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Hong Kong’s Rising Locavore Stars

Despite importing more than 90 percent of its food, Hong Kong has a growing appetite for local artisanal production. Janice Leung Hayes tries some of the best, both generations old and brand new.

Published on Jun 13, 2018

HAKAWA | Handmade Chocolate

Hakawa’s rose petal and pistachio bars

One of the first bean-to-bar chocolatiers in Hong Kong (many others are actually “melters,” who buy ready-made coverture chocolate, melt it to add flavors and then remold the blocks) Hakawa founders Sally Kwok and Mandy Wong process the cacao beans themselves, roasting, winnowing and refining the cacao seeds into chocolate as we know it. It’s laborious: around 30 hours of active processing time goes into each batch, and the bars are aged for three months before being f lavored and sold. Hakawa sources its cacao beans directly from a cooperative in Sri Lanka, and makes each batch of its organic chocolate by hand in a diminutive hole-in-the-wall atelier and shop on Gough Street. As proud Hongkongers, Kwok and Wong are inspired by local ingredients to f lavor their bars and truff les, using, for example, goji berries, dried longan, osmanthus and their own Sichuan-chili blend. hakawachocolate; Shop 1B, 49–51A Gough St., Central; chocolate bars from HK$28.

HUI KEE | Fish Balls

The Hui Kee fish ball shop in Cheung Sha Wan

Seafood has always been a big part of Hong Kong dining, and fish balls are an essential ingredient for Cantonese noodle soups and hot pots. Alfred Hui’s grandfather started selling them in a wet market in the working-class neighborhood of Cheung Sha Wan, while Hui and his wife have since brought the business into the 21st century by using sustainable fish sources, and relocating production to a modernized factory. Mechanization isn’t the enemy, Hui says, as machines have been used for a long time in fish-ball making; what matters is that recipes aren’t changed. Experienced sifus (masters) who’ve been with the family-owned company for decades oversee the entire production process and ensure they’re still following to a tee traditional recipes such as dumplings wrapped in delicate, paper-thin skins made of fish mince; and classic fish balls, made with eel that is skinned and pounded in a way that gives it its uniquely elastic texture.; 16 Cheung Fat St., Cheung Sha Wan; fish balls from HK$48 per pound.

A serving of their classic fish balls


The beer taps at Moonzen Brewery

A tall drink of Chinese culture along with your ale? Yes, please. Moonzen is named after men shen, the name for the gods depicted on the doors of many traditional Chinese houses in Beijing, where beer brewer Laszlo Raphael met his wife, Michele Wong Raphael. The couple now lives in Hong Kong, of which Wong Raphael is a native, brewing the favorite craft beers of many local insiders. Moonzen has done remarkably well since its humble beginnings in 2014: with just a few tanks the size of stock pots, the company won Best Hong Kong–Produced Beer and Best Pale Ale at the Hong Kong International Beer Awards that same year. They’ve since moved into a larger factory and have been producing an ever-expanding range. As the couple tells visitors to the brewery, “every beer has a story.” In the permanent range, each beer is inspired by a mythical Chinese god: the Kitchen God, whose words are sweetened by honey, inspired the honey espresso porter; the cheeky Monkey King is represented by the lively hoppy aromas of an amber ale. They also have a growing array of beers dedicated to Chinese provinces—the South Cloud Yunnan lager uses Yunnanese Pu’er tea—and experiment with seasonal releases, like summer kumquat wheat beer and a cream ale made with lemon tea, a tribute to the staple Hong Kong drink.; 18 Shing Yip St., Kwun Tong; brewery tour with beer samples from HK$250.

YUAN’S | Soy Sauce

Started in the 1970s by the late Heh-kwan Tsang, a biochemist from Fujian, Yuan’s factory in Yuen Long, in Hong Kong’s northwest, produces some of the most expensive soy sauce in the world. To call it a factory is generous—it’s a couple of barns and a big uncovered space for the sun’s heat to ferment the hundred or so soybean-filled ceramic pots that sit there. Unlike most soy sauces, their “Royal Soy Sauce,” the “first press” of the condiment, takes two years to make and costs HK$188 for a 125-milliliter bottle. Made Fujian-style, no water is added; soybeans, salt and a natural fermentation starter are all that make up the thick, glossy liquid bursting with natural umami. The intensity of the first press means it’s best used as a dipping sauce. The second press, which adds brine, is more similar to the light soy sauce of home cooks, although the depth of f lavor makes it anything but common. Yuan’s also stocks a large range of their other condiments, including chili, oyster and hoisin sauces, all preservative-free and made from Tsang’s own formulas. Since Tsang’s death in 2012, Tin Yip, one of only two apprentices who knew the original recipes, now runs the business and is staying tightlipped about their formulas: “There have been people who’ve tried to buy [our recipes], but we’ve never written them down, and it’s not my secret to tell.”; available at City’super stores and select specialty supermarkets; Royal Soy Sauce HK$188.


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