When winter descends over Hong Kong, warm yourself from the inside out with a hot beverage or piping hot meal. We take a look at some of the best (and weirdest) winter warmers to take some of the bite out of the chilly months.
With northeast winter monsoons bringing frequent cold spells and the humid heat of the summer a distant memory, Hong Kong’s winter weather can get downright freezing. Hong Kong has a veritable smorgasbord of culinary options to choose from to help ease the winter chills, and we explore some of the best ways to eat your way warm while you wet your whistle.
Chinese medicine has a strong focus on balance, and finding the right equilibrium between yin and yang. What we eat and drink can create or remove blockages in energy channels and change energy and blood circulation. Over the winter months, particular foods are emphasized with attention paid to consuming foods that cultivate warm, yang energy in the body. Some of the best warming dishes and beverages, according to the yin and yang philosophy, include:
Hot Pot: There are few better ways to ward off a winter chill than by sitting around a steaming, boiling hot pot and cooking delicious things within it. Nam Kok Road in Kowloon is probably the epicentre of Cantonese hot pot restaurants in Hong Kong, and the quality of their produce is amongst the best you’ll find in the region.
Suckling Pig: A staple in both Chinese and European cuisine, suckling pig is one of the most delicious ways to warm up over winter. Whilst it has a solid reputation for dim sum and abalone delicacies, the Cantonese style suckling pig from Kimberly Chinese Restaurant is some of the best in the city. Stuffed with gelatinous rice and roasted whole over an open flame, the skin arrives crispy and roasted to perfection whilst the belly is full of fragrant and flavourful mushy rice.
Beef Brisket: Sister Wah has established a name for itself as one of the best places to visit for a refreshing and warming bowl of beef brisket noodles. The large slabs of daikon in the broth make Sister Wah’s recipe lighter and sweeter than many other brisket soups. The beef is thick, tender and succulent and the broth is designed to warm from the inside out, and at a budget price to boot.
Traditional Teas: Sometimes referred to as the “Iron Goddess of Mercy,” tieguanyin tea has a flavour profile that sits somewhere between green and black tea taste-wise, but with a distinctive yellowish hue. It’s a variety of oolong tea that has a fresh floral aroma and berry-like sweetness, leaving a pleasant honey aftertaste. Whilst it is produced in Anxi, in the Fujian province, tieguanyin can be found throughout China in local teahouses and is readily available from a number of department stores and specialty tea stores across the city.
Another good wintertime tea option is longjing tea. Also known as dragon’s well tea, longjing is a variety of pan-fried green tea from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Probably one of the best known and most inimitable teas, longjing is also one of the more expensive teas to purchase and as such is available in a number of different grades that mark the quality of the brew. One of the best places to experience longjing, as well as a host of other exotic teas, is MingCha Tea House in Taikoo. The knowledgeable hosts are able to provide insight into tea production, pairings with food and history of all the teas in their range.
Years of colonial history combined with its position as one of the world’s major financial centres means that Hong Kong has a diverse range of foods. With everything from traditional American style burger parlours to the first Italian restaurant outside of Italy to be awarded three Michelin stars, Hong Kong truly has it all: and plenty of comfort food for colder days and nights.
Burgers n’ Fries: Taking cues from a 1950s diner, Als Diner is stuffed with retro homages to Americana: jukeboxes, neon signs and old vinyl stapled to the wall. But it is the food that keeps people coming back. Featuring artery-clogging favourites like burgers, ribs, fries and super sized milkshakes, if it’s comfort food you’re after, go to Als.
Old English Fare: If anyone knows how to make hearty food to warm you up, it’s the British. Tucked away in Wai Chai’s Ship Street, Limehouse has a laid back ambience and approachable menu including a range of traditional English favourites like shepherd’s pie, beef cheek and the ubiquitous bangers and mash.
Coffee consumption is on the rise in China and is now popular amongst both the older and younger generations in China and Hong Kong. Yunnan produces around 98 percent of all of China’s coffee, and the unique geography and climatic conditions give Yunnan coffee a distinctive character which has been described as having a “fruity fragrance, rich but not bitter, and aromatic but not overwhelming.”
American-style coffee chains like Starbucks have established a firm presence in China and are aggressively looking to expand in the region, but if you’re looking for something a little more exciting than a milky, mass produced coffee, there are plenty of cafes to explore in Hong Kong. A number of independently owned coffee shops are emerging throughout the city such as Barista Jam, a cosy, must-visit establishment for anyone seeking an authentic, lovingly made espresso, flat white or latte. Mana cafe has world class coffee but pride themselves on their vegan, organic and gluten free fare also available. Other establishments such as Rabbithole have a roastery onsite, supplying beans and coffee machines to coffee aficionados and dispensing some of the best caffeinated pick-me-ups available in the city.
An Unusual Winter Choice
In traditional Chinese medicine, snake meat is thought to be a yang food that heats the body, so when the temperatures drop, people all across Hong Kong and China head to restaurants that serve this delicacy. Ser Wong Fun, with a 125-year history, is located underneath Hong Kong’s famous Central Escalator and is one of the most accessible places to trial this winter warmer.