Eating Chinese food in Hong Kong

This article is now available as a walking tour on GPSmyCity – click here to find out more

As the Little Koo blog draws to a close (due to our relocation to the UK), I have a couple of guest posts for you from my husband, Tom! He had the lovely idea of writing about things he will miss about Hong Kong, but when he started writing he wrote so much about Chinese food that it turned into a blog post all of its own! So you’ll have another post to look forward to soon, but for now here he is in his own words, talking about Chinese food. Enjoy!

I have long had a passion for Chinese food and Hong Kong is certainly one of the best places in the world to try it. I thought I would share with you some of my favourite restaurants and dishes from across China which I have sampled in my time here. This is not an exhaustive list and I don’t claim to be an expert so there may be better, cheaper or more authentic options out there! Also, since my office is in Wan Chai there is a definite geographic bias in some of my recommendations, but I hope that this is a useful introduction to the different types of Chinese food you can find in Hong Kong.

I’ve included the Chinese names of my favourite dishes and for restaurants who don’t have translated names for ease of reference. For the sake of correctness I have used traditional characters for Cantonese dishes and simplified for those that come from other regions of China (since traditional characters are used in Hong Kong but the rest of China uses simplified characters).

The obvious highlight of Hong Kong cuisine is the world famous 點心(Dim Sum) which can be enjoyed across the whole spectrum of restaurants from the grandest to the most modest of settings. I will never tire of going to yum cha with my colleagues and friends and it seems every time I go someone orders a dish I haven’t come across before.

My personal favourites are 叉燒包(Char siu bao or BBQ pork buns – always a favourite with westerners), 糯米雞(Lor mai gaai or glutinous rice dumpling), 奶黃包(lai wong bao or egg custard buns) and chilli peppers stuffed with pork (a dish whose Chinese name I have never fully learnt but translates to something like tiger skin peppers).  If you have guests in town you can’t go far wrong with Maxim’s Palace in City Hall (2/F, City Hall, 5-7 Edinburgh Place, Central), and whilst there are undoubtedly more authentic and local restaurants around the food is decent, the atmosphere is fun and they still push food around on trolleys. There are no reservations so make sure you download the FoodGulu app to your phone and get your ticket for the queue whilst you are on your way to avoid waiting around for up to 1 hour at busy periods, such as weekend lunchtimes.

glutinous rice dumpling

Lor mai gaai

stuffed peppers

Stuffed tiger skin peppers

Tim Ho Wan 添好運  (numerous restaurants around HK) is a very worthy alternative if you want cheap high quality (Michelin starred in some locations) Dim Sum. Queues are often horrendous in the more popular restaurants, we have found the North Point branch (2-8 Wharf Road, North Point) to be better but often get take away from the one in IFC (Shop 12A, L1/F, Hong Kong MTR Station, Central) and head up to the public area  on the roof top of the mall to enjoy our spoils.

Apart from Dim Sum my other favourite food local to Hong Kong is 叉燒燒肉飯(char siu siu yuk faan – a combination of BBQ pork & roast pork with rice) which can be obtained from any local restaurant displaying a variety of cooked poultry hanging in the window. Depending on quality you can pay between HK$25-50 for a hearty lunch.

I must confess though that apart from various fried dishes involving 河粉(ho fun – thick rice noodles) this is roughly where my love of Cantonese food dries up. The more formal restaurants often focus heavily on seafood like abalone, geoduck (look it up) and sea cucumber  with textures and flavours which I can’t say I’ve ever really understood.

Fortunately Hong Kong does have plenty of restaurants offering dishes from many of the other regional cuisines of China, my favourite of which (being a lover of spicy food) is Sichuan. There are numerous restaurants all over town which lay claim to providing authentic Sichuan food. One of my favourites is the private kitchen Yu Chuan Club 渝川菜館 (Shop B, 1/F, 7-17 Amoy Street, Wan Chai). As soon as you enter you are hit in the nostrils by an amazing smell which is a combination of famous Sichuan flavours: 麻 (ma or numbing  – courtesy of the Sichuan pepper corns) and 辣(la or spicy). The food is excellent and the place gets pretty busy so I would recommend making a reservation. I have also had very enjoyable and to my knowledge fairly authentic dinners at San Xi Lou 三希樓 (7/F Coda Plaza, 51 Garden Road, Mid-levels) and if you want a more upmarket/unusual experience the private kitchen Da Ping Huo 四川菜大平伙 (LG/F, 49 Hollywood Road, Central) provides a set 8-10 course Sichuan feast which is usually accompanied by the hostess bursting into Sichuan Opera at the end (I’ve been twice and this only happened on one of the two occasions).

