Header image courtesy of @rbylife (via OpenRice)
Everyone agrees that Hong Kong is a food paradise, and our wide-ranging cuisine choices have long been a staple of our culture. Other than the diversity, Hong Kong is also famous for its traditional pineapple buns, egg tarts, and Hong Kong milk tea. Along with these appetising street snacks, a slew of iconic local foods and beverages are forever imprinted in our childhood memories, while others remain prominent in our daily lives. From Vita lemon tea to Garden wafers, here is a list of eminent local Hong Kong brands that will guarantee you a taste of home.
If you prefer bottled to cartoned milk, then you have probably tried the dairy offerings from Trappist Dairy (十字牌), which is sold in most supermarkets and convenience stores. The Trappist Haven Monastery first started producing dairy milk in 1956 for local residents living in Lantau Island, but the small business soon expanded its scale and moved to Yuen Long, launching new dairy products such as flavoured milk drinks and yoghurt.
More recently, the company has introduced its Spoona and Sippa yoghurt to the public, both including low-fat and flavoured choices as well. You can also visit Cross Café (十字冰室), located in Sai Ying Pun and Causeway Bay, for some traditional cha chaan teng dishes served with Trappist Dairy’s bottled milk on the side.
Anyone born and raised in Hong Kong will have no trouble picking the Garden (嘉頓) logo out of a line-up. Whether it is the toast you spread peanut butter on, or the mini-cakes you share with your friends during school breaks, most packaged baked goods and biscuits are likely to be produced by this local company.
As one of the major production corporations in Hong Kong, Garden has been churning out thousands of food products for retail and catering markets since 1926. Not only are they sold in supermarkets and convenience stores, their cakes and biscuits are also served at funfairs, parties, and gatherings as an easy snack for guests!
Founded in 1938 by Wong Yip-wing, Kee Wah Bakery (奇華餅家) has undergone a rollercoaster life from the beginning to the present. During the Japanese occupation in the Second World War, Kee Wah made the most with the limited ingredients they had on hand and sold cookies that were deemed a symbol of hope.
Wong’s small business began flourishing after the war, and he opened his first production factory on Shanghai Street, as well as launching new products like mooncakes and egg rolls. Eventually, Kee Wah reached new heights with international audiences in the following decades, opening stores in Taiwan and the United States. Now, Kee Wah products are go-to gifts and souvenirs for both locals and travellers. With more than a hundred shops across the globe, Kee Wah continues to offer quality goods adored by many Hong Kong people.
Ice cream is nostalgic comfort food, providing a cherry-on-top addition to indulgent pies and shaved ice desserts, snacks for Netflix binges, and much more. On particularly hot days, we make sure that we are well-equipped with something cold, and there is no doubt that you will find us stacking different Appolo (阿波羅) products into our freezers! As one of the top players in Hong Kong and southern China, the company was established in 1992 and sells cold treats ranging from popsicles and ice cream sandwiches to cones and cups.
Some of its most iconic creations include the quintessential Magic Cone ice cream, a grab-and-go vanilla-flavoured swirl drizzled in chocolate sauce, and the Monaka ice cream sandwich, shaped like a brick.
Although the story of Lee Kum Kee (李錦記) began in nearby Guangdong, it has since become a Hong Kong-based food company producing essential Chinese sauces and ingredients. Founder Lee Kum-sheung (李錦裳) was a small-town chef known for his cooked oysters and newly invented sauce, which eventually became the top product of the business he started in 1888. In 1932, the company moved its headquarters to Hong Kong and soon started selling its goods worldwide. Lee Kum Kee continues to be widely used in households and restaurants when making delicious dishes, and it acts as an epitome of authentic Hong Kong flavour and quality.
