Hong Kong Food City, written by Tony Tan, features some of the best of the city’s vibrant cuisine in 80 recipes ranging from traditional to modern. A few highlights include Char Siu (Barbecue Pork), Bo Lo Bao (Pineapple Buns), Scallop and Chive Dumplings, Cantonese Soy Chicken, Stir-Fried Gai Lan, and Wonton Noodle Soup. I will also be sharing his recipe for Walnut Biscuits following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Murdoch Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Born in Malaysia and fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese, Tony Tan is a food writer currently based in Melbourne, Australia. He trained at La Varenne, France and Leith’s School of Food and Wine in the United Kingdom. He has traveled around the world as a guest chef and has presented master classes throughout Australia, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Spain. Tony was also an international judge at Hong Kong’s Chinese cuisine challenge, The Best of the Best Culinary Competition. His work has appeared in magazines and newspapers in Australia and internationally.
Hong Kong Food City
Chapters are divided based on course: A Brief History of Hong Kong; Hong Kong Pantry; Starters, Soup and Cold Dishes; Meat; Poultry; Seafood; Vegetables; Rice and Noodles; Dim Sum; Desserts and Pastries; and Basic Recipes.
Tony begins with a brief history of Hong Kong and the development of its food scene into the incredible variety found today. He even includes a basic guide to the Hong Kong pantry with photos; names in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese; descriptions; and substitutes when available. I especially enjoyed the helpful notes dispersed among the recipes such as how to separate a chicken Chinese-style, work with rock sugar, the best way to devein an unpeeled prawn, and more.
The photography is provided by Greg Elms with styling by Caroline Velik. Most of the recipes are accompanied by a beautifully styled full-page photo of the finished dish along with a scattering of scenes from the city. Measurements are listed by weight (grams and ounces). Titles are written in English (occasionally the Cantonese name will be mentioned below). Each recipe includes a headnote with personal stories, background information, serving size, and tips.
This book is a wonderful choice for those interested in the food of Hong Kong. There is a nice range of recipes for everyone from dim sum and starters to meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, and desserts (no drinks). Some take a bit of effort and planning, while others come together in less than 30 minutes and are a great option for weeknights. Having a market with Chinese/Southeast Asian ingredients will be helpful for locating items such as dark soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, rock sugar, Chinkiang vinegar, Sichuan peppercorns, goji berries, potato flour, fresh seafood, chickpea flour, coconut sugar, dried shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp, doubanjiang, and Sichuan preserved vegetable.
These Walnut Biscuits (Hup Toh Soh, 核桃酥) are perfect for festive occasions such as the upcoming Lunar New Year. Toasted walnuts are crushed and combined with flour, baking powder, baking soda, egg, vegetable oil, and sugar to create a light dough with a crumbly texture. The mixture is formed into tablespoon-sized balls (20 grams, 3/4 ounce), gently flattened with a fork, and topped with a walnut half before brushing with an egg wash and baking until golden.
Tony was given the recipe by the chefs of Dim Sum Library in Pacific Place. He mentions that the cookies were once made with baking ammonia and lard. Baking powder and baking soda are now often used to replace the baking ammonia and vegetable oil (or shortening) for the lard.
After mixing in the wet ingredients, the cookie dough will be a little crumbly and have a consistency similar to sand. It should still hold together as you form each piece into a ball.
The cooled Walnut Biscuits will last for around a week in an airtight container.
I also tried the Sweet and Sour Pork, Tomato Noodles, Steamed Beef Balls, and Dan Tat.
The Sweet and Sour Pork (Gu Lou Yuk, Pork with a Long History) had a perfect balance of flavors. Pieces of pork are marinated briefly, coated in a combination of potato and rice flour, then deep fried until crisp and golden. They are tossed with stir-fried onion, red chillies, garlic, red pepper, pineapple, spring onion, tomato, and a delicious sweet and sour sauce before serving with rice.
The recipe for Tomato Noodles is inspired by Sing Heung Yuen, on of the last remaining dai pai dong (open-air food stalls) in Central. Udon (or instant noodles) are cooked until al dente, then served with a rice tomato broth and a sprinkling of spring onions.
The Steamed Beef Balls were a favorite with the kids. Ground beef is combined with pork fat, then flavored with tangerine peel, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, baking soda, and spring onion. After resting for about an hour, the mixture is formed into balls and steamed until cooked through. They were perfect paired with Worcestershire sauce for dipping. This recipe was inspired by Tony’s experiences at Lin Heung, a traditional Hong Kong teahouse operating since 1926.
Inspired by the Portuguese and British, the Cantonese Dan Tat (Egg Tarts) were created in the 1940s. A basic short pastry (Tony mentions that some shops such as the Honolulu Coffee Shop in Wan Chai use puff pastry) is cut into rounds and used as the base to hold the rich egg and evaporated milk custard filling. These have been on my list to make at home for a while and I never realized how easy they actually are!
Walnut Biscuits Recipe
Excerpt from Hong Kong Food City
- 140 grams (5 ounces) raw walnut halves
- 300 grams (10.5 ounces, 2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 egg lightly whisked
- 150 milliliters (5 1/2 fl oz) vegetable oil
- 150 grams (5 1/2 ounces) caster (superfine) sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water for egg wash
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F) and bake the walnuts for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside 50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) and crush the remaining walnuts with a rolling pin.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl. Mix in the crushed walnuts.
- Whisk the egg, oil, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a separate bowl until emulsified. Fold in the flour mixture and stir until combined.
- Line baking trays with baking paper. Use your hands to roll tablespoonfuls (about 20 g, 3/4 oz) of walnut mixture into balls. Place the balls on the trays 5 cm (2 inches) apart, flatten lightly with a fork and press a walnut half into the centre of each. Brush with eggwash and bake for 15 mintues or until light golden.
- Cool the biscuits on the trays, then store in airtight containers. They will keep for around a week.