In terms of dishes my personal favourites are 鱼香茄子 (yuxiang qiezi – fish fragrant aubergines), 水煮牛肉 (shuizhu niurou “water boiled” beef – i.e. beef boiled in a fiery pot of chilli oil) and 辣子鸡 (laziji – chicken fried in an unbelievable mound of chilli and Sichuan pepper corns).

fish fragrant aubergines

Fish fragrant aubergines

ma po tofu

Another Sichuan classic, ma po tofu

Shanghainese is another popular cuisine in Hong Kong, one represented by a number of restaurant chains across the city. Whilst there are a great many dishes from the region I am going to focus on my favourite dish – the famous soup filled pork dumpling 小笼包(xiao long bao or siu long bao depending on whether you use Mandarin or Cantonese pronunciation) . Probably my favourite siu long bao in Hong Kong is found in the catchily named Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao, which has many branches around Hong Kong. Din Tai Fung is another popular Taiwanese chain but despite their reputation I personally prefer Crystal Jade’s dumpling which I think tend to have a thinner skin.

Other non-chain options include 3.6.9. Shanghai 上海三六九菜館 (G/F 30-32 O’Brien Road, Wan Chai) which is a more local style restaurant which does very tasty siu long bao and is open late which makes it a good spot for a late meal after a few drinks at the end of the week. Finally, for something a little bit different Paradise Dynasty (6/F, Lee Theatre, 99 Percival Street, Causeway Bay) provides a multi-coloured array of different flavours in a single basket. The red Sichuan flavoured one was my favourite of these new flavours but you still can’t beat the original.

multi coloured xiao long bao at paradise dynasty

Multi-coloured xiao long bao at Paradise Dynasty

Speaking of dumplings, if you are looking for a hearty lunch you can’t go too far wrong than a plate of humble 饺子(Jiaozi or dumpling) and whilst none that I have found in Hong Kong have quite matched those sampled in Beijing there are a couple of places which I would recommend. In Wan Chai (and branches elsewhere) Northern Dumpling Yuan 北方餃子源 (259 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai) serves up tasty dumplings in soup. If you like your dumplings spicy then you can have your dumplings in 酸辣汤 (suan la tang or sour and spicy soup – I think this soup is often called hot and sour soup in the UK, they taste very similar to me) for an extra HK$15 which is well worth the extra expense. In Central Wang Fu 王府 (G/F 65 Wellington Street, Central) provides decent dumplings at reasonable prices.

northern dumplings in hot and sour soup

Dumplings in sour and spicy soup at Northern Dumpling Yuan

Sticking with the northern Chinese for a moment, if you are looking to get your fix of 北京烤鸭Peking duck then you can do far worse than heading to Spring Deer 鹿鳴春飯店 (1/F, 42 Mody road, Tsim Sha Tsui) where you will be greeted by typically surly service and a decent selection of northern Chinese favourites. The restaurant is up a random set of stairs off the street so look for the signs above you. If you are in Wan Chai then the confusingly titled American Restaurant 美利堅京菜 (G/F 20 Lockhart Road) is another reasonable bet. This restaurant has been around for a long time and when you walk in you can tell by the age of the bow tie clad waiters but from my recollection the food is good and not overly expensive.

For a more upmarket dinner in the northern style you can’t get much better than Hutong 胡同 (28/F, 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui) with arguably one of the best views of Hong Kong island of any restaurant on Kowloon. We went there for dinner on our “babymoon” before our twins were born and can highly recommend it, although it is definitely at the higher end of most people’s budgets, as I recall we spent well over HK$2000 for the two of us. If you are looking for somewhere for a pre or post dinner drink then head up two floors to Aqua Spirit (30/F) which is one of our favourite bars in Hong Kong.

