Almost 2 years in Hong Kong and I am still trying to get used to some stuff that come so natural for locals in Hong Kong, but is a mystery to me. It is mostly the food connected stuff that is a bit unique comparing to what I’m used to.
1- Lunch set menu.
When you work in Hong Kong, you would most likely visit a typical local canteen called cha caan teng. Lunch menu in those places is the cheapest you can get, especially in office buildings areas. They change lunch menu daily and it would usually be hand written on boards hanging on walls.
Rice dishes have a twist though, which made me very surprised at first. If you see a star next to the dish name that comes with rice, it usually means you can change rice to noodles. And by noodles, I mean spaghetti type of pasta, literally called by HK people, Italian noodles.
2- Milk tea, less sugar.
Typical Hong Kong drinks like Ice Lemon Tea or Ice Milk Tea come with lots of sugar and ice. Ice, because they pour warm drink and make it cold by adding ice. Sugar, because you can ask for less of it, but never more.
So even though everyone loves those drinks, rarely ever do I hear people order just a regular drink. They always ask for less sugar or less ice.
When you order hot ones, they never come with sugar and you have to add it yourself, so there are no options on those.
3- Beer, please!
In Poland, if you simply ask for a beer, you would get a 500 ml glass with draft beer, unless they have few options on there. In Hong Kong, if you ask for a beer you would get a 1 l huge bottle to share with your table in small glasses. Again, this is in local restaurants rather than your foreigner friendly bars, where you get everything like you know it.
4- One coffee to go.
For those who are lactose intolerant or simply black coffee lovers, here is an important information. When you order coffee, give as many details as possible. Like with beer, asking for coffee has default settings. If you’re learning Cantonese, your familiar sounding gaa fe (咖啡) doesn’t tell everything just yet. Asking for coffee would get you a cup with milk, always. I don’t know how many times I made this mistake, and still counting!
There is actually a separate word for black coffee – zai fe (齋啡), so if you want you small black, use this word instead of gaa fe.
If you learn a few characters and get excited about recognising the word toast (多士) on your restaurant’s menu, make sure your toast is toasted as well. Sometimes you would just get a bread slice and if not toasted, it’s not the most delicious thing in the world. Toast bread in HK restaurants is usually super soft and chewy and have no taste at all. Remember to ask them to toast your toast (sic). Yes, I still don’t know how to say it in Cantonese yet.