It’s no secret that foodies flock to Hong Kong from the four corners of the globe. Our home city has long been considered one of the culinary capitals of the world, especially when it comes to various Chinese cuisines. One of the best ways to explore said city is via an organised food tour. Curated walks through streets highlighted by eats are all the rage around the world. We were recently invited by Hong Kong Greeters, one of Hong Kong’s friendliest private tour organizer, to take part in their new offering: the Grass Routes Vegetarian Food and Cultural Tour. Hong Kong Greeters owner Amy Overy was inspired to launch it after fielding multiple requests from health conscious travellers and plant-based adventure seekers looking for more green food options to try while exploring Asia’s World City. We had the pleasure of taking the tour and are thrilled to bestow on it our Green Queen seal of approval. Full of classic Hong Kong flavours and unique heritage sites, it’s the ideal tour for your out-of-town guests or for anyone looking to get to know their hometown better. Below we share our highlights.
Wong Tai Sin and Vegetarian Dim Sum
We begin the day at 11:00AM meeting up with our greeter, Nadia Kiely, at the Wong Tai Sin MTR. A petite and spritely blonde, her warm demeanour and infectious energy sets the tone for our tour as we make our way over to the first stop – Wong Tai Sin Temple. Primarily a Taoist temple, the famous shrine also incorporates both Buddhist and Confucian worshipping halls. Equipped with incense sticks and great directions to keep our group intact, Nadia navigates our group through the bustling crowds while sharing fun tidbits of the temple’s rich history. We spend time paying respects at the main altar, making wishes, and then Nadia gives us a quick tutorial on chim – shaking numbered bamboo “fortune sticks” out of a cylindrical box to find our “destiny.”
After soaking up the vibrant and lively atmosphere, Nadia guides us away from the commotion, toward the adjacent Temple Mall for a quick bite. Settling inside Shanghai Teng, she orders an array of vegetarian highlights that do not disappoint! Delicious vegetarian xiao long bao (soup dumplings), mixed vegetables with hollow baked sesame bread, braised tri-colored noodles and steamed veggie buns!
Nan Lian Garden and Vegan Ice Cream
We get back on the MTR and head one stop over to Diamond Hill for a stroll through Nan Lian Garden, a beautiful classical Chinese garden surrounded by soaring skyscrapers and high-rise apartment buildings; a fascinating juxtaposition of tradition and contemporary. Constructed following the Tang Dynasty architecture, the sprawling garden features hills, ponds, waterfalls, treelined paths and beautiful pavilion. A wealth of information, Nadia is neither overbearing with facts or passive in speech. While giving us plenty of room to roam freely, she keeps us engaged with thought-provoking questions, quizzes, and fun facts about the garden’s koi fish, historic architecture and heritage property. The one-way route ends with a stop at the souvenir shop for some locally produced ice cream- aka local favorite and 100% vegan Happy Cow, which after a sunny afternoon of walking goes down a treat!
Old Tai Po Police Station and Eat Well
As the last cultural stop for the day, we walk to a nearby bus stop from the garden and hop on a double-decker bus for a short ride over to Tai Po. While not the hotspot tourists and residents would be clamouring to see, it was a nice touch to experience Tate’s Cairn Tunnel (AKA, the longest tunnel in Hong Kong) and catch a glimpse of the 76-meter-high bronze goddess of mercy, Guan Yin, towering over the luxurious Buddhist Tsz Shan Monastery. We arrive at our destination in no time and take a brief walk uphill to the Old Tai Po Police Station, which has now been converted to a “Green Hub for Sustainable Living” by local company Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden. A Grade 1 historic building that was built in 1899, the heritage site has since transformed into a small museum, educational institution, cafe and guesthouse (with 12 twelve rooms that can accommodate up to 24 guests). Engaging and full of charm, I can imagine kids would get a kick out of exploring the old prison cells and armory just as adults.
However, the highlight of the property might very well be the Eat Well Canteen, a dining facility on a mission to reconnect soil, soul and society to build a more sustainable food system. Still full from the morning’s dim sum and afternoon ice cream, we all opt to share a plate together and try some of Nadia’s favourite dishes. Offering yummy, fresh and affordable vegetarian food, I’m still dreaming about their chickpea quinoa salad and hummus with crisps.
Alas, our tour has come to an end. Keeping to our original four-hour schedule, we all walk down to the Tai Po MTR and graciously descend on our own path. Unique and memorable, I found this Grass Routes Vegetarian Food and Cultural Tour a complete delight. With no more than six people to a group, it was easy enough for us to get around historic neighbourhoods together, sharing delicious snacks and small bites while walking, tasting, and discovering. I can’t help but commend HK Greeters on how well thought out and executed this particular tour was. I also admired their use of public transportation – showcasing one of Hong Kong’s best and most sustainable features. When you book, be sure to request Nadia Kiely- you won’t be disappointed!
All images courtesy of Green Queen.