Moving further south, Rachel and I went to Xi’an last year, and having had little or no knowledge of what to expect from the food in Shaanxi province, we were very pleasantly surprised by what we found (see Rachel’s blog post on this visit here). The food from this mostly dry region with a large population of the Hui (one of China’s muslim ethnic minority group) is a million miles away from the Chinese takeaway food I grew up on in the UK. Breads, 包子(baozi or buns) and dumplings feature prominently, frequently along with lamb, fresh vegetables and spices including cumin, chilli and my beloved Sichuan pepper corn.

Finding authentic Shaanxi food in Hong Kong is not all that easy but fortunately a colleague who studied for his degree in Xi’an recommended Youyuan xiao xu 有緣小敍 (36 Man Yuen Street), tucked away in the back of Jordan. This place has very quickly become one of my favourite restaurants in Hong Kong and I heartily recommend a trip out there. The biangbiang mian (very wide, flat noodles served up in a bowl with spicy condiments) is excellent, particularly with the lamb dumplings.  Another favourite dish is the 肉夹馍(rou jia mo – flat bread filled with meat) which is one of Shaanxi’s most famous dishes. In Xi’an we mostly had these filled with minced lamb and cumin, the ones here have pulled pork in but are still excellent. The extensive menu has a whole host of other (mostly spicy) options which I haven’t yet tried but intend on doing so several times before we leave Hong Kong.

biang biang mian

Biangbiang mian at Youyuan xiao xu

Moving back to spicy food, I went to Changsha last year with a few colleagues for a quick foodie weekend to sample the delights of Hunan cuisine. To be honest the city of Changsha itself doesn’t have a lot to recommend it for tourists (unless you desperately want to go and see a huge statue of a young Chairman Mao’s head) but what it does offer is fantastic, often incredibly spicy food. Hunan cuisine is the less well known brother to Sichuan food and delivers similar levels of spiciness – we had some 口味虾 (kou wei xia – literally translated either “saliva” or “mouth watering” prawns which come in a dark red, spicy sauce) which were so spicy they were accompanied by plastic gloves to protect the hands – but usually without the numbing ma quality found in Sichuan.

I have only been to a couple of Hunan places in Hong Kong but I was recently taken to Cafe Hunan 書湘門第 (1/F, 68-70 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai) by a colleague who grew up in Changsha and recommended the food as being very authentic. Unfortunately as I am less familiar with Hunan food I can’t tell you what any of the dishes we had were called but the food was excellent and definitely reminded me of the food we ate there.

Last but not least in our culinary tour of China is Xinjiang, the north west province of China home to the indigenous Muslim Uyghur people. To be honest there are very few places in Hong Kong which are said to provide authentic Xinjiang food but Ba Yi 巴依餐廳 (G/F, 43 Water Street, Western District) is the most commonly recommended option.  I recently had the opportunity to head over there to try it out but unfortunately we were running late and as they have fixed sittings at 6.00pm and 7.45pm we had to have a very quick dinner. Still if you need to get your fix of 羊肉串(yang rou chuan – lamb kebabs) or my personal favourite 大盘鸡 (da pan ji – literally big plate of chicken) this place is a very good option. If you want to experience eating Camel meat you need to order one day in advance!

That about does it for my recommendations. As you can see, there are loads of great places to get Chinese food in Hong Kong but needless to say there are numerous other fantastic restaurants serving all kinds of foods from all around the world. The Chinese love to eat and restaurants come and go all the time so you are never short of options! But if you are looking for some specific types of Chinese food I hope this was a useful guide for you.

Thanks Tom! What a great insight into the different types of Chinese food. My mouth is watering just reading this! I’d better get out to a restaurant now…

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Dim sum – classic Hong Kong cuisine

Dim sum is classic Cantonese cuisine at its best, and it’s a bit of an institution here. Traditionally, it’s eaten at lunchtimes but I think a lot of dim sum restaurants will offer it all day now, so you can indulge any time you like! My husband is a particular fan, and if for whatever reason he’s feeling a bit down, going for dim sum usually perks him up again :)

And did I mention that it’s really cheap too?!

For those who are as clueless about dim sum as I was before we moved to Hong Kong, it’s basically a meal made up of small pieces of food. If you’ve ever had tapas then it’s the same concept but with Chinese food! So when you go into a dim sum restaurant, you order a range of plates of food and each will have usually 2-4 identical items on for you to share.

