Cover Dried shrimp roe noodles are Gloria Chung's essentials (Illustration: Stephen Collins)

The founder of styling agency The Props Dept shares her insider food tips and her favourite local spots in Hong Kong

As part of our series celebrating the vibrancy and community within Hong Kong’s dining scene, we spoke to several of the industry’s leading lights about why they love the city’s unique food culture. Here, Gloria Chung—writer, food stylist, and founder of food styling agency The Props Dept—talks about the small Japanese restaurant that would be her last meal in Hong Kong and the local noodles she always brings for breakfast when travelling.

Tell us about some of your favourite Hong Kong food memories…

Growing up in Yuen Long, I remember my mum bringing me to the busy wet market there. We’d grab hot pineapple buns from Tai Tung Bakery, one of the oldest Canto bakeries in Hong Kong, then have wonton noodles in Ho To Tai Noodle Shop. As a kid, my favourite dish was their sweet spicy marinated pork noodles, but as time went by, I began to appreciate their homemade dumplings with fish skin… I guess that’s what is called growing up! When I was a kid, my mum would let me stay in the noodle shop while she went shopping in the market—my mum was very friendly and talkative, and it was a time when people trusted and took care of each other very much.

What are some of your favourite local ingredients to use?

I love dried shrimp roe noodles! Whenever I need to go on a long cold journey—usually an assignment in Europe—I usually bring one or two packets of these as an option for breakfast instead of cup noodles, as they’re easy to cook and already seasoned. The best I’ve found so far are from HappyFamilies.hk, which are made in Hong Kong; the texture of their noodles is very silky and al dente, and the shrimp roe flavour is very rich too.

I also love the locally-grown figs from Zen Organic Farm. They have this greenish yellow type of fig that tastes so tangy and refreshing—the texture is incredible!

Another memory would be at Ser Wong Fun, one of Hong Kong’s longest-standing restaurants, where I had my first date with my partner; we’ve returned there to celebrate our first date for five years now. I always wear the same dress that I wore on our first date—but he can’t fit in his first date outfit anymore! I remember we ordered the scrambled egg with prawn, lemon chicken, and stir-fried gai lan. I don’t think Gigi Paulina Ng, their owner, realised it was a first date—who would have thought that a Chinese restaurant could be so romantic? [Editor's note: Gloria eventually held her wedding reception at Ser Wong Fun.

I always have a real sense of nostalgia about the restaurants in The Peninsula too—when I started my journalism career, it was the very first hotel and restaurant I visited for work. As a young writer, I was amazed by the quality of food and service, but it’s really the people there who make such a difference, from the bellboy to the PR to the restaurant staff that treat all their guests like ladies and gentlemen. My favourite meals there would be the lobster sausage for breakfast at The Lobby, dim sum at Spring Moon, and anything at Chesa.

If you could only visit one restaurant in Hong Kong again, what would it be—and how does it sum up what you love about the city’s food scene?

Although I was thinking about all the local and Michelin-starred restaurants I’ve visited in Hong Kong, the first place that actually popped into my mind is a very small Japanese restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui called Kichi. This izakaya has been here for over 27 years—and in a fast-paced city like Hong Kong, I consider that to be old! They have a spread of appetisers on their bar counter; I always go for the chicken liver stew, eggplant, and delicious homemade fish cakes.

Kichi’s owner Fujiko Yamaguchi is originally from Fukoka, and had many other jobs before deciding to open a restaurant; she is divorced with two children (one of whom has autism) and has struggled a lot, but managed to become the waiter, chef, cleaner and HR of her own space, and now she has two shops here.

Like everyone else, her business has been at stake during the pandemic, but every time I see her, she is still the same passionate, bubbly Fujiko-san who works so hard while raising her family. Everyone in the restaurant calls her “Mama” and she’s always running around to check the quality of your food, making sure all her guests are happy. I think this story really epitomises the Hong Kong food scene—no matter where you’ve come from, everyone working hard and making good food for their lovely guests and family.

Gloria’s Picks:

  • Tai Tung Bakery, G/F, 57 Fo Choi Street, Yuen Long, Hong Kong, +852 2476 2630
  • Ho To Tai Noodle Shop, G/F, 67 Fau Tsoi Street, Yuen Long, Hong Kong, +852 2476 2495
  • Ser Wong Fun, G/F, 30 Cochrane Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2543 1032
  • The Peninsula Hong Kong, Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2920 2888
  • Zen Organic Farm, Ping Che, Ta Kwu Ling, New Territories, Hong Kong, +852 6692 2671
  • Kichi, 6/F, Tern Plaza, 5 Cameron Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2368 0000