Cuisine of Hong Kong

Cuisine of Hong Kong

The cuisine of Hong Kong is Cantonese cuisine with extensive influences from parts of non-Cantonese-speaking China (especially Chaozhou, Dongjiang, Fujian and the Yangtze River Delta), Western world, Japan, and Southeast Asia, due to Hong Kong's past as a British colony and long history of being an international city of commerce. From the roadside stalls to the most upscale restaurants, Hong Kong provides an unlimited variety of food in every class. Complex combinations and international gourmet expertise have given Hong Kong the reputable labels of "Gourmet Paradise" and "World's Fair of Food"Sterling, Richard. Chong, Elizabeth. Qin, Lushan Charles. [2001] (2001) World Food Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Lonely Planet Publishing. ISBN 1864502886] .


Modern Hong Kong has a predominantly service-based economy [Hong Kong census. " [ Census labour data pdf] ." "Labour." Retrieved on 2007-03-14.] , and restaurant businesses serve as a main economic contributor. With the 3rd highest density population per square meters in the world and serving a population of 7 million [HK Census. " [ HK Census] ." "Statistical Table of population." Retrieved on 2007-03-16.] , Hong Kong is host to a restaurant industry in which competition is cutthroat. Due to its small geographical size, Hong Kong contains a high number of restaurants per unit area.

With Chinese ethnicity making up 98% of the resident population [HK Census. " [ HK Census] ." "Statistical Table." Retrieved on 2007-03-08.] , Chinese cuisine is naturally served at home. A majority of Chinese in Hong Kong are Cantonese in addition to sizeable numbers of Hakka, Teochew and Shanghainese people, and home dishes are Cantonese with occasional mixes of the other three types of cuisines. Rice is predominantly the main staple for home meals. Home ingredients are picked up from local grocery stores and independent produce shops, although supermarkets have become progressively more popular.

Traditional Chinese preference of food freshness means grocery shopping happens much more frequently, and in small quantities, for Hong Kong's population than the Western world. Take-out and dining out is also very common, since people are often too busy to cook with an average 47-hour work week [Steers, Richard. [1999] (1999). Made in Korea: Chung Ju Yung and the Rise of Hyundai. United Kingdom: Routledge. ISBN 0415920507] .


The cuisine of Hong Kong could trace its beginnings to its founding as a British colonial outpost in 1841. Soon after the colony was founded many British and other Western merchants flocked to the settlement and many Chinese from Guangzhou followed suit to conduct business. Initially much of Hong Kong society was segregated into expatriate Westerners, a majority of working class Chinese coolies, Chinese farmers and fishers, and Chinese merchants. Cuisine was rudimentary when compared with the cuisine of 19th century Canton, with simple peasant fares.

As the colony developed there were needs of business entertainment meals. Some Chinese restaurants were founded in the late 19th century and early 20th century as branches of renowned restaurants in Canton and offered elaborate meals consisting of traditional Chinese "eight main courses and eight entrees" (八大八小) types of banquets for 2 taels of silver or equivalent of a month's worth of office clerk's wage at the time. Before 1935 when prostitution was legal in Hong Kong escorts often accompanied diners in restaurant meals, especially those of business entertainment nature. Opium was also offered which lasted until World War II. For Chinese who were not part of the business cliques, dining out in restaurants was non-existent and consisted of simple Cantonese country fares. Meat only appeared in festive occasions and celebrations such as birthdays were often done by catering services who prepared the meals at the celebrant's home. The restaurant scene for Europeans in Hong Kong was segregated from Chinese dining. Elaborate colonial dining existed at the likes of Hongkong Hotel and subsequently Gloucester Hotel.

Hong Kong's dining lagged behind the then-leader of Chinese cuisine, Canton, for a long period of time and many chefs in Hong Kong spent their formative years in Canton. Traditionally Canton was renowned for its food and there was a traditional saying of "Eat in Canton" (食在廣州). [ Chinese lifestyle quote] ] Cantonese cuisine in Canton reached its peak during the 1920s and was renowned in the care in preparation even for peasant fares such as char siu or boat congee. Dai San Yuan was renowned for its braised shark fin dish that charged 60 silver yuan, equivalent to 6 months' wage for a working class family. The cooking in Canton trickle-downed to the culinary scene in Hong Kong.

The victory of Chinese Communists in the Chinese Civil War in 1949 created a wave of refugees into Hong Kong. A sizable number of refugees were from non-Cantonese speaking parts of China including the Yangtze River Delta and introduced Shanghai cuisine to Hong Kong. On the other hand, most renowned chefs of Canton, now known as Guangzhou in pinyin romanization, settled in Hong Kong to escape from Communist rules in mainland China. Prostitution and opium had by then been long gone from Chinese restaurant dining scene, and in order to survive, many restaurants started to tap into winning businesses from families by offering yum cha and wedding banquet, while on the other hand, the end of strict colonial segregation by the British colonial government and expatriate Westerners had opened Western dining to Chinese circles after the Second World War. Egg tart and Hong Kong-style milk tea became part of Hong Kong's food culture at this time. It could be argued that the Hong Kong society as understood today was not sown until 1949, and the cuisine of Hong Kong had its direct roots tracing back to this period.