Traditionally, dim sum restaurants used to have ladies with a trolley each who would walk around the restaurant. Each trolley has a few different dishes on, and when you see one coming that has something on that you want, you call the lady over and she will give you some food! There aren’t many restaurants which are like this now, but Maxim’s Palace in City Hall does (address: 3/F, City Hall, 5-7 Edinburgh Place, Central/中環愛丁堡廣場5-7號大會堂低座3樓). This where we usually take visitors to Hong Kong as it’s such a fun experience, set in a large ballroom. It gets pretty busy so be prepared to wait up to an hour for a table.

Alternatively, for a normal restaurant experience but better, cheaper food I’d recommend Tim Ho Wan. I think the Mongkok branch of this restaurant has a Michelin star! We usually go to the North Point branch (address: Shop B, C, & D, G/F, 2-8 Wharf Road, Seaview Building, North Point/北角和富道2-8號嘉洋大廈地下B,C及D鋪) instead as it’s much less busy and both times we’ve been we haven’t had to queue at all.

Anyway, onto the good stuff now – what to order when you get there! Here are some of our favourites:

Dumplings

There are several types of dumplings on most dim sum menus. Hargow (or ha-gaau) have prawns (shrimp) inside:

ha-gaau

Siu-mai (which I don’t have a picture of) usually have pork inside with a crown of shrimp on top, I also like these :) Some dim sum restaurants will also offer xiao long bao, which have pork and soup in (as I mentioned here), although these are Shanghainese and not traditionally part of dim sum.

xiao long bao

BBQ pork buns

These are known locally as char siu bao and comprise a fluffy white sweet bun with Hong Kong style BBQ pork in (very different from BBQ sauce!). Very yummy :)

BBQ pork buns

Glutinous rice dumplings

These are essentially a large ball of sticky rice with other things mixed in such as chicken, prawns, egg and mushrooms. This will be delivered to your table wrapped in a banana leaf, which is what they steam the whole thing in. It tastes much better than it looks here, honest!

glutinous rice dumpling

Stuffed peppers

These are usually halves of long thin non-spicy peppers (although I have had a spicy one once!) which have been filled with pork. I guess they are then grilled or fried before serving. These ones are upside down so you can’t see the pork which is underneath!

stuffed peppers

Rice rolls

These are long rolls containing meat or seafood wrapped in an outer layer made from rice. The outer layer is a bit like a pasta sheet but has a slightly different taste and texture. Our favourite type is BBQ pork rice rolls.

BBQ pork rice roll

Egg tarts

Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of this but egg tarts make a great end to a dim sum feast. They actually originate from Macau but you can find them all over Hong Kong. They look like jam tarts but with egg instead of jam! They also have a caramelised topping which makes the egg sweet.

Egg cake

This is another sweet dish, and is actually just a large cube of sponge cake (I think it’s called egg cake as a literal translation of the Cantonese for cake – daan-gaau). It’s usually pretty moist and fluffy.

So, if you come to Hong Kong you must try some dim sum! Let me know if you have any favourites that I have missed. I have to admit that I have excluded some of the local favourites, such as chicken feet and turnip cake as we’ve tried them and didn’t really like them, so this is very much a Westerner’s opinion on dim sum!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

My favourite Hong Kong restaurants

Tom and I haven’t exactly eaten extensively in the restaurants of Hong Kong (much to Tom’s disappointment) but we’ve tried quite a few and found some really nice places. Here are some of our favourites, vaguely in order of ascending price (i.e. cheapest first):

Tim Ho Wan

Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station (Podium Level 1, IFC Mall), Central/Shop B, C, & D, G/F, 2-8 Wharf Road, Seaview Building, North Point

This dim sum restaurant was recommended to us by a couple of people and one of the restaurants in this chain has a Michelin star! We had to check it out, and it was as good as we were told! The dim sum is great, and we can eat our fill (and then some) for around HK$120 (approx. £10) between the two of us. Tom in particular is a fan of the enormous glutinous rice dumplings but we also like their take on BBQ pork buns (crisper and sweeter than normal) and BBQ pork rice rolls, amongst others.

The two addresses above are the branches that we’ve been to, but Open Rice suggests there are 5 in total. The IFC branch is usually pretty busy. The first time we went we waited for about an hour to be seated. They do takeaway though so you can get your food and go onto the roof of IFC Mall and eat it there! The North Point restaurant seems to be less busy – we went on a Sunday lunchtime and were seated straight away.