Few things are more nostalgic (and better-tasting) than a warm bottle of Vitasoy (維他奶) on a cold winter day. Before becoming the largest non-carbonated beverage manufacturer in Hong Kong, the soymilk brand was founded in 1940 by Dr Lo Kwee-seong as a door-to-door delivery service. Fascinating origins aside, the company only underwent a global expansion in 1993, purchasing factories in the United States and Shenzhen to scale up its production of various juices and teas. A sip of Vitasoy or Vita lemon tea is a taste of home for many of us, and their other products continue to give endless comfort to many Hongkongers from multiple generations.
With more than 40 years of history, Sze Hing Loong (時興隆) is a Hong Kong company that offers an ample mix of local snacks, including crackers, seasoned cuttlefish, roasted peanuts, seaweed, and more. If you remember jostling for treats from the little tuck shops in school, then you have probably already tried their signature curry corn rolls or baked cuttlefish puffs! Sze Hing Loong is now one of the leading importers, exporters, and distributors of consumer packaged goods, leaving hints of Hong Kong culture in many overseas countries.
Chinese herbal teas are common fixtures in local households, with mothers plying their children with such brews when they feel under the weather. Adults and the elderly, when looking to clear toxins in the body, will turn to herbal teas for a quick and effective fix. Yip Heung Lau (葉香留) has long been a popular spot to visit for all kinds of herbal teas, with recipes like monk fruit tea touted to keep you balanced with its cooling benefits and known to soothe sore throats, lung congestion, and coughs, whereas rorippa indica tea helps with detoxification.
Yu Kwen Yick (余均益) was founded in 1922 by Yu Siu-kee (余兆基), a Hong Kong immigrant from Guangdong. Hoping to share his passion for spicy food with others, he started his small chilli sauce business by carrying self-made chilli sauce around town and selling them to locals. Later on, in 1950, he opened his first shopfront in Sai Ying Pun and expanded from there. Yu Kwen Yick’s classic chilli sauce is a fine balance between sweet, sour, and spicy, and makes for a great addition to any dish for a kick of heat. However, Yu Kwen Yick products are not available in supermarkets, so you can only find them on Third Street and in local tuck shops (雜貨舖).
If you find yourself on Java Street in North Point early in the morning, you might be surprised to come across a queue of people patiently waiting outside an old, battered shopfront. Come rain or shine, this persistent crowd will wait with unwavering determination. What is this hype all about, you ask? Oh, only a beloved local snack.
Duck Shing Ho (德成號) has resided on Java Street for decades and has long been loved for its home-style egg rolls. As the queues can attest, these snacks are very much worth the wait, as the flavour surpasses Maxim’s, Ching Kee, and other local bakeries. In fact, the egg rolls are so good that customers will start lining up before 9 am! Despite its high demand, the family business refrains from expanding to ensure their consistent quality. Maybe this is why people will even settle for a bag of leftover crumbs when the egg rolls are all sold out!
Fermented beancurd is a popular Chinese condiment, often used to make sauces and consumed as is with starch dishes like congee, as well as meats and vegetables. A product that poses an acquired taste for some has nonetheless enjoyed a long history, with its creation dating back to the Han dynasty (202 BC to 220 AD).
In Jordan, there is one lone shop that is still producing fermented beancurd the traditional way, using hand-operated machinery and a secret family recipe. Liu Ma Kee (廖孖記), founded by twin brothers surnamed Liu, has been peddling their signature product for well over a century, and are well-loved for its handcrafted fermented beancurd condiment. Recognisable through its vintage packaging design, each glass jar is a labour of love, as Liu Ma Kee still uses a traditional stone mill to process its soybeans for an unusually rich flavour.
One look at Koon Yick (冠益) and you will no doubt recognise its sky-blue label, embellished with an old-fashioned junk boat and a duo of decorative chillies. A sauce maker that can trace its history back to 1891, Koon Yick started from humble origins, founded by the Tam brothers who hailed from a Guangdong village. Operations began out of a shop on Gage Street, and Koon Yick firmly established itself as a leading manufacturer of chilli sauce in Hong Kong and Canton by the early twentieth century. After a small name change to Koon Yick Wah Kee and now in third-generation hands, the brand continues to delight Hongkongers with its unparalleled flavour.