Vegetarian Street Food

Vegetarian Street Food

23 August, 2017
A taste of Hong Kong
A vegetarian’s guide to classic street food in Hong Kong
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What comes to your mind when you think of Hong Kong street food? Exotic bugs on a skewer? Mysterious buns and dumplings of all sorts? We know—whole chicken, roast pork and sausages hanging in store windows may be an intimidating sight. Hunting for street food can be especially tricky for vegetarians.

Although you may find shrimp, fish or meat hiding within innocent dim sum, your commitment to a plant-based diet does not have to jeopardise your enjoyment in this food heaven. Here is where our Hong Kong street food guide for vegetarians comes to the rescue, to help you choose between those dumplings and balls and buns of all colours, shapes and sizes.

1. Egg waffle (gai daan zai)

Crispy on the outside, moist, soft and chewy on the inside, with the irresistible fragrance of egg and butter, bubble egg waffles are sure to get your mouth watering. Made by pouring egg batter into a specially shaped hot iron grill—traditionally over charcoal—the waffle is skilfully turned to create its signature dome-shaped bubbles, somewhat resembling quail eggs. Best serve warm, each “bubble” is a capsule of delectable fragrance and flavour. A modern twist has turned this childhood classic into an Instagram star both in the US and the streets of London.

2. Steamed rice noodle rolls (cheong fen)

As with many other traditional snacks in Hong Kong, batter made from rice flour is very common. The fragrant harbour of Southern China has an abundance of seafood and, you guessed it, rice. As a result, dumplings, noodles and and puddings are often made from rice flour instead of wheat, which is more often used in Northern China.

These rice noodle rolls are made by steaming rice batter in a thin sheet, and rolling them into shape. The traditional way involves working over a piping hot steamer, often with bare hands, very much like this rice noodle rolls master. A sprinkle of spring onions and sesame seeds gives the dish a hint of fragrance, and a choice of soy sauce, sesame sauce, or sweet and sour sauce transform the plain rolls into a classic breakfast or snack.

3. Steamed pudding with red beans (put chai ko)

Yet another snack made from rice batter, but this one is for your sweet tooth. These steamed puddings are made from rice flour, starch, water and brown sugar. Using small bowls, sweetened red beans are first place at the bottom, while the rice batter is pour over it and then steamed. Typically served with two skewer sticks that poke through them, these puddings are sweet and firm yet springy, and simply delicious.

4. Tofu pudding (tau fu fa)

Don’t be fooled by its understated and plain appearance—you are in for a treat! Loved by vegetarians and omnivores alike, this local culinary cuisine is not your typical plain old tofu! Silky smooth and delicate, this soft bean curd will melt in your mouth, leaving behind only a subtle hint of soy fragrance. Tofu pudding is traditionally made in a wooden bucket and scooped into thin layers when served. It's recommended to sprinkle coarse yellow sugar on top for sweetness and texture. Keep an eye out for this dessert in rural areas or rest-points along hiking trails—it's a fantastic choice to soothe the summer heat.

5. Charcoal roast chestnuts and sweet potatoes

Trolleys installed with an oven and a charcoal stove are quite a spectacular sight, and a much welcomed one in the winter months. Freshly roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes can be served so hot they could even burn your freezing hands. Roasted in a rotating barrel of charcoal or stir fried in a huge wok, the chestnuts are velvety soft with a hint of smokiness. The sweet potatoes are gently grilled, and the tuberous root's high sugar content means its creamy, fluffy flesh is full of caramelised flavours. However, the number of grilled chestnuts and sweet potato vendors has greatly declined in recent years, so make sure you try them out soon!

By: Nicole Tang
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