Eating out in Hong Kong: What you need to know

Eating out in Hong Kong is a national past-time, right up there with shopping! There are thousands of restaurants and they’re all busy. There is something for everyone; Chinese, Western, Japanese,Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, French, Mexican, Moroccan, European, British, and the list goes on. And if none of that satisfies you, there are MacDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway, and KFC. But why would you want to go near those places when there are so many other exciting choices?

Eating Out in Hong Kong

Elgin St. in SoHo on Hong Kong Island.

Eating out in Hong Kong

The first thing you have to understand about Hong Kong is that houses are small. Most people live in small homes with small kitchens. Many people only have a room, with no kitchen. It’s not difficult to see why people generally choose to eat out more often. That is not to say that people don’t cook at home. Many people do, especially those with domestic helpers. I cook at home. Sometimes. Ha-ha!

Another factor is time. People get home late from their jobs. They may get off work anytime between 7-10pm. It’s too late to cook a dinner, so they eat at the restaurant or bring home a takeaway. If they have a helper, then they go home to a prepared meal.

Eating out in Hong Kong is a favorite social event. Banquets are common, and there are plenty of large Chinese restaurants to cater to those needs. People often get together with friends and family for large meals. Because the homes are so small, entertaining usually takes place at restaurants. A way to give honor, (or face), to your guests is to order a big banquet.


On the whole, Hong Kong is a safe place to eat. Some of the little noodle shops and canteens are a bit dodgy, but close your eyes and omit the tea and have bottled orange juice instead. Whatever you do, keep your eyes out of the kitchen at all times!

Eating habits

Eating out in Hong Kong

Gai Lan and prawns at a fusion style restaurant in Stanley.

Eating out in Hong Kong can be a little bit challenging if you follow the lunch and dinner hour schedule. Lunch hour starts around 12:30 pm and stretches until 2 pm. School kids and office workers and everyone else is off at that time so tables are at a premium. If you go to the restaurant at 12 pm, there is a better bet to get a table before the rush.

Lunch is followed by Afternoon Tea in many establishments. It consists of a light meal that is enough to keep you until dinner hour.

Eating out in Hong Kong

Pork and Chinese flowering cabbage.

Restaurants are open for dinner at either 6 pm or 6:30 pm. It differs one restaurant to another. If you go at this time, it’s easy to find tables in the Chinese restaurant. Tables will begin to fill up quickly between 7-7:30 pm. And then you could have a long wait.

Eating out in Hong Kong will be a challenge for you if you don’t know how to use chopsticks. Chopsticks are used in Chinese restaurants. You can ask for fork and knife if you’re struggling with the chopsticks.

Ordering food

Eating out in Hong Kong

The place setting at banquet-style restaurants

Individual meals can be ordered in some Chinese restaurants, but they are usually Western style with a Hong Kong twist. In large Chinese restaurants, the style of eating is family-style. Everyone has a bowl, and or plate, with a spoon and a set of chopsticks. In good Chinese restaurants, a pair of serving chopsticks and a serving spoon is part of the table setting, but they’re usually only used in polite company. The family way is to use your own pair of chopsticks to pick up your own food from the dishes in the center of the table.

Fighting for the bill

Don’t be amazed when you see two Chinese people shouting at each other in a restaurant. No one is angry. It’s usually about who is going to have the privilege to pay the bill!

One last thing…

Eating out in Hong Kong

Tea served the proper way at a cafe in TST. Note the Lipton tea bag!

Your tea and coffee. If you like them black, you must remember to stipulate, no milk. If you don’t, you will definitely receive your coffee or tea with milk added. Finer places understand that milk should be served on the side.

So, remember this when you go to MacDonald’s or Starbucks or anywhere they serve coffee and tea, make it a habit to tell them you don’t want milk when you order your drink!

In Hong Kong there are several ways to be served tea. The Hong Kong way is with lemon. It’s okay. But if you tell the waiter you want English Breakfast tea and you get a blank look, try asking for tea-bag-tea, or Lipton tea. Then they will understand.

Eating out in Hong Kong is a lot of fun because of the sheer variety of food choices. The closer you get to the city, the more choices there are.

If you had a choice, and you’re eating out in Hong Kong,what kind of food would you prefer?


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