N.B. When we have guests visiting, we usually take them to Maxim’s Palace in City Hall instead of Tim Ho Wan for dim sum. Despite the fact that you also have to wait a long time to be seated, and it is more expensive (and the food isn’t quite as good in my opinion), it has a great atmosphere as it is set in a large ballroom with ladies bringing trolleys around from which you can select the dishes you want. Definitely an experience I’d recommend if you’re visiting Hong Kong!

Crystal Jade

Shop 301, Tai Yau Plaza, 181 Johnston Road, Wan Chai

This place does great xiaolongbao (which I talked about in this post), along with a range of Chinese staples and Shanghainese specialities. I don’t think we’ve ever had anything off the menu that has not been good. The restaurants are nicely decorated and the service has always been excellent. It’s pretty reasonably priced too, most dishes are HK$60 to HK$80 (£5-£7). Again, this is a chain so they are dotted all over Hong Kong but we’ve been most often to the one in Wan Chai.

Sabah

G/F., Shop 4-5., 98-102 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai/Shop D, G/F, 142-146 Queen’s Road Central, Central

This restaurant serves a great selection of Malaysian cuisine. We’ve had great food and good service in both branches. You must try the roti! This is a type of flatbread and it is absolutely delicious, especially when dipped in a curry sauce. The beef rendang is also definitely worth trying. We also like the laksa and satays.

Thai Simple Kitchen

517 Jaffe Road, President Cinema Roof Floor, Causeway Bay

This was another restaurant found on the recommendation of friends and it didn’t disappoint. The setting is lovely, with a large outdoor terrace and the food was great too. I can’t remember what we had but it was all pretty standard Thai food and it was all really nice! The entrance is a little hard to find though, it’s a small doorway on Cannon Street. If you want a nice meal out and you love Thai food, I think this place would be a great bet.

The Chapel Bar

G/F, 27 Yik Yam Street, Happy Valley

Being British, we do love a good Indian curry but we’ve not had much luck finding a great one here in Hong Kong. I know that Chungking Mansions is touted as the place to go, although it’s a bit of a maze (and quite an experience!) and the one restaurant we’ve been to in there was ok but not amazing. But this British bar with an Indian chef seems to do the job just as well, and in a nicer setting. The curries are pretty reliable and we’ve been several times now. It’s not the cheapest, at about HK$100-120 (£8-10) for a curry and rice, but we like it. It’s also a really nice place for a drink and has very friendly staff.

Indonesia Restaurant

1/F-2/F, 66 Granville Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Tom and I were converted to Indonesian food on our honeymoon in Bali, and so we were keen to try this place and it didn’t disappoint. The menu has a range of standard Indonesian dishes, along with some that we hadn’t heard of. Some of the standard dishes include Nasi Goreng, which is Indonesian-style mixed fried rice, Mie Goreng, which is fried noodles, and Tom’s favourite, Nasi Campur, which comprises rice and a selection of meats. Having said that, both times I’ve been to Indonesia Restaurant, I’ve had the mixed set lunch, which is a selection of 3 smallish dishes and a drink and cost about HK$60 (£5). I didn’t know what all the dishes were but I enjoyed them all! The service is also great here.

La Maison

Shop B, 1/F, Mountain View Mansion, 2 Swatow Street, Wan Chai

We visited this small restaurant for a celebration, and as such it was a treat for us. It cost a bit more than we’d normally spend on dinner (I think the bill came to about HK$1000 (£80) between us), but it was totally worth it! The restaurant is classified as a private kitchen, which means it cannot serve alcohol but they do not charge corkage if you bring your own. It’s situated just off Queens Road East and when you get inside you realise it’s in a residential block! However, the decor is nice, the service was friendly and the food… well, the food… Tom and I are already fans of French food and this restaurant served a very good example of it! The bread was beautiful, we shared a starter platter of meats and pate which were nice, and the mains were also excellent. I’ve forgotten what I had(!) but Tom had the confit de carnard and said it was great. We had a pudding each to finish: Tom’s apple crumble was nice, but my chocolate fondant was gorgeous! A lovely place to come on a date or a special occasion.

