Catch up on part one of my mini-guide to Hong Kong here!
When it came to what we’d eat during our weeklong stay in Hong Kong, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I didn’t necessarily think we’d struggle to find vegan-friendly food, but I perhaps didn’t anticipate just how big a part of the trip our (spoiler alert: incredible) dining experience would turn out to be. Armed with a few recommendations and an open mind, I set out with the intention to eat cheaply, authentically and as vegan-friendly as possible: here’s a rundown of how that went, and what I ate as a vegan in Hong Kong.
Real talk: as someone who experiences appetite issues due to anxiety, especially when travelling, I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to do a lot of eating at all during the week, let alone enjoy every meal as much as I did. Consequently, I didn’t do a whole lot of planning when it came to restaurants I wanted to go to. This worked well for our mainly plant-based group of five, as it allowed us to go with the flow a little more – something which isn’t always easy for those among us with special dietary requirements, but ended up leading us to unexpected culinary delights!
Before I get into where we went and what we ate, a little disclaimer: it wasn’t always possible for me to be absolutely sure that everything I consumed on our trip was entirely vegan. We ate at some local restaurants where, for example, I’m not sure how the dumpling pastry sheets were made, and whether or not they contained dairy or egg ingredients. While it might have been possible for me to ask them, doing so – and navigating the inevitable language barrier which would follow – wasn’t something that felt hugely important to me, and I want to be upfront about that. What was important to me was that we ate inexpensive, authentic, veggie-friendly food; while there are plenty of strictly vegan and plant-based eateries in Hong Kong, I felt that dining solely at these places would compromise how I wanted to experience the trip. I allowed myself this level of flexibility as part of my belief that positive vegan advocacy has space for occasional leniency.
part two | what i ate
OK so! First things first: if you’re planning a trip to Hong Kong, make sure you have Happy Cow installed on your phone! While the app doesn’t offer an exhaustive list of all the vegan-friendly places to eat in the city, it is definitely helpful to have. Just be sure not to read too much into any of the reviews, specifically those shedding light on rude waiting staff and overly realistic mock meats – I found neither of these criticisms to be the case anywhere we ate.
Finding delicious, inexpensive, vegetarian and vegan food in Hong Kong proved to be as easy as it was rewarding. With Buddhism being one of the main religions in the area, there’s no shortage of restaurants offering strictly vegetarian, and often vegan, food. If you’re travelling in a group, I highly recommend ordering a selection of plates to share, along with rice for everyone. Eating this way always made for an enjoyable meal, and usually cost us no more than HK$100 each at the most (roughly £10). With establishments serving complimentary, refillable tea with every meal and alcohol strictly absent from most menus, it’s not hard to keep dining costs down.
breakfast at loving hut
We usually skipped breakfast and went straight for an early lunch, but the few times we did indulge in a morning bite, we did so at Loving Hut in Wan Chai. Being a big fan of the global chain (they have branches in Brighton and London, don’t you know!) I was excited to choose from their entirely vegan menu, which offers an extensive selection of Chinese, Japanese and Continental cuisine. Their Katsu curry – along with a variety of dumplings to share – went down a treat, and gave us the fuel we needed to face a day of exploring Hong Kong. For a delicious vegan snack, go for their custard tarts accompanied by an iced soy cappuccino; I enjoyed mine while watching busy Wan Chai from the restaurant’s second floor window.
dim sum at lockcha tea house
If vegetarian dim sum and speciality teas are your thing, a visit to this charming tea house in the middle of Hong Kong park is well worth the slightly above average (aka not dirt cheap) prices. The beautiful traditional interior and attentive staff provide the perfect setting for a mid-morning meal. Again, ordering a selection of dim sum to share is your best bet: we went for the turnip cake, golden mushroom dumplings, and a few other sharing plates. The tea menu is a little overwhelming, but has helpful descriptions of what you can expect from the flavours. We enjoyed yum cha here at around 11am; from what I hear, the restaurant gets very busy any later than midday, so it’d be wise to book in advance or go earlier to avoid disappointment.
lunch at pure veggie house
By the time we arrived outside Pure Veggie House, we were about ready to collapse in a heap on the floor. Reaching the restaurant’s Central branch on foot proved much harder than we’d expected, and saw us traversing great, winding highways, wishing we’d hailed a taxi when we had the chance. The organic, vegetarian, dairy-free menu had dazzled us, though, and the subsequent meal turned out to be one of the best of our stay. Yet again, it was a case of ordering several sharing plates: the singapore noodles and bean curd sheet dumplings were highlights, and easy enough to spread between the group using the rotating Lazy Susan in the middle of the table. We decided to push the boat out and order dessert here too, and boy am I glad we did: our friendly server recommended the tofu pudding, which is essentially warm silken tofu onto which you add piles of sugar, and it was comforting, simple and delicious. The glutinous rice balls and dumplings didn’t let us down, either.
dinner at dumpling yuan and wang fu
Hands up who wants simple, authentic and cheap Chinese cuisine? Wellington Street – easily accessed on the good old Central-Mid-Levels Escalator – turned up two somewhat unassuming but exquisitely tasty restaurants, both having achieved coveted spots in the Michelin guide. We headed to Dumpling Yuan on the recommendation of our Hong Kong-born friend’s sister, and it did not disappoint. Two servings of steamed and pan-fried vegetarian dumplings, along with sides of steamed rice, pak choi and broccoli, were more than enough to sate us, and earn our custom for two consecutive nights. To mix things up a little further on in the week, we headed just across the road to Wang Fu, where we enjoyed dumpling noodle soup, sides of steamed rice, assorted vegetarian delicacies (bean curd with veggies) and, of course, yet more delectable dumplings. Splitting the bill at the end of these meals never ceased to surprise us, with each person’s share amounting to no more than HK$100 (£10). If you’re not fussed by no-frills surroundings and facilities, these hidden gems truly aren’t to be missed.
other food highlights
- Mango sticky rice pudding at Lab Made – it’s the only vegan option on their mini-menu, but veggie folk can indulge in their signature liquid nitrogen ice cream
- Bun and suckling “pig” with hoisin sauce at Gaia Veggie
- More vegan burgers than you can poke a stick at, and spring rolls to die for, on VeggieSF’s fully vegan menu
a few tips
- always check opening times before you head out – we found a lot of restaurants didn’t open before 11am at the earliest
- be prepared to not drink alcohol with your meal, as most restaurants adhere to Buddhist rules around serving booze. That said, some local places do carry beer – it just won’t be on the menu
- for an authentic taste of Hong Kong, dine at local restaurants with vegetarian options, saving the more upmarket plant-based places for when you’re back home
It’s so refreshing to fly halfway across the world and find yourself surrounded by amazing vegetarian and vegan food. Like I said, I didn’t doubt that we’d be able to find a host of places to eat in Hong Kong which catered to our needs, but I’m not sure I expected to have such a fantastic dining experience! I feel as though I only tapped the surface of vegan deliciousness that Hong Kong has to offer – I’ll have to make my way back someday to try it all!
Have you been to Hong Kong? Add your veggie-friendly recommendations in the comments below!