East Meets West – Best Soy Sauce Western in Hong Kong
What is soy sauce western, exactly? A distinct style of cuisine that originated in Hong Kong in the 1960s and 70s, soy sauce western combine western and Chinese cooking methods, serving up unique creations that cater to local palates.
It’s the same idea as Chinese food in America or Europe catering to a western palate, really: steaks are served with sauces marinated with soy sauce, and instead of fries or a salad on the side, you get rice. Love crispy French toast? Open your eyes to the Hong Kong version, a next-level treat served drenched in maple syrup.
Not quite western, yet not quite Chinese: it’s the halfway spot that illustrates exactly how Hong Kong is as a melting pot of cultures.
Tai Ping Koon
Arguably the OG of soy sauce westerns in Hong Kong, Tai Ping Koon opened in 1971 and famously gave Hong Kong “Swiss chicken wings”. Those familiar with the peculiar dish know how the story goes: according to urban legend, a western customer at the restaurant was said to have asked a waiter what the “sweetened soya sauce chicken wings” on the menu was. Not fluent in English, the waiter replied that it was “Swiss sauce”. The sauce is made with soy, Worcestershire sauce and ginger and is unrelated to anything Switzerland has to offer, but nonetheless, the name stuck. It’s now one of TPK’s signatures.
There are several branches, and there’s nothing fancy about any of them: just heaps of comfort foods in a homely environment, complete with super-friendly waiters (a rarity in old Hong Kong restaurants!).
Must-try: TPK-style fried flat noodle with sliced beef served with the almighty Swiss sauce, giant dessert souffle.
Before the Sai Ying Pun neighbourhood became hipster central, there was Czarina, which opened up in 1964. The family-run restaurant sadly closed down in 2013 after internal disputes, but in the following year the owner’s offsprings opened up Czarina 1964 just a few streets down. Like the original, Czarina specialises in Russian fare – but it’s not quite the kind you might be expected. True to the soy sauce western philosophy, here it’s adapted to suit Hong Kong palates. So on the menu you’ll find Eastern European classics like shashlik (skewered meat) lamb fillet and chicken kiev – but with Hong Kong influences (you can have them served with rice).
Must-try: Russian-style crowd favourites borscht and beef goulash.
Nostalgia reigns supreme at Loyal Dining, which offers ever-so-popular dim sum spreads as well as local favourites. Its name is drawn from Cantonese expression “loi lo”, a saying in the colonial times referring to goods imported from the west. Here you’ll find the kