As you may already know from my sister’s recent post on Macau (or rather on exactly what to eat in Macau), The Woks of Life family––and an entourage of good friends––jetted off to Asia a couple months ago for an epic trip that included Shanghai, Shenzhen, Macau, and Hong Kong. We’ll be sharing the entire trip with readers in bits and pieces, and today, I have the Hong Kong edition for you!
Despite the fact that I lived in Beijing for two years (I have the Beijing expat restaurant knowledge and love of raw garlic to prove it), I’d never made it down to southern China or Hong Kong before this latest trip, which we took over Thanksgiving week at the end of November.
In our few days there, we got to know this global city a little bit more, including its skylines, its beautiful blue water, glittering malls and hotels, and especially, its food.
With all that, here are the top 10 things to do in Hong Kong, as told by The Woks of Life crew:
Things to Do in Hong Kong: The Woks of Life Edition
1. Eat some goose, and then eat some more goose.
I’m unashamed to say that my number one priority when stepping off the ferry from Shenzhen into the Hong Kong S.A.R. (or Special Administrative Region) was getting my hands on poultry. Particularly, Hong Kong roast goose, the epitome of the poultry arts.
I’m not exactly sure why we don’t eat much goose in the U.S., but I’d tried it enough times in Cantonese restaurants in Northern China to know that Cantonese roast goose is something special to behold (and to stuff your face with, of course).
There are several key goose choices across Hong Kong, including the legendary Yung Kee Restaurant, the similarly named Yue Kee Restaurant, and new kid on the block, Kam’s Roast Goose, opened by the grandson of the founder of Yung Kee (goose roasting LINEAGE is a thing in Hong Kong, forever sealing my respect for this city.)
While our accommodations were a mere 5 minute walk from Kam’s, the 2 hour wait and line out the door led us to a hole-in-the-wall gem that was also nearby, Joy Hing, where at approximately 9:30 AM, we ate the greasiest, most delicious meat-filled breakfast of the trip.
Joy Hing is easy to miss if you’re just walking down the street.
You get the sense that the restaurant has been around for decades and that little has changed in the interim. Joy Hing has only a few tables, a very small window to showcase its gleaming, greasy wares, and a floor so thick with grease, you can moonwalk on it. Exhibit A:
The greasy floor did not deter us in the least. On the contrary, it granted Joy Hing even more street cred in our book! Of course, the biggest point of credibility was in the food itself.
The soy sauce chicken didn’t look too shabby either:
And just look at that ginger scallion oil. Mmmmm.
2. Explore Lantau Island.
Lantau Island is the largest island in Hong Kong, and it serves as a kind of natural oasis for the skyscraper-filled city, with mountains and indigenous forests blanketing the landscape.
The cable car ride was an hour wait and provided breathtaking views. You can pay extra for a glass-bottomed car and cut your wait by 20 minutes––a no brainer.
And yes, there were cows randomly wandering around.
It’s home to hiking trails, as well as Hong Kong Disneyland (we skipped Disney, as our Disney cravings were satiated earlier in the trip when we went to Shanghai Disneyland. More on that later.) and Ngong Ping, where you’ll find a monastery and an 85-foot-tall bronze buddha.
3. Walk Nathan Road & The Temple Night Market.
I now think of Nathan Road as kind of the Times Square of Hong Kong. Packed with people and always bustling, it can be overwhelming for the first-time visitor. But there are some cool things to be found along the way, including the Temple Night Market.
There, you can buy souvenirs and trinkets, and maybe even watch a random commercial being filmed, like we did. This was some kind of “male bonding over DSLR cameras / aspiring boyband / frolicking in the streets of Hong Kong on a bro-y vacation” angle:
4. Have an egg tart (and a milk tea).
Yes, another food must-do. Hong Kong egg tarts are a remnant of Hong Kong’s British colonial past.
Unlike the Portuguese-style egg tarts we sampled in Macau, Hong Kong egg tarts are glassy, smooth, and lightly sweet, with an almost shortbread-like buttery crust, more similar to an English-style custard tart.
These treats are best served warm. We bought some from a tiny street-side bakery packed with locals, having caught their sweet, eggy scent on the wind while walking down Nathan Road. Lo and behold, they were fresh out of the oven.
I’m no stranger to these egg tarts, having enjoyed many throughout my childhood at dim sum brunches over the years (I even developed my own egg tart recipe). But there’s something about eating one of your favorite foods in the place where it actually originated that makes it taste just that much better. Along with a hot paper cup full of strong milk tea or Yuan Yang tea, Hong Kong’s beverages of choice, it’s the perfect bite of Hong Kong.