And finally…

Aqua Spirit

30/F, One Peking, 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

…this one is not a restaurant but a bar, and one that I’d recommend to all visitors to Hong Kong. It’s situated fairly high up in a tower overlooking the harbour with a fantastic view of the skyline on Hong Kong island. It’s a really nice bar (significantly nicer, in my opinion than the one at the top of ICC) but it has a dress code – no singlets, shorts or flip flops! Drinks there are about HK$100+ (£8+) for a beer and HK$120+ (£10+) for a yummy cocktail. Go there for one drink at least. You won’t be disappointed. The view really is that good.

So what do you think? Do you disagree with any of my recommendations? Or do you have some favourites of your own to recommend? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Chinese food you may not have heard of

In the UK (and, I’m sure, around the world) there are many Chinese takeaways serving dishes that we’ve become familiar with, such as chow mein and sweet and sour pork. Most of these dishes are actually Cantonese (i.e. Southern Chinese) and don’t represent much of what is eaten around China. However, even the Cantonese cuisine in Hong Kong can be very different from the “Chinese” food that we’re used to. I thought I’d identify a few favourites that you may not be aware of!

Noodle soup

Noodle soup is a staple here, and very cheap. A large bowl can be purchased for HK$20-30 (£1.60-2.50). It basically comprises a large amount of thin noodles in a clear thin soup, sort of like a weak chicken stock. Usually you have something else in your noodles – such as shrimp wontons, which are like dumplings (see below). The picture below shows noodle soup with beef balls, which are basically processed beef in a ball shape! I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of noodle soup, as it’s quite bland. But it does fill you up if you want something cheap for lunch!

Noodle soup with beef balls

I read somewhere that Japanese ramen is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. This is a good thing! I’ve only come across it here, but it’s similar to noodle soup only with a lot more flavour and more interesting things in with the noodles. Also, I prefer to have udon noodles instead of ramen, which are thicker.

Dumplings

Chinese dumplings are very different to British dumplings! The Chinese variety comprises minced meat, shrimp and/or vegetables wrapped in a soft thin pasta-like package. They may be steamed, fried or boiled. There are loads of different types, from all over China. One of our favourites are xiaolongbao (pictured below) from Shanghai, which have a little soup inside as well as the meat. This makes them very difficult to eat without dropping the soup everywhere!

Chinese dumplings

Pork chop curry

I don’t believe that this originates in China but you can get it in many of the little cafés here. It is one of Tom’s favourites! It comprises a breaded pork chop cutlet in a thick spicy curry sauce, and is often served with potatoes and rice. Definitely not what I expected local Chinese food to be!

Curry pork chop

Sichuan hotpot

A hotpot is a bit like an oil fondue, where you dip your food into the bowl to cook it. However, in the bowl is a spicy broth with lots of chillis, Sichuan peppercorns and black beans along with a whole host of other things to add to the flavour. When we have this in a restaurant we have to ask them to make it a little less spicy otherwise it’s too hot to eat! There are loads of things that are great to cook in your hotpot. In the picture below you can see corn on the cob and dumplings. We also like to have beef, beef balls, broccoli, cauliflower, noodles, mushrooms and Chinese cabbage in ours, but the list is pretty endless!

Sichuan hotpot

Sichuan cuisine comes from the Sichuan province in south-west China, and is legendarily spicy. Tom loves it but I can only tolerate it in small doses! In fact, most Cantonese people struggle with how spicy it is as Cantonese food is generally not at all spicy.

There is one Sichuan dish that has made it to UK takeaways – Kung Po chicken – but it is nothing like the original! The UK version comprises chicken and vegetables in a slightly sweet thick pink sauce. When you order it here, you are given a plate of diced chicken, chillis and peanuts (and maybe some other veg) with a very small amount of brown sauce. It’s really nice, but very spicy!

Dim sum

I couldn’t leave without mentioning dim sum, perhaps our favourite Cantonese cuisine. I know you can get it in the UK, but I hadn’t had it very often until we came here. Dim sum is essentially a meal of small dishes which you select from a large menu. Some of our favourite dim sum dishes include BBQ pork buns (pork cooked in a sweet sauce inside a sweet breaded white bun), dumplings of many different varieties, stuffed peppers (the stuffing is often minced pork) and glutinous rice dumplings (a large ball of sticky rice with other ingredients mixed in, such as chicken, prawns, egg and mushrooms). Depending on where you go, dim sum can be pretty cheap too, and we’ve had meals where we’ve left completely stuffed and the bill has come to HK$120 (£10) for the two of us.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

A weekend in Guangzhou

This article is now available as a walking tour on GPSmyCity – click here to find out more

Tom and I spent the weekend in Guangzhou, China in November 2012. It’s really easy to get to from Hong Kong, although you need a Chinese visa to get into the country!

