  via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 license

Image by T1NH0 via Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0 license

Milk Tea

If the kids are old enough for Starbucks, this is a fresh and simple alternative. Great hot or cold, with sweetness and smooth texture from adding evaporated milk, and available everywhere from restaurants to street stands to convenience stores.

 

Do you have other foods to suggest? Great family-friendly and accessible restaurants to recommend? Please comment below, or drop us a note on Twitter at @weninchina!

 

Many people have much to say about food:

https://www.chinahighlights.com/hong-kong/food-restaurant.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong_cuisine

https://migrationology.com/hong-kong-food-guide/

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2013/jan/21/top-10-hong-kong-speciality-restaurants

http://www.cnn.com/travel/article/hong-kong-food-dishes/index.html

https://eatyourworld.com/blog/top_10_foods_in_hong_kong

https://www.buzzfeed.com/sarahfung/incredible-hong-kong-dishes?utm_term=.iqyB2omrZo#.vhQmbaErea

https://www.tripsavvy.com/top-ten-weird-foods-in-hong-kong-1536133

http://www.tommyooi.com/must-eat-food-in-hong-kong/

http://www.lavielohas.com/food-culture-hong-kong/

http://www.destinasian.com/blog/news-briefs/dont-leave-hong-kong-without-trying-these-10-street-foods

 

And check these weninchina articles and resources:

Impressions of… Hong Kong Holiday Decorations and Light Shows

Impressions of... Stanley

Airport Guide – Hong Kong

3 Easy Ways to Save Money on Family Meals in Asia

Wordfind - What Your Kids Should Eat in Hong Kong

Book Review – Exploring Hong Kong

Our “Hong Kong” folder on Pinterest

Our “Asian Food Inspiration” folder on Pinterest

What Your Kids Should Eat in Tokyo

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Everyday foods in this city are anything but ordinary

From feudal times onward, all roads in Japan led to imperial Edo – modern-day Tokyo – and these roads delivered food, travelers, and recipes from throughout the archipelago.

While Osaka and its Kansai region is considered the “foodie capital” of Japan, and each province proudly touts its unique cuisine, Tokyo is where all of the nation’s dining influences and traditions come together to compete for attention on the biggest possible stage. The spirit of “Iron Chef” lives in every neighborhood, and that creates exciting and flavorful choices for your family to try!

With so many great options, any list is going to be incomplete, but here are ten inexpensive dishes, available everywhere, to start with:

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Ramen

You’re probably familiar with those five-for-a-dollar packets of dried squiggly ramen; for Generation X it was a staple during college. It’s inexpensive food in Japan, too, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good food. The ramen revolution that started in Tokyo has spread around the world, so this is the best place to get a taste. There are simple ramen stands and cafes in every major train station and shopping district – or look for the chain restaurants Ippuden, Ichiran, Korakuen, Tenka Ippin, and RaiRaiTei.

 Image by  istolethetv  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by istolethetv via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Udon

While ramen noodles are thin, udon noodles are thick and chewy; the complex broth is as important as the noodle for ramen, while udon is cooked in a simple broth and often isn’t even served with it. The toppings for udon are not as complicated, either. (Of course, this simplicity means chefs can make bold experiments, and different regions of the country have their own unique combinations!) It’s a beloved staple that can also be found everywhere – chain restaurants to look for include Mugimaru, Tsurumaru, Marugame Seimen, and Rakugama Seimenjo, as well as independent cafes in every neighborhood.

 Image by  Arnold Gatilao  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Arnold Gatilao via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Curry Pan

Curries in Japan are sweeter and mellower than in Indian, Thai, and other southeast Asian dishes, with little to no chili heat. This hand-held treat takes a nice curry stew, usually with vegetables and beef, puts it inside a hollow bread tube, and fries it so the outside is crisp and chewy, but not greasy. It’s a favorite for outdoor markets, especially in cooler weather, but you can find it year-round at bakeries, specialist shops, and depachika markets all over the city.

 Image by  verygreen  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by verygreen via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Gyoza

This is the Japanese take on the original Chinese jiaozi dumpling (you may also know them as “potstickers”.) In the Japanese version, the fillings are chopped more finely, the wrapper is thinner, and the frying-steaming cooking method makes the skins more crispy. As in China, the variety of fillings is endless, as are the choices of dipping sauces. Every major neighborhood has dozens of small restaurants specializing in gyoza. In the Ikebukuro district of northwest Tokyo, the Namjatown amusement park even has a “gyoza stadium”-themed food court!