By the 1960s Hong Kong has gone past the worst of economic depression, and there had been a long and continuous period of relative calm and openness when compared with the Communist misrule in Mao Zedong-era China and martial law isolation in Taiwan. The Cantonese cuisine in Hong Kong had by then surpassed those of Guangzhou, which had witnessed a long period of decline after the Communists came to power. The rising prosperity from the mid 1960s had given birth to increasing demand for quality dining. Many of the chefs, who spent their formative years in pre-Communist Guangzhou and Shanghai, started to bring out the best of fine dining specialties from pre-1949 Guangzhou and Shanghai. Families had largely abandoned catering services and resorted to restaurants for celebratory meals. Seafood started to become specialized delicacies in the 1960s, followed by games in the 1970s.

This wave of prosperity also propelled Hong Kong Chinese's awareness of foreign food trends, and many are willing to try foreign ingredients such as asparagus and crayfish from Australia. Foreign food styles such as Japanese cuisine, cuisines of Southeast Asia started to creep into local Cantonese cuisine offered in Hong Kong, which pace of change accelerated by the late 1970s and early 1980s. This gave birth to nouvelle Cantonese cuisine (Chinese:新派粵菜) that incorporated foreign dishes such as sashimi into Cantonese banquets. For the first time, many Hong Kong Chinese started to have the economic means to visit many Western restaurants of the domain of mainly wealthy expatriate Westerners such as Gaddi's of the Peninsula Hotel. During these years, there were instant prosperity from investment or speculations into shares, and one visible manifestation of the resultant nouveau riche mentality in the 1970s Hong Kong was sayings such as "Mix shark's fin soup with rice [for meal] " (Chinese:魚翅撈飯).

China initiated economic reforms when Deng Xiaoping came to power after Mao Zedong died. The opening up of the country gave chefs from Hong Kong chances to reestablish links with chefs from mainland China severed in 1949 and opportunities to gain awareness of various regional Chinese cuisines. Many of these cuisines also contributed to nouvelle Cantonese cuisines in Hong Kong. The lift of martial law in Taiwan in 1987 jump-started Taiwanese links with mainland China and has caused a proliferation of eateries specializing in Taiwanese cuisine in Hong Kong as Taiwanese tourists and businessmen used Hong Kong as a mid-point for visits to mainland China. From 1978 until 1997 there was no dispute Hong Kong was the epicenter of Chinese, not merely Cantonese, cuisine worldwide, with Chinese restaurants in mainland China and Taiwan, and among overseas Chinese communities, racing to employ chefs trained or worked in Hong Kong and emulating dishes improvised or invented in Hong Kong. Hong Kong-style Cantonese cuisine (Chinese:港式粵菜) became a coinword for innovative Chinese cuisine during this period. It was even unofficially rumored the Chinese government had secretly consulted the head chef for the Peking Garden Restaurant of Hong Kong, part of the Maxim's restaurant and catering conglomerate, to teach chefs back at the renowned Quanjude restaurant in Beijing how to make a good Peking Duck, supposedly Quanjude's own signature dish, in the early 1980s as the skills to produce the dish were largely lost during the Cultural Revolution.

After Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, the Asian financial crisis and SARS epidemic gave birth to a decade-long depression of Hong Kong. The boom in Hong Kong eating scene was over and many restaurants, including a number of renowned eateries, closed down for business. It is argued that the catch up in prosperity among populations from coastal regions of China has driven up the costs of many delicacies such as abalone, and many celebratory dishes have become outrageously expensive that they are no longer within any reach of even many upper-middle class Hong Kong families. At the same time, Hong Kong people's tastes have become cosmopolitan when compared with one generation ago. Many are able to appreciate specific European countries' cuisines rather than a generic Western cuisine, and appreciation of other Asian cuisines, especially Japanese cuisine and Thai cuisine has been ever increasing. These has produced a proliferation of many specialist ethnic cuisine restaurants geared towards young middle class couples on one hand, and a consolidation of fine-dining Cantonese restaurants on the other.

As of the early 21st century Hong Kong, notwithstanding the recovery of Hong Kong's economy from the slump in 2003 due to the SARS epidemic, many pundits argue that with Hong Kong's uncertain long term economic fortune vis-a-vis mega-rich cities in China such as Shanghai and Guangzhou, Hong Kong no longer possesses the economic base to support super fine-dining that is required to sustain an active dining culture in a real estate property development-based economy. Modern Hong Kong's labor market has also disrupted the traditional ways of grooming Chinese chefs, which henceforth been trained in a very long and drawn one-to-one practical apprenticeships. Very few chefs are willing to sacrifice their time and effort to produce traditional cooking that discourages cutting corners, and emphasizes techniques over ingredients' net economic worth. On the other hand, Hong Kong may well develop a foodie culture similar to other developed economies and preserve the best of traditional cooking.

Historically Hong Kong's food source came from a combination of mini stores instead of supermarkets. Some of the stores included: "rice dealers" (]

ee also

:* Cantonese cuisine:* Culture of Hong Kong:* Private kitchen


External links

:* [ Eat Drink Hong Kong - Restaurant directory and reviews] :* [ Hong Kong Restaurant Reviews] :* [ Gourmet Paradise - Hong Kong Tourism Board] :* [ OpenRice - Hong Kong Restaurant Reviews (Traditional Chinese)] :* [ DiningCity Hong Kong - Restaurant directory including photos and reviews]

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