Header image courtesy of Moon Lok Chiu Chow
From Wing Lok Street in Hong Kong to the alleys of Bangkok, the mercantile Chiuchow diaspora has built pockets of communities in many corners around the globe, popularising its mellow palate of refreshing flavours. Encompassing food from the Chaoshan region of eastern Guangdong, Chiuchow cuisine (潮州菜; chiu4 jau1 choi3) combines a plethora of influences and Cantonese-inspired techniques that bring shine to natural flavours and freshness.
Much less pronounced than other Chinese gastronomies, the flavour profiles emphasise lightness that is balanced with layered hints of a sour or savoury twist. Dishes are usually served at room temperature with an array of special sauces, whilst oil and heat are swapped out for approaches like steaming, poaching, and braising.
Be greeted by the warm welcome of a tiny cup of kung fu tea (功夫茶), a strong brew of oolong typically served as a starter and post-meal drink, as you embark on a culinary adventure into Chiuchow cuisine. Go forth and give an authentic jiat dot (食桌; a feast shared amongst a large group) meal a try at one of these Chiuchow restaurants!
No mention of Chiuchow cuisine in Hong Kong is complete without this powerhouse. For over half a century, this establishment has served the likes of Stephen Chow and Tony Leung and it continues to thrive under second-generation owner Tony Suen. The original shop expanded to absorb another shophouse a mere two units away, leading to bustling figures busily flitting between the two near-adjacent locations.
Boasting a seasonal roster of seafood, their famous cold crab ($1,500) is the crowning item that showcases how simple poaching and steaming techniques are used to encase natural freshness. Dab a droplet of vinegar or soy sauce if you want an extra zing—fragrant sourness is another feat of Chiuchow cuisine. Be sure to get to the final scrape of the buttery roe on the underside of the shell, as its rich textures are like no other!
Sheung Hing Chiuchow Restaurant (尚興潮州飯店), 29 & 33 Queen’s Road West, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2854 4557
Aside from encompassing Little Thailand, the Kowloon City neighbourhood is also home to a handful of Chiuchow restaurants that sprouted around the mid-twentieth century as a result of ethnic ties to Thai-Chinese immigrants and to a large portion of the residents in the nearby Kowloon Walled City.
Perfectly capturing da lang (打冷; da2 laang5) dining—an informal late-night meal eaten at roadside stalls—this diner doles out plastic plates of sharing dishes to go with a communal assortment of peanuts, pickled vegetables, and sauces. Tuck into their monstrously delightful mélange of brined delicacies ($148) that include goose innards, red sausage, squid, pork neck and ear, and tofu, which is best accompanied by the crunchy yet fluffy neutraliser of oyster omelette ($68). Be sure to wash it all down with icy beer!
Yung Kee (鎔記潮州飯店), 33 South Wall Road, Kowloon City | (+852) 2882 5098
In a nod to Nanyang and traditional Cantonese infusions in da lang cooking, Moon Lok Chiu Chow (滿樂潮州) offers up a modern and internationalised update of a standard Chiuchow menu. Sleek yet unpretentious, notable dishes like the double-boiled bird’s nest soup in papaya ($300) and soy platter ($118)—the latter of which features signature goose meat as well as pork belly—express a tender admiration for spotlighting the flavours of essential ingredients native to Chiuchow cooking.
Elevating traditional recipes to new heights, their revamped take on sea cucumber presents the main dish of crispy-skin sea cucumber with crabmeat & pomelo peel ($150), combining sensibilities of zero-waste initiatives with a time-honoured delicacy. It perfectly encapsulates the restaurant’s look to the future of Chiuchow cuisine, balanced with tributes to its colourful past.
Moon Lok Chiu Chow (滿樂潮州), Shop 405, L4, FoodLoft, Mira Place One, 132 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2157 9949
Holding a spot on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list since 2018, this no-fuss eatery keeps its fare humble and authentic. Aside from an extensive, bang-for-your-buck lunch menu of stir-fried rice and noodles alongside nourishing seaweed soup, there is also an eye-catching collection of iconic Chiuchow dishes.
Start off with some fresh ark shell in fish sauce (starting from $60) and a plate of fresh goose liver ($218) to take in a customary kick of vinegar marinade, before moving onto Chiu Lok Yuen’s baby oyster congee (starting from $62). One thing to note about the unique way of preparation is that the Chiuchownese prefer a soupier, watered-down version of congee known as mue (糜; mí) that has full grains of rice sitting at the bottom of the bowl, rather than the softened gruel that we are used to in Hong Kong.
Chiu Lok Yuen (潮樂園), Shop 4, Ngan Fai Building, 84–94 Wharf Road, North Point | (+852) 3568 5643
Inspired by 1940s glamour, step into the cushy interiors of Chiu Tang (潮廳) and anticipate the delicious melding of revered Chiuchow and Canton favourites. Expertly combining luxury dining with a nostalgic presentation, homestyle meats and vegetables are given a new palatial life, comprising dishes like stir-fried sliced pomfret with preserved vegetables ($388) and sautéed “Shantou” baby cabbage with fish sauce ($138). Guests looking to fully indulge can turn to gourmet choices like the order-in-advance braised imperial fish maw in abalone sauce (market price) or the casserole of diced abalone & chicken ($798).
Also being served is an array of dim sum with special Chiuchow flair. Bite into steaming hot Chiuchow-style pan-fried turnip cakes ($69) and classic steamed dumplings ($69) to experience da lang dining in a whole new way. Round off your meal with the crispiness of icing sugar-dusted deep-fried taro slices ($138) and the totally distinct crispy noodles with yellow chives, sugar & dark vinegar ($198).
Chiu Tang (潮廳), The Galleria, 2/F, 9 Queen’s Road Central, Central | (+852) 2526 8798
Traditionally, tong sui (糖水; sweet dessert soup) is considered a Cantonese speciality, but this spot presents some delicate adaptations conjured up by the Chiuchow people. Established in 1955, they have racked up an impressive list of over 90 options to choose from. The bright yellow laminates resemble perplexing crossword puzzles more than menus, with the comforting soups generally revolving around mix-and-match ingredients, such as stewed green and red bean, glutinous rice balls, lotus seeds, and more. For a pick-me-up after a hefty dinner that is deceptively nutritious, give their milky tofu skin with Job’s tears & mochi ($35) a try.
Chiu Chow Hop Shing Dessert (合成甜品), 9 Lung Kong Road, Kowloon City | (+852) 2383 3026
Tucked away in the corner of the Queen Street Cooked Food Market, this legendary food stall doles out trayfuls of traditional kueh (粿; gwo2). Sticky, comforting, and glutinous, kueh are a type of steamed rice cake served with various assortments of fillings. Tsang Kee (曾記粿品) has an extensive menu that is split according to savoury and sweet, featuring moreish flavours like taro, radish, red bean, and more. While its kueh ($7) is cheap and you may be tempted to load up to try each of its delicious varieties, be warned that these pockets of tastiness can be quite filling. Enjoy them fried and crispy or steamed and soft!
Tsang Kee, Stall 8, Queen Street Cooked Food Market, 1 Queen Street, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2540 6854