Breakfasts Around the World: Hong Kong
If you’re even remotely aware of Chinese cuisine, you’ll know about the great love for ‘dim sum’. But did you know that in Hong Kong, where the art of dim sum was perfected, it is most closely associated with breakfast and brunch?
Breakfast in Hong Kong is savory without being rich, substantial without being overkill. It falls into two broad categories, traditional and fusion/modern, and it is embraced by old and young foodies alike.
Eateries hawking traditional breakfast fare invariably have dim sum and/or congee.
Hot congee in the morning is always satisfying unless you’re running late for something and do not have the leisure of blowing onto the steaming bowl of porridge. Congee can be eaten plain, as a non-dramatic yet filling start to the day. It is also common to add toppings like salty lean pork, century eggs, fresh eggs, fried shallots, deep fried dough sticks, braised peanuts, and more. Other seasonings like soy sauce and white pepper can also be added.
And we also have dim sum!
Dim sum often brings together eating and interacting, making the dining experience a more sociable one. It includes many small dishes that are presented in bamboo baskets, having been steamed, baked or fried. Variety is integral to dim sum, where menu items can number up to three digits.
Here are seven common items that are mostly savory, like the majority of dim sum dishes:
Char siew bao, literally meaning, barbecued pork bun. Gustatorily, it is sweet, tender meat ensconced in a steamed bun with soft skin. This is a personal favorite and I would eat an entire basket of three buns if not for the need to share the magic. (One can always order another/many more baskets of these buns, so dilemma solved!)
Siew mai–alternatively spelled as shao mai, shu mai, siu mai–is a steamed dumpling with minced pork, prawn and mushrooms inside.
Next, har gao is a steamed shrimp dumpling wrapped in thin, translucent wheat flour wrapping. Depicted on the far left is a basket of har gao, and on the left, siew mai.
Egg tarts need no introduction and are one of Hong Kong’s favorite snacks. They are sweet egg custard baked in a flaky pastry shell.
On the other hand, fung-jiao may be intimidating for the uninitiated. In Chinese, they mean ‘Phoenix Talons’, a poetic name for chicken feet braised with black beans. They taste a lot better than they look (wrinkly and bony) and are ordered for their taste and not their meat.
Two related dishes, cheong fan and cha leung, have steamed rice rolls as their primary ingredient. The former is a steamed rice roll that can be stuffed with meat like shrimp, beef or pork, and dipped in soy sauce or sweet sauce. The latter is slightly more unhealthy (synonymous with ‘slightly more tasty’ for some), and is a dish of deep fried dough sticks wrapped in aforementioned rice rolls.
Fusion/modern Hong Kong breakfasts involve unique types of food that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Think French toast, deep-fried and slathered with generous amounts of peanut butter, honey and butter, and Macaroni and Ham in Chinese chicken soup.
If these photos have whetted your appetite and your mouth water, fret not! Yummy Hong Kong cuisine does not have to be a plane trip away and can be found in Boston’s Chinatown.
By popular decree and personal experience, Winsor Dim Sum Café is a small, cozy restaurant serving delectable made-to-order dim sum. Its neighbor, China Pearl Restaurant, is also a favorite choice among students interviewed at Tufts, and is just slightly more expensive than Winsor Dim Sum.
Try both for yourself and see which restaurant interprets Hong Kong cuisine in a style your palate delights in more.
Winsor Dim Sum Café
10 Tyler Street
Boston, MA 02111
China Pearl Restaurant
9 Tyler Street
Boston, MA 02111
-Min Yi Tan
Cover photo source.