Outside the genteel confines of the hotel
there are more wontons, noodles, Peking
ducks, Gong Bao chickens and sweet and
sour pork than you can poke a (chop)stick
at. Not to be missed is Dim Sum at Tim Ho
Wan’s, the world’s cheapest Michelin-star restaurant.
No kid I know can resist the famous
pork buns (the secret is a fried crispy sugar
glaze). Although they might be less keen on
the queuing, and you never go to Tim Ho
Wan (branches in Sham Shui Po, HK Station,
North Point) without having to queue. Once
inside, paper menus where kids can ring their
choices and a constant flow of plastic baskets
and steamers bearing endless goodies will keep them happy, as will the buzz of excitement
from every table. Note to mums: the wontons
are made using fresh ingredients – they are not
pre-steamed and reheated, but made to order.
My son calls them ‘Chinese pillows’ because
they are so light and fluffy. Incidentally, the
‘pillow-master’, Mak Pui Gor, was the former
dumpling chef at Four Seasons.
Another Hong Kong institution is Mak’s
Noodles. There seem to be a confusing number
of relatives of the original Mak, but Mak’s on
Wing Kut St, Sheung Wan is run by the original
Mak’s son, and Mak’s on Wellington St is run
by his son-in-law and grandson. Lei Garden in
IFC Mall, which also has a Michelin star, claims
to have developed XO sauce, the famous staple
of Cantonese cuisine. Inside there are always
families tucking into the crispy roasted pork,
so it is worth a visit if only to take a bottle of
XO sauce home.
Once your child is familiar with Chinese
restaurant food, it’s time to head out on the
streets to the little hole-in-the-wall eateries
that Hong-Kongers love. We took a tour
around Sham Shui Po with Hong Kong Foodie
Tours which is a great way to brave the backstreets
for the first time. Even if kids don’t
want a taste, it is fascinating to see how they
make bamboo juice in the traditional way or
to watch them rolling out and cutting the noodles.
New tastes and textures take time, so be
patient; “It tastes like fairy vomit,” said my god
daughter when first faced with tofu pudding.
Now it’s her favourite dessert.
Dai pai dong, or open-air street stalls, are
also fun to visit as a family especially in the
early evening. They serve mostly stir-fried
food. Just make sure the food is fresh, piping
hot and the vendor uses tongs. A visit out to
Sai Kung in the New Territories is also fun;
the seafood restaurants on the waterfront always have tanks full of fascinating creatures
to look at, although once your child has communed
with a potential pet, they may only
want to eat rice.
If the kids are getting an afternoon slump,
the quintessential Hong-Konger’s afternoon
tea is a flaky egg tart or a pineapple bun and
a HK-style milk tea which is so strong, sweet
and milky you could stand your spoon up in it.
Hong Kong food blogger Janice Leung recommends
Honolulu in Wanchai which she says
gets her vote for “the best egg tarts in HK”.
I also like Tai Cheong Bakery; its famous egg
tarts have a sugar crust that kids will find hard
to resist. There is a branch in the Mid-Levels
neighbourhood near the Four Seasons hotel.
In all my visits to Hong Kong I’ve only
found one thing that the kids simply won’t
eat – 100-year-old eggs. Why not? “Because
the inside looks like an alien.” Fair enough.