5. Check out an old temple (and maybe get your fortune told).
We checked out Wong Tai Sin Temple one afternoon. Not only was the temple beautiful, with worshippers praying for good fortune and making offerings for divine guidance, we also spent not an insignificant amount of time there with the fortune tellers.
Wong Tai Sin Temple is famous for fortune telling. They have these little bamboo cylinders with fortune sticks in them, each one with a particular number printed on it. You shake the sticks and ask a question, and wait for one of the sticks to slowly pop up and fall out of the cylinder. We did exactly that of course, because why not?
And we ended up with some pretty colorful fortunes when we went to the fortune tellers on the side of the temple to help us interpret the sticks’ meaning.
Let’s just say we were there for a while, as the guys on the trip could attest to:
6. Shop at Stanley Market.
Stanley Market is a pretty typical example of the souvenir markets you can find all over Asia, like the Pearl Market or Ya Xiu Market in Beijing. Here, you’ll find a series of windy little shops selling souvenirs and trinkets––the perfect place to stock up on gifts for loved ones back home.
Some of the stuff on offer…
Some health balls perhaps?
Or some Chinese stamps?
I tried out a pretty good back scratcher too. Did not purchase though. I’ve regretted it in itchy times since.
In my mind, visiting Stanley Market is great simply for the view of the water outside, in addition to all the shopping.
7. Experience Honeymoon Dessert.
It’s somewhat rare that we at the Woks of Life recommend a specific brand or restaurant on our travels, let alone a restaurant chain like Honeymoon Dessert. But we’re going to break the rules and just do it, because by gosh, Honeymoon Dessert is worth it.
This Hong Kong-based dessert chain has opened stores all over Asia (I was known to frequent the Honeymoon Desserts in Beijing, along with my parents, who are also avid fans of the place). They offer Asian-style desserts and puddings involving ingredients like Thai black sticky rice, tapioca, red bean, grass jelly, green tea, and all kinds of fruits and ice creams.
My personal favorite (everyone’s favorite, really, as you can see by how many of us ordered the same thing) is one of their classic desserts of Thai black sticky rice with sliced mango, shaved ice, condensed milk, and vanilla ice cream. You just can’t beat it on a muggy Hong Kong afternoon.
Of course, you know we had to try our hand at making these delicious desserts. Try making our own Honeymoon Dessert recipes at home until you get to Hong Kong or China to try the real thing.
8. See how the other half lives.
As often as you can find a humble bowl of wontons or noodles on the street, Hong Kong is also home to some Crazy-Rich-Asians-esque spaces and incredible displays of luxury. We mostly stuck to the aforementioned humble (yet awesome) experiences, but we did splurge on an evening at the bar at the Peninsula Hotel’s Felix restaurant.
The Peninsula was all decked out for the holidays at the time, with Christmas trees galore, lights, and an insane gingerbread display.
My mom, who had a past life as a corporate businesswoman who would stay at the Peninsula on business trips to Asia, had particularly good things to say about the establishment, particularly the men’s restrooms. (“Just wait until you see the glass and marble bathrooms at Felix! It’s like peeing ON the city!”). Yep, we’re classy like that.
After a long day of walking through the city in the rain, stepping into this gorgeous space, with its beautiful decor, excellent cocktails and snacks, and amazing nighttime city views was like stepping into another world.
9. View the Hong Kong skyline at night.
Related to the above point: DEFINITELY find a way to look at Hong Kong’s skyline at night.
We caught the view across the street from the Peninsula hotel, where we could look across Victoria harbor at the island side of the city (The Peninsula is on the Kowloon side.)
10. Get a Dim Sum brunch.
And because you know we’re not done talking about food, the final must-do when you’re in Hong Kong––get a dim sum brunch.
Hong Kong is one of the best places in the world to sample dim sum delights––small dishes of steamed, pan-fried, baked, and deep-fried dishes in a dizzying variety, all served up with steaming cups of hot tea. What could be better?
Catch that little dish in the foreground above? It was delicious and we’re happy to report it tasted just like our own steamed spareribs in black bean sauce dim sum recipe!
This delicious Hong Kong style steamed scallop dish was also very close to our own recipe for my dad’s favorite steamed scallops with vermicelli. It makes us wonder why we don’t make it more often.
And yes, those are gigantic pieces of you tiao (Chinese fried dough) in the photo below.
Of course, this list is not an exhaustive one of all the things to do in Hong Kong. There’s Victoria Peak, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, and more. Guess that means we’ll just have to go back someday!