Plant-Based World City: A Food Lover’s Guide to Hong Kong’s Best Vegan Eats
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It’s not known as Asia’s World City for nothing – Hong Kong has some of the best food the planet has to offer, from starred Michelin establishments to comfort-food dai pai dongs. But what does it offer vegans? Plenty it turns out, you’ve just got to know where to look. Here’s a guide to plant-based eating in the city, whatever cuisine you’re after, any time of the day – the best eateries, bubble tea, dessert parlours and pizza, tried and tested by yours truly.
I lived in London for six years, one of the world’s most exciting cities to eat in, with a pretty fantastic vegan food scene to boot. From holes in the walls to renowned plant-based gastronomy, London’s got it all, no matter the cuisine.
So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I arrived in another ‘global city’ – Asia’s, I mean – and found an absolutely staggering amount of incredible plant-based food. Hong Kong is jam-packed with a plethora of vegan food experiences and eateries that will leave you in awe. Of course, Cantonese food and dim sum are God’s gift to us, but Asia’s World City has something for everyone.
As I write this from Bali – another next-level plant-based culinary hotspot – I’m already looking back and reminiscing at my time in Hong Kong, and I’ve marked out which places I’m going to when I return to the city, whether it’s the first time or a revisit. If you end up there before me – or if you’re just a local looking for a handy list of the best plant-based eats – I’m here to help.
Note: this is not an exhaustive list, just a collection of places/dishes I tried and loved. It’s not a vegan-specific list either, in fact, most of the places mentioned are not 100% vegan. There are some great dedicated vegan restaurants in the city, but I was not able to try them all. If you are looking for an exhaustive list, try the Happy Cow Hong Kong site.
Chinese food favourites (including dim sum)
Let’s start with dim sum then, shall we (or yum cha as locals say)? Veggie Kingdom is a traditional dim sum place in Tsim Sha Tsui, the kind where you tick what you want to order with a pencil and are given hot water to wash your utensils. There’s a wonderful tea that accompanies the meal – though there’s an added cost and they bring it by default. Try the shredded turnip puffs, the vegan shrimp dumplings and the mushroom-filled rice noodle rolls – beware though that there might be a couple of elements (like the mayo for the tofu toast) that aren’t vegan.
On the dim sum front, LockCha has multiple locations and a fully vegetarian dim sum menu too. The traditional teahouse has a killer siu mai and we love the triple treasure wrappers. Plus, the tea is excellent too!
For a quick and budget-friendly lunch, Shanghai Lao Lao’s plant-based menu (in partnership with local alt-meat brand Plant Sifu) is a steal. We can’t get enough of the xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), dan dan noodles and mapo tofu. The mochi-like dessert rolled in toasted sesame flour is the ideal meal ending.
Tea, coffee and cafés
Speaking of tea, if you’re a bubble tea fan, Hong Kong is home not just to one but two 100% vegan pearl milk tea chains! Mother Pearl is hands down my favourite pearl tea spot ever – and it now has six stores across the city so I am clearly not the only one. With a signature gourmet wellness twist, Mother Pearl serves up some stunningly pretty concoctions (ideal for you Insta-foodies), which are equally delicious too. There are so many highlights, it’s hard to pick, but I’d say the Crush on Gold, Soul Full of Sunshine, Glimpse of Sunburst and the Po Mylk Tea are must-haves. Oh, and the mochi cookies (made from their leftover homespun plant-based milks) are otherworldly.
The other bubble tea chain to try is Nuttea. Its signature five-nut cream – which tastes like a nicer Nutella but somehow contains no chocolate – works on every single menu item. The menu itself is expansive, but all I’d say is, whatever flavour you pick, choose the nut cream on top. That’s the best part.
And while we’re on drinks, if you’re looking for a great cup of aesthetically pretty coffee that doesn’t charge you extra for oat milk (but does carry a dairy surcharge), Clean Coffee is your friend. Fineprint doesn’t put a levy on oat either (although soy has an added cost) in any of its locations – and I daresay these two are among the best – if not the very best – speciality coffee shops in Hong Kong.
Delicious dinner date spots that span the region
Mak Mak, the Thai restaurant in Central’s Landmark, has a fail-safe vegetarian menu that is ideal for large group gatherings. Come for the pink pomelo and shallot salad and summer rolls (with two dipping sauces), and stay for the most deceptively innocent-looking, flavour-bomb fried rice you’ll ever find. And finish with the gorgeous mango sticky rice – Mak Mak uses butterfly pea powder to give the rice a strikingly midnight blue tone, and tops it with a perfectly ripe mango and some sweteened condensed coconut milk.
Speaking of which, Chilli Fagara is an upscale Szechuan restaurant in Soho that’s ideal for anyone visiting the city. The 11-time Michelin Guide-recommended establishment has an excellent vegan menu with dozens of options including the option to swap out meat for Impossible Foods’s alternative in a range of dishes. The menu is divided into three sections with non-spicy options for those who aren’t as comfortable with the numbing powers of those famous peppercorns. The lettuce wraps, mapo tofu and sweet and sour eggplants are a must-order.