Guangzhou (pronounced ‘gwang-joe’) is the third largest city in China and sits at the top of the Pearl river delta (Hong Kong is at the bottom of the same delta). It used to be known as Canton. It’s a massive industrial city, although the centre was quite pleasant to visit and we very much enjoyed our weekend there.

To get to Guangzhou from Hong Kong, you can take a train from Hung Hom station. It takes about 2 hours and costs about HK$350 (approx. £29) for a return ticket. We booked ours online in advance.

We stayed in the Jinjiang Inn Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall on Jiefang North Road. It was reasonably priced, clean and fairly modern although the room was pretty small. It was also conveniently located near the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall subway station.

Since it was close by, we visited the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Sun Yat-sen was the first president of the Republic of China as and such he seems to have many buildings dedicated to him all over China! We didn’t go inside, but this was an interesting building in nice grounds.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Guangzhou

A really nice area to visit in Guangzhou is Shamian Island. This island in the middle of Guangzhou is where the foreign traders lived and traded after the Opium wars, since the Chinese would not allow them to live in the city. As a consequence this tiny island is filled with grand old colonial buildings and seems to be the place to have your pre-wedding photos taken! We saw about 20 sets of brides and grooms there!

Colonial building, Shamian Island

We went for lunch in the Thai Zhen Cow and Bridge, a Thai restaurant on Shamian Island. It came well recommended and the food was pretty good! In the evening we also had a couple of drinks in Lucy’s which is also on the island. Again, I’d recommend it as a nice place for a quiet drink or two.

I enjoyed walking around the area directly south of our hotel. It’s a pretty quiet, traditional area, with low rise buildings and narrow streets and it doesn’t feel like the middle of a big city at all. It reminded us a little of the hutongs in Beijing. Whilst we were there we visited the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees and the Temple of Bright, Filial and Piety, both of which are lovely examples of Bhuddist temples. They each charge a small entry fee so you need to find the ticket office before you go in. The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees has a large pagoda in the middle:

Temple of the Six Banyan Trees pagoda

On our second day, we went for a dim sum brunch in the Panxi restaurant, next to Liwan Park. This restaurant is huge, and has many large halls. We arrived mid-morning and didn’t have to wait very long for a table. There wasn’t much English spoken but luckily they had menus with a small amount of English and some pictures so we were able to order a yummy spread :)

Dim sum at Panxi restaurant, Guangzhou

After we had finished eating, we went for a walk around Liwan Park to walk off some of the food. It would appear that this was the place to go on a Sunday morning. It was full of people, with families walking around and lots of people playing with a type of hacky sack with feathers. We even saw an official hacky sack match, with a court, referee and score board!

Hacky sack match in Liwan Park

Our next stop was the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall. This is a wonderfully ornate building with several courtyards.

Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, Guanzhou

Chen Clan Ancestral Hall gate

Inside one of the rooms was an exhibition of embroideries. These were seriously impressive. They were so intricate, some of them looked like they were photographs until you got really close! The photo doesn’t do it justice at all.

Realistic Chinese embroidery

We finished our time in Guangzhou with a trip to the area around the Canton Tower. This is a 600m tall observation tower situated at the Eastern side of the city centre.

P1030465

We didn’t go up because it’s really expensive (about £30!) and the view wouldn’t have been that great because it was pretty hazy. Tom has been before though, and can prove that the view isn’t that great!

View from Canton Tower Guangzhou

For those who like that sort of thing, there is a bubble car ride at the top (i.e. you sit in ‘bubbles’ and go round a track) and one of those fairground rides where they pull you up to the top of the spire and then drop you really fast! Not for me!

Canton Tower bubble car ride

We walked around the area on the other side of the river which was a nice precinct with the ultra-modern Guangzhou Opera House on one side, and some remnants from the Asia Games, which Guangzhou hosted in 2010.

Guangzhou Opera House

These were some of the highlights of Guangzhou. If you’re in the area, I’d recommend a visit. It has a nice contrast of aspects of traditional China and the very modern, and on public transport and in the main areas there is a pretty good level of English.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel