Chinese Snacks and Brews
In case you have any doubts, Hong Kong’s 11,000 or so restaurants will happily testify that the Chinese are die-hard foodies. You’ll undoubtedly taste the wonderful flavours of the East in a few of these establishments during your stay, but did you know you can also take a taste of Hong Kong back home with you? Chinese travellers almost always shop for unique snacks to take home as gifts, and the convenience and variety of packaged snacks available in Hong Kong means you can do the same.
Saying there is a great medley of local snacks in Hong Kong is an understatement. If you’re visiting the city during festive occasions, you can simplify the unbearable task of choosing which ones to try. Each festival has its signature snacks, many of which are loaded with metaphorical meanings. At Chinese New Year, nin go are richly flavoured cakes that symbolise success, and during the Mid-Autumn Festival there are moon cakes on sale citywide -- they range from traditional lotus seed and egg yolk to the more contemporary flavours of the popular faux versions.
You don’t need a festival kicking off as an excuse to go snack shopping because, year-round there’s a brisk trade in Chinese-style cakes. Unlike their Western counterparts, Chinese bakers tend not to rely as much on flour or sugar, leading to sweet but not cloyingly-so pastries. Try the flaky pastry and winter melon paste concoction curiously known as ‘wife cake’, or almond cookies and egg rolls (which are formed from finely rolled pastry, -- not like the deep fried rolls found in the West).
Dried seafood and tonic foods
From the freakishly expensive to the downright freakish, dried seafood is an essential ingredient in Chinese soups and tonics. Head to the centre of the city’s trade in dried seafood goods and tonic foods in Sheung Wan, where you’ll find local delicacies like bird’s nest, ginseng, dried abalone and scallops.
Chinese tea and spirits
Nothing is more evocative of Chinese culture than the aromas of fine green, flower and herbal teas, which make for a tasteful gift, especially when they’re wrapped in charming traditional packaging. Hong Kong has a large assortment of teas imported from different Chinese provinces and cities, including Fujian's Ti-guan-yin tea, Hangzhou's Dragon Well tea and Yunnan's Pu-erh tea. A popular one from Taiwan is Don-ding Oolong tea.
For a stronger tipple, you can pick up a bottle of Chinese spirits, which include brews made from rice, millet or other grains. Some are pleasantly mild, while others will make you want to write the next day off. Xiao Qing, also known as Yellow Wine, is a good example of the former. A popular rice-based spirit, it is served warm to accompany meals during the cooler months. The millet-based Gao Liang and Mao Tai can have alcohol content of up to 70 per cent. Cancel all tomorrow’s appointments!