Header image courtesy of Yuda Chen (via Shutterstock)
Tong yuen (湯圓)—glutinous rice balls—are key staples of Hong Kong desserts and a mainstay element for important Chinese holidays, such as Chinese New Year and the winter solstice. As it symbolises togetherness with loved ones, tong yuen is also usually the go-to dessert at many family reunions, but many of us simply gravitate towards this sweet Cantonese dessert after having a regular meal with friends. Here are the best places for tong yuen in Hong Kong.
Sporting a shout-out from the prestigious Michelin Guide for excellent street food, Fook Yuen (福元湯圓) is a popular dessert spot located in North Point. Just this past January, Fook Yuen sold a whopping 4,000 tong yuen in just one day, with its peak being ten thousand a day on special occasions. What’s the secret? A thin layer of rice flour used as the wrapping so the tong yuen melts in your mouth instantly as you bite into the warm and sweet filling. Fook Yuen has three signature dishes, all of which are worth sampling: tong yuen with sesame sweet soup ($32), tong yuen with almond tea ($32), and tong yuen with red date walnut sweet soup
Fook Yuen (福元湯圓), Shop I-1, Lei Do Building, 7 Fuk Yuen Street, North Point | (+852) 3106 0129
Also located in North Point, Yangshenghu Dessert (養生糊甜品專門店) serves a classic sesame tong yuen with ginger soup ($22) that keeps diners coming back. Despite their generous portions of soup and tong yuen, prices here are unbelievably low, which will explain its popularity—Yangshenghu Dessert frequently sees customers queueing up outside, a clear testament to its value-for-money desserts. However, since dine-in seating is limited, customers can also opt to have their tong yuen and tong sui (糖水; Cantonese dessert soup) as takeaway orders instead.
Yangshenghu Dessert (養生糊甜品專門店), Shop D1, Po Wing Building, 6–16 Shell Street, North Point | (+852) 3618 8703
Kai Kai (佳佳甜品) has been honoured in the Michelin Guide not just once, but for six consecutive years! Attracting tourists and locals alike for its tried-and-true recipes, this dessert shop is one of the most acclaimed spots for sweet treats in Hong Kong. For only $24, you can grab a bowl of their signature sesame tong yuen with Ningbo ginger soup, which is an excellent deal, especially considering the shop’s esteemed reputation.
Kai Kai (佳佳甜品), 29 Ning Po Street, Jordan | (+852) 2384 3862
Behind the façade of its bold, neon-lit exteriors, Big Sweet House (大街小館) serves up a more modern interpretation of traditional Hong Kong desserts. If you wish to kill two birds with one stone, order the tong yuen with coconut soup & steamed egg custard ($39) or the tong yuen with almond soup & steamed egg custard ($39), so you can try two quintessential local desserts in one! Big Sweet House also serves a wide range of Western desserts, so this is the best place to visit to enjoy the best of both worlds in one sitting.
Unlike other eateries on this list, SY Kitchen (上海老家) is an establishment that mainly serves Shanghainese cuisine, but loyal fans of this private kitchen-style restaurant will know that its tong yuen with osmanthus wine soup ($48) is one of the stars of the menu. Using fragrant osmanthus wine adds a sophisticated touch to the dish, balancing out the sweetness of the tong yuen to create a refreshing flavour, making this the perfect post-meal treat. If you’re looking to try their main dishes before having their tong yuen and don’t know where to start, just ask their friendly staff for a recommendation or two and you’ll be all set for a terrific meal.
SY Kitchen (上海老家), 61 Chung Wui Street, Tai Kok Tsui | (+852) 9162 3308
Chung Kee Dessert (松記糖水店) offers a long list of Hong-Kong desserts for every season, summer through winter. However, their signature six-style tong yuen with ginger soup ($23) is particularly notable, and gives you a taste of all of their tong yuen flavours in one bowl, including the classics—sesame and peanut—as well as red bean, regular milk custard, purple rice milk custard, and green tea milk custard. With over 10 branches across Hong Kong, there is bound to be one near you. For those who wish to go beyond the usual sesame and peanut flavours, head down to the nearest Chung Kee Dessert and have a blast trying out their unusual tong yuen varieties!
Hung Fai Kee (大良鴻輝記) has the cheapest bowl of tong yuen on our list—their sesame tong yuen with ginger soup only costs a jaw-dropping $18! Cheap and cheerful, their homemade tong yuen tastes fresh and chewy, and their ginger soup has just the right amount of spice. Considering the size of their round and plump tong yuen and the serving of five per bowl, it’s a superb bargain. Hung Fai Kee is authentic to its core, so this is the place to visit if you want every mouthful to come with a side of nostalgia and an atmosphere you cannot find anywhere else.
Hung Fai Kee (大良鴻輝記), 8 Chuen Lung Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 2419 7711
Every dessert is Instagram-worthy at Cheung Chau Bing Sutt (長洲冰室), undeniably one of the most popular spots for a post-beach treat on the laid-back island of Cheung Chau. Get your cameras ready, as the tong yuen with coconut sweet soup & milk custard ($60) comes served in a photogenic coconut, and can be ordered either hot or cold depending on your mood. Aside from tong yuen, the dessert also comes with morsels of chewy taro balls.
Cheung Chau Bing Sutt (長洲冰室), 19C Pak She Praya Road, Cheung Chau | (+852) 2981 2982