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Tonkatsu

It’s so much better than a fried pork chop: the breading is panko crumbs instead of flour, the cut is boneless and consistently free of sinew or fatty lumps, and the texture is light and juicy instead of greasy and dry. It’s usually an option for a bowl of ramen, udon, or curry, but you’ll also find it as a sandwich filling at your nearby konbini!

 Image by  MuddyRavine  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by MuddyRavine via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Taiyaki

This is a fun, warm snack made with waffle batter and cooked in a special mold to make it look like a fish. It’s usually filled with a sweet azuki bean paste (that tastes very much like chocolate) and is served fresh. You’ll see these at stands in outdoor markets and festivals as well as on the main shopping streets, especially during colder weather.

 Image by  Yutaka Seki  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Yutaka Seki via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Omu-rice

In Japan, this is definitely on the kids’ menu: a scrambled-egg omlette folded over a filling of fluffy fried rice, and drizzled with ketchup. It’s one of the first dishes kids learn how to cook (whether that’s when they are children, or when they finally move out into their own place depends on the person…), and is a cultural symbol of “comfort food.” Of course, there are fancy and upscale versions, but the basic is the favorite. You can find this on the menu at many sit-down restaurants and cafes.

 Image by  Nullumayulife  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Nullumayulife via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Onigiri

This staple of picnics and lunches is most often found in the refrigerator case at convenience stores and supermarkets, but it’s been a popular on-the-go snack since the 11th Century. It’s a simple ball of chewy white rice with a filling in the middle (usually a salty vegetable or meat), wrapped in edible nori (seaweed).

 Image by  Daderot  via Wikimedia Commons, CC 1.0 license (public domain)

Image by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons, CC 1.0 license (public domain)

Crepes

Dessert crepe stands can be found in all the major shopping streets; just follow your nose. They’re made fresh for you, and all the fillings are fresh. They use less sugar and butter than French crepes, but they are bigger! Most stands have dozens of filling choices, even including ice cream!

 Image by  Honou  via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Image by Honou via Flickr, CC 2.0 license

Mochi Ice Cream

While many Japanese dessert favorites are either quite old, or adapted from European recipes, this tasty treat was only invented in the 1990s! Its edible mochi skin (cooked rice pounded into a sticky dough) is wrapped around a two-bite scoop of ice cream or gelato. Flavors range from plain vanilla or strawberry, to traditional red bean and yam, to deluxe coffee or plum wine. Look for these at dessert cafes or in convenience stores and depachika.

 

Do you have other foods to suggest? Great family-friendly and accessible restaurants to recommend? Please comment below, or drop us a note on Twitter at @weninchina!

 

Many people have much to say about food:

https://www.gpsmycity.com/articles/100-12-must-try-traditional-japanese-foods-in-tokyo.html

http://www.gotokyo.org/en/tourists/restaurant/localfood.html

https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/articles/10-uniquely-japanese-dishes-to-try-in-tokyo/

https://migrationology.com/tokyo-travel-guide-for-food-lovers/

https://travel.rakuten.com/campaign/ranking/cuisine/tokyo/

http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/06/10-sensational-stops-for-japanese-food-ramen-udon-sushi-in-shinjuku-tokyo.html

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3075.html

https://gurunavi.com/en/japanfoodie/2014/07/food-culture-in-tokyo.html?__ngt__=TT0ddb01c55004ac1e4aec9bah48bPHPQN-87fkkrWORrR

http://aroimakmak.com/15-must-eat-food-in-tokyo-japan/

https://www.ninjafoodtours.com/tokyo-food-guide/

http://www.cnn.com/travel/article/japan-foods-must-have/index.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_cuisine

 

http://www.theworldisabook.com/2794/eating-in-tokyo-with-kids/

https://gurunavi.com/en/japanfoodie/2015/02/8-Restaurants-in-Tokyo-for-Kids.html?__ngt__=TT0d6cd650d005ac1e4aec45Ct4qUY2H5s9tgTA45FPnSB

https://mylittlenomads.com/eating-restaurants-in-tokyo-japan

https://www.anepiceducation.com/must-eat-food-in-japan-for-kids/

 

And check these weninchina articles and resources:

Impressions of… Tokyo – Harajuku

Impressions of… Tokyo – Meiji Jingu

Airport Guide – Tokyo Narita

Airport Guide - Tokyo Haneda

Fun, Cheap & Free Family Travel Activities in Tokyo

3 Easy Ways to Save Money on Family Meals in Asia

Fun Activities Wordsearch - What Your Kids Should Eat in Tokyo

 

Book Review – Tokyo on Foot

Our “Tokyo” folder on Pinterest

Our “Asian Food Inspiration” folder on Pinterest