I loved my meal at Isoya in Wan Chai, a fine dining plant-based restaurant that serves fixed vegetarian tasting menus, which can be made vegan upon request. We loved our tofu taster plate, somen noodles, sushi assortment and what turned out to be the single greatest raw tomato I’ve ever had.
From kathi rolls to bánh mì, where to grab a vegan-friendly lunch
If you’re looking for a decent bánh mì, look no further than Le Petit Saigon‘s tofu version over in Star Street. Nearby is the fast-casual Indian street food concept Bengal Brothers, whose chickpea kathi roll (think a desi version of a kebab wrap) is a filling and tasty lunch, or you can grab a slice or three of new pay-by-weight Roman pizza joint Alice Pizza which has a few vegan-friendly offerings including sliced eggplant, sliced potato and marinara.
Of course, for whole-food healthy vibes, Hong Kong’s resident plant-based lunch spot Treehouse never disappoints. Now with three locations (Central, Taikoo Place and Causeway Bay), its addictive bowls, burgers and flats make for a perfect midday boost.
More of an al-desko sort? Give chef Tina Barrat’s raw-vegan forward lunch delivery a try. The French chef talent behind the now-closed Ma… and the Seeds of Life and one of Hong Kong’s earliest raw food pioneers, serves up a weekly changing menu of both raw and cooked dishes that are as delicious as they are nourishing. Order one to two days before via Whatsapp and it will be delivered to you in time for lunch at work. Think dishes like Nobu-style miso aubergine with black rice and edamame, Recommended: the zucchini gnocchi with cheesy basil pesto and fresh sprouts, the miso aubergine with black rice and edamame and the smoked tomato soup with homemade almond butter. Barrat opened Hong Kong’s first vegan cheese shop too, so give her range of nut-based wheels a whirl (the Shamembert is addictive).
If neo-hipster cafe is your vibe, then I’d be remiss not to mention the popular (and always full) spots by the Years group, across five locations (with a few in trendy Sham Shui Po), the restaurants offer up vegan-friendly menus of local and international fare (from burgers to katsu sandos) that are worth the queue.
For dedicated vegan pizza, head to the newly-opened Mayse in Jordan, a Latvian family-run bakery whose first outpost out in Tai Mei Tuk is always rammed on weekends. The pizzas are reminiscent of family-owned trattorias back in Italy, with spelt crusts and vegan mozzarella. They also do excellent bread, from ciabatta loaves, cornmeal, wholewheat or rye sourdough and even baguettes, and offer paninis and sandwiches to boot.
Off-the-beaten-path vegan food experiences
If you’re an adventurous foodie looking for a unique dining experience, Hong Kong more than delivers. At the African Center in Kowloon, you can join an all-you-can-eat buffet-style group dinner of Pan-African or Ethiopian (injera for life!), or grab a few friends and book fully vegan meals for what might be the best bang for your buck (under HK$300 a head and BYOB sans corkage).
An experience not to miss (IF you can secure a spot) is Olive Leaf, a private kitchen that hosts cooking classes and vegan Middle Eastern brunches. Tucked away on the least busy side of Lamma Island and a short ferry trip from Aberdeen, Israeli chef Ayelet Idan welcomes you to her cosy, warm home and lush garden for an hours-long vegetarian (can be made vegan) meal that you will dream about for months afterwards. From almond labneh to smoked eggplant dips to vine leaf cakes, it’s Middle Eastern food heaven!
Marvellous plant-based desserts
Talking about alt-dairy, if you’re looking for ice cream, So Coco is a shrine to coconuts. While it has a bunch of retail products (in shops like City’super) it has a café-style location in Causeway Bay. Its signature coconut ice cream comes in a bunch of flavours that can act as a base of milkshakes too. Additionally, there are ‘coconut beverages’ that can be topped with elements like coconut meat and jelly. The showstopper, however, is the signature bowl: it’s coconut ice cream or pudding served in a young coconut with a choice of grass jelly, red bean, tapioca and taro, alongside coconut meat. It’s ridiculously refreshing.
In terms of other dessert places, Moono is a spot in Tsim Sha Tsui that is famous for its vegan mooncakes, tarts and whole cakes. Oh, it also does a Tiramiso (get it?) in an edible cookie cup, which is unmissable. Finally, Bien Caramélisé is a classic French patisserie with options that are as delectable as they are beautiful. Chef Jessica Chow, who trained in Paris, makes everything herself from her vegan butter to the puff pastry and it’s truly outstanding stuff. It’s mostly by delivery though there’s a pop-up shop in Mong Kok that’s sometimes open on weekends though it’s by appointment only so make sure to book. There are choux, macarons, tarts and even vegan éclairs – what more do you need? Pro tip: the hazelnut cream millefeuille will rock your world.
This is just a snapshot of some of the best vegan-friendly food Hong Kong has to offer. Suffice it to say, it’s very hard to be disappointed by the city’s culinary offerings, wherever you go so, happy tasting.