I know many people who can’t stand Asian food and act suspicious no matter what you offer them. A few of them live in Hong Kong, but would never eat in a local restaurant or even shop in local supermarket. It is possible, if you’re wondering, as we do have Marketplace or U-Select (Tesco under a different name), it’s just more expensive when you count your everyday expenses.
One of those people is my mother – a traditional Polish lady who gets a heart attack on a mere mention of raw fish or shrimps. We do eat liver in Poland, but all other intestine and parts not usually eaten by people, comes as a surprise as well, but as neither P. nor me would ever touch these, we can skip mentioning it.
My mom visited Hong Kong twice. First time she came when P. and I were getting married. Those almost two weeks were filled with planning on what to eat next?
Generally, people from Poland and probably from surrounding Easter European countries are not aware that local Hong Kong food does not have to look weird and in fact it sometimes is crazily similar to our European dishes. Once you show them those similar foods, their attitude would definitely change and they would be more willing to try the other, less familiar looking dishes as well. Tested and confirmed in case of my mother.
Below foods are good as an introductory course of Hong Kong local cuisine:
1 – Dumplings.
If you’re from Poland, you would know what pierogi are. Dumpling with different types of filling. We boil them or fry them. Which is why Asian dumplings are a surprise – they look extremely familiar. The difference would be thinner skin and different fillings – although the classic pork ones are very safe choice for those not trusting Asian cuisine.
2 – Borsch.
In Poland we have pierogi and we have barszcz. The latter one is a beetroot soup. You can find this soup literally everywhere in Hong Kong. You know those local canteen style restaurants called cha caan teng? They would give you a soup with your lunch meal – white or red. While white is a weird creamy chicken soup, the red one is borsch. It’s different from Polish one, which is usually clear soup, but close to its Ukrainian version with different veggies swimming around. And it always taste decent.
3 – Fried rice.
The safest choice for one plate dish in local restaurants in Hong Kong, especially that Hong Kong is famous for this one type of friend rice with beef. It’s called Yeung Chow Fried Rice and on the menu it should look like this: 揚州炒飯. It is a bit plain for local people, who like to add chilli sauce to it. If made properly, it’s a great and easy meal.
4 – Hong Kong (English) breakfast.
Every local restaurant, even those on streets would offer an English breakfast. It usually contains toasts, fried egg, ham, sometimes hash browns and bacon. It is something anyone would be happy to see after trying noodles and rice everyday.
5 – Beef and potatoes dish.
My most favourite restaurant in Hong Kong is called Man Fat – they have over 4 locations all concentrated around Sham Shui Po in Kowloon. It’s famous for its beef and potatoes dish, which wouldn’t even look Asian if not how they serve it. It’s a beef steak with pepper sauce and potatoes fried in honey glaze which makes them crunchy on the outside and soft inside. They would dice it and mix together in a plate. I tried going there with many people who wouldn’t normally like Asian food and this dish was always a big success.
6 – Eggplant bowl.
This dish used to be my favourite when I just moved to HK, as it’s easy and it can never be bad, no matter where you go. And it’s always there in the menu in every local restaurant. They cut eggplant in stripes and fry it with minced pork and sometimes fish. It’s covered with soy sauce and it tastes amazing! You can order it with rice, or in a hot bowl, which is way better if you are to share the dish with others. I would never expect this dish to be popular with those anti-Asian food people, but my mom liked it so much last time, I had to mention it.
After last visit in HK, my mother decided to be more adventurous next time, so I am already thinking about what to test on her next time! She still wouldn’t touch shrimp (she calls them “insects”), but she is way more open now!