Cover Vicky Lau loves snake soup for its healing, restoring and soothing properties (Illustration: Stephen Collins)

From traditional dishes to local producers, Tate Dining Room’s chef-owner shares her quintessential Hong Kong food experiences

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, Vicky Lau – the chef-owner of French-Chinese fine dining restaurant Tate Dining Room – reminisces about her favourite old-school Hong Kong dishes and the local condiment so special that it inspired one of Tate’s signature menus.

Tell us about some of your favourite Hong Kong food moments.

Going to Yung Kee is one of my favourite Hong Kong food moments, as it’s a really classic and traditional Cantonese restaurant that serves authentically flavoured dishes made with well-honed culinary skills and premium ingredients. My favourite dish there is their signature charcoal-roasted goose; when I was small, my family would always order a whole goose to share among us – we loved its crispy skin and special charcoal flavour. I really enjoy Yung Kee’s authentic Cantonese cuisine with a modern touch – it reminds me the importance of balancing innovation and tradition in my dishes, turning historic values and qualities into something modern.

Another favourite food moment to share is from Ser Wong Fun, which is best known for its old Cantonese dishes – especially their snake soup, which has over 125 years of history. Snake soup is a Chinese delicacy that contains as many as five different types of snake meat, and it’s a popular traditional dish in Hong Kong during the winter months. It’s all about healing, restoring and soothing, as snake meat is known to chase away the winds and dampness in our bodies. The soup warms my body and helps my blood circulation – and since I can’t stand very cold weather, it’s a kind of comfort meal to me every winter.

What are some of your favourite local ingredients to use?

Soy sauce is a staple condiment in all Chinese households and an essential flavour in so many of the dishes I loved when growing up – which is what inspired me to dedicate one of Tate’s “Ode To” menus to this simple yet versatile seasoning that is so emblematic of Asian cuisines. Some of my favourite producers are all the old soy sauce factories here in Hong Kong. A few of the ones in Yuen Long – such as Yuet Wo – still produce their soy sauce in the traditional way, ageing it on their rooftops in ceramic pots that absorb the essences from the sun and moon.

Another favourite local ingredient would be the honey from urban bee farms here. While it’s true that space is limited in Hong Kong and real estate can be very expensive, especially when it comes to farming, Hong Kongers are creative. They have found ways to farm bees on rooftops and other small areas in the city, producing some of the best honey you can find. My go-to is ForMe Honey in Tuen Mun.

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?

I would definitely go and visit Tai Ping Koon, which is one of Hong Kong's most famous Western restaurants that serves traditional Western dishes with a local Cantonese touch. When I was small, I would always go with my parents on the weekends – their Swiss chicken wings are my must-order item! I believe that Tai Ping Koon should be one of the collective memories of Hong Kong people.

VICKY'S PICKS:

  • Yung Kee, 32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2522 1624
  • Ser Wong Fun, G/F, 30 Cochrane Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2543 1032
  • Yuet Wo, G/F, 33 Tsuen Wan Market Street, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, +852 2492 3354
  • ForMe Bee Land, No. 223 Wo Ping San Tsuen, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong, +852 2520 0629
  • Tai Ping Koon, G/F, 60 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2899 2780