Also known as ‘phoenix claws’, steamed chicken feet with black bean sauce can be found on every dim sum menu in town. The taste is fleshy and chewy, and the delicate bones of the feet have to be spat out. We can confirm that they are delicious, and there’s absolutely nothing to be grossed out about!
Pig blood curd
The Chinese name for this dish is ‘blood tofu’. It’s made of solidified blocks of pig’s blood, which have been cooked in boiling water. This extremely nutritious delicacy has a soft, yet firm texture. The flavor of the curd is quite mild, and is usually consumed with congee or with a hotpot.
The jelly-like delicacy turtle jelly – guīlínggāo – is thought to be good for the skin and to lower cholesterol. It’s made from herbs and crushed turtle shells – traditionally Cuora trifasciata, otherwise known as the golden coin turtle. The conservation-conscious should be warned that this turtle is now critically endangered from being over-harvested. However, as real turtle jelly is quite expensive, the canned varieties sold as cheap desserts in Hong Kong usually do not contain any actual turtle, but do have the same herb additives that are thought to be good for health.
In English, this dish has many names, including century egg, thousand-year egg, and millennium egg. It’s known as pi dan in Mandarin and pei-daan in Cantonese, meaning ‘leathery egg’. Basically, it’s a duck or quail egg that’s been preserved in clay, ash, lime, rice and salt. During this process, the yolk becomes a dark grey and the white becomes a translucent brown jelly; hence its dark appearance. Century eggs are commonly used as a side dish or in congee in Chinese cuisine. Some foreigners object to its strong smell, but it’s very popular among locals for its smooth, creamy yolk and acidic jelly.
Bird’s nest soup
This is both a pricey delicacy and medicine, believed to aid digestion and boost libido. The nest is made from the hardened spittle of swiftlets (a type of bird found in Southeast Asia), and contains high levels of nutrients. The nests are soaked in cold water and then stewed with chicken stock, resulting in a thick soup with little pieces of gelatinous, soft nest inside. Conservationists frown upon the practice of taking the swiftlet nests, which are becoming increasingly scarce.
Stinky tofu is a popular snack food sold on the streets of Hong Kong. Stinky tofu is fermented in a brine made of milk, meat and vegetables for several weeks or months – and yes, it’s really stinky; people compare the odor to that of rotting meat or garbage. The longer it’s been fermented, the stinkier it is, though when eaten it tastes quite mild and sweet. This classic street food is usually deep-fried and served with either a sweet or spicy sauce.