20 Vegan Hong Kong Street Food Recipes

By Lora O’Brien

With my Chinese stepmum as a guide, I was excited to spend two weeks exploring Hong Kong. I was  pretty sure I knew what types of food to expect – but it turns out I was  a little naive. For example, I was struck by how westernized the ‘Chinese’ food we all know and love is: stir fried rice  and lots of sweet and sour dishes are not typical in Hong Kong restaurants. In fact, there’s pretty much a huge dearth of rice; I had to specifically request it when we ate out.

What I also learned is that people  in Hong Kong take food very seriously. Not just its execution, but the social event around eating it. Many times we’d go out for dinner, and groups of people would join us. In  contrast to the quick dinners I’ve grown used to, these meals would last for hours and everyone would share both conversation and food. It was fun, beautiful and refreshing.

In Hong Kong, it felt like a new culinary delight popped up every day.  When we weren’t picking out restaurants, we were passing by street vendors, little food concessions stands, or market stalls bursting with olfactory and visual wonders.

Indeed, Hong Kong’s streets are just buzzing with passion for food and Chinese culinary history. The only thing that repulsed me a bit (ok, maybe a lot) was the omnipresence of meat. And when I say ‘meat’, I mean, dead animals of all kinds in various forms: pigs, rabbits, frogs, ducks, cows, you name it. Luckily, there are vegan versions of just about anything you can find in the market stalls of this amazing city. Here, I’ve come up with some of the tastiest vegan versions of Hong Kong street food classics I could find. Enjoy, or as they say in Hong Kong:  qÇ ng mà n yà²ng!

1.  Sticky Rice Rolls

This sticky rice recipe is based on the popular chi faan dish. It’s created by tightly wrapping a piece of fried dough with glutinous rice. You can usually find  chi faan in two varieties: the more savoury flavours will include pickled vegetables and rousong (a dried meat which is light and fluffy and similar to eating cotton) or a sweeter version will have sugar inside of it and occasionally sesame seeds. This is a healthy version of a meat heavy rice dish that is just as delicious and uses tempeh to create a meat-free mince.


2.  Vegan Zongzi

Zongzi (or zong)  is another traditional Chinese food made from sticky rice. It’s combined with a variation of foods and then wrapped in either bamboo or flat leaves. These are then either  steamed or boiled. I’ve seen this dish  in a few supermarkets and they’re often  wrapped in vine leaves. Zongzi is sometimes  a sweet treat that  includes red bean paste. Expecting an actual dessert, I was surprised to be served this as a dessert  once whilst dining out. My stepmom loves it, but for me, I just prefer my rice a little more on the savory side. But this  recipe is great because it’s a little bit of both, with peanuts and figs so it can cater to both sweet and savoury tooths.


3.  Vegan Soup Dumplings (Xiaolongbao)

Xiaolongbao is a type of steamed bun that is presented in a bamboo steaming baskets, similar to dim sum in both appearance and texture. They’re traditionally used in a soup and this is the best recipe that I’ve found. It’s actually a YouTube video, which I was so thrilled to find: attempting foreign cuisines is daunting enough, but when we have videos to watch, it’s got to be easier, right?!

Get the recipe here.  


4.  Fried Chive Dumplings

Gao choi gao is a pan fried dumpling that traditionally contains diced shrimp and chives, but you can find some vegan versions. These are hot, greasy, sticky balls that may taint your breath all day but won’t be enough to stop you going back for more. This take on the traditional recipe includes tempeh in place of the shrimp to give these substance and bulk them out.


5.  Udon Noodle Stir-Fry

This is a take on the Japanese udon noodle that is a  relatively new, but highly popular, street food in  Hong Kong. The fact that you can customize your bag of noodles reminds me of the sandwich making process at Subway: first, select your noodle, and then choose from rows of ingredients and condiments to throw into the bag. This is then mixed together with some sauces and oil and then served in a clear bag with some chopsticks so you can enjoy your noodles on the go! But even if you’re not strolling the streets of Hong Kong, you can bring a little of that magic into your cooking – sans the nasty plastic bag – with this udon noodle stir-fry.

Get the recipe here.


6. A  Cheung Fun Recipe

These bad boys are street food at its most delicious. Cheung fun is a rice noodle roll and is a variety of dim sum. The rice noodles are rolled  out very thin,  and then filled with ingredients. Cheung fun are  usually filled with shrimp, pork or beef alongside veggies, but you  can also get these without a filling, and this is how you’ll likely find them on the streets. They’re traditionally referred to as chee cheong fun. They’re then served with a dish of soy sauce for dipping and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Get the recipe here.


7.  Grilled Pineapple & Tofu Skewers

Skewers of grilled stuff are everywhere on the streets of Hong Kong. You can pass vendor after vendor selling some form of food on a stick. Usually, it’s pretty much meat based and there’s a lot of awful offal, octopus and sausages. Aiiiee! With so few vegan options on offer, these came as a godsend.  There’s something about warm, crunchy grilled pineapple contrasted by squishy tofu that just works!

Get the recipe here.


8.  Dim Sum with Spinach & Mung Beans

Dim sum was one of my favourite foods to rediscover in Hong Kong. In case you’re not familiar,  dim sum is little parcels that are filled with meat or fish. They come in a little steamed wicker box  and are hot and juicy when you bite into them. These are a vegetarian version – not vegan because they have egg whites – but the spinach and mung bean filling is divine.

Get the recipe here.  


9.  Vegan Takoyaki

Whilst this is traditionally a Japanese food, it’s (strangely?) a popular food over in Hong Kong. Takoyaki are little balls of battered food. Octopus is a popular filling for takoyaki alongside pickled ginger and green onion. These balls are then brushed with a sauce very similar to Worcestershire sauce, and then they’re grilled until the entire ball goes an even, golden brown. These are then topped with mayonnaise, traditionally Kewpie brand (Kewpie products are used a lot in Hong Kong) and enjoyed! If you don’t rave about vegan mayo, then why not switch it up with some sriracha?

Get the recipe here.


10.  Vegan Char Siu Bao

A baozi – or more simply known as a bao – is a type of steamed bun that is packed full of delicious filling. Pork is always a popular filling for these, but rest assured this recipe is 100% vegan, with the same greatness of the bao. This recipe fills the bun with a filling made from tofu whereas the buns are made with coconut oil as opposed to the traditional milk and cream. The resulting bao is soft and buttery and all round mouth watering.

Get the recipe here.


11.  Sweet & Sour Tofu

Ok, it may not be the most authentic dish on this list, but I couldn’t not include a sweet and sour recipe. Whilst most of Chinese cuisine doesn’t include lots of sweet and sour variations, they do enjoy a lot of sweet and sour pork, and occasionally chicken. There’s something about sweet and sour sauce that I just can’t resist, sorry! This vegan friendly version replaces the meat with tofu.

Get the recipe here.  


12.  Cantonese Soy Sauce Pan Fried Noodles

Forget rice: noodles are the most  popular Chinese dish. And no wonder: they’re super easy to eat from a conical container. They’re often served up with a  combination of both soft and crispy noodles, and the combo is heavenly. A lot of the noodle dishes no include some fort of meat whether it be chicken or pork, but this recipe allows you to enjoy Cantonese style noodles without the meat.

Get the recipe here.  


13. Mushroom & Cilantro Dumplings

Sauteed mushrooms give the filling of these tasty bites of goodness a hearty texture, while the cilantro and bell peppers add a fresh crunch. You can enjoy these as  fried or steamed dumplings, but you should serve these with a nice,  simple spicy dipping sauce.

Get the recipe here.


14. Vegan Fried Rice

Although my illusion that Chinese people enjoyed a lot of rice was shattered when I found no rice at the table after several days of being in Hong Kong, you could still order it. And when I did order a bowl of special fried rice – boy was it delicious! I love special fried rice because you can throw heaps of healthy stuff into it and it tastes amazing. Think scallions, carrots, peas, peppers . . . whatever tickles your fancy.

Get the recipe here.  


15.  Roasted Herbed Chestnuts

How could I not include roasted chestnuts in a street food article? During the colder months, the delicious, charcoal  smell will drive you insane until you buy some. And who doesn’t love roasted chestnuts warming their hands up on a freezing day? You can also enjoy this popular street snack as part of your evening meal. These chestnuts have been roasted with rosemary and sage with some butter (use vegan butter to make it 100% vegan friendly) and will make your mouth water when the smell wafts out from the oven, trust me . . .


16.  Peanut Butter  Mochi

The Cantonese version of the famous Japanese mochi ball is called Lor Mai Chi and both are very similar. Traditionally they were filled with classic flavours such as a red bean paste, or peanut butter and coconut.  It’s made from a glutinous rice, and as you bite into the gummy almost  silk-like  texture, there’s a soft fruit filling. I actually found mochi during a  trip to Cheung Chau. It was a hot day and these looked insanely delicious. The thing that intrigued me most was that one was filled with durian, a ‘love it or hate it’ fruit I’d yet to try. This recipe is most traditional with its creamy peanut filling.

Get the recipe here.  


17.  Chinese Crullers (Youtiao)

Youtiao is also referred to as Chinese oil stick – a pretty frank description for a Chinese cruller.  Served typically at breakfast, it’s pretty much a deep fried breadstick they emerges both golden and fluffy. Cruller’s  are mostly dipped into  sweet soy milk, and when the cruller  absorbs the milk, it gives it an added sweet taste.

Get the recipe here.  


18. Tofu Pudding (Dou Hua)

High five to naturally vegan Chinese cuisine! This is a dessert made from very soft tofu and is often referred to as soybean pudding. The silkiness of the tofu makes this dish both refreshing and delicious. You can find it sold by little vendors at breakfast and many people enjoy them with crullers. Ginger syrup is a popular topping to drizzle over this dessert, and it  gives this dish a brilliant yet delicate spiciness against the smooth pudding.

Get the recipe here.


19.  Egg-Less Waffle

From waffles to egg puffs  – these are a real sweet treat in Hong Kong. Whereas the egg waffle looks like a hollow egg (hence its name) and it’s crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, the waffle has more texture. They’re thin and usually spread with butter, peanut butter, condensed milk and sugar. On top of the hot waffle these all melt and combine to soak through into a delicious blob. Personally, I like my waffles with soy ice cream and maple syrup. Just sayin’.

Get the recipe here.  


20.Vegan Custard Tarts

Not  a traditional Chinese recipe in  the slightest, but a damn good one. If you’re lucky enough to roam the streets of Hong Kong then you’ll be aware of the cakes that tease you in both shop windows and on little vendors. Many times we stopped off for a cake or two to take back to the apartment to enjoy later on, and egg tarts are a classic. These versions are of course vegan.

Get the recipe here.


21. Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream

I know your first thought is probably: vanilla ice cream – but we can get that anywhere! And it’s true, vanilla ice cream can be found pretty much worldwide. But if you’ve been to Hong Kong you’ll be aware of the little ice cream trucks that seem like the holy grail when you’re hot, sweaty and in need of something cool and tasty. And  this vegan version is pretty much as delicious as anything you’ll find in one of those trucks.

Get the recipe here.


Lora O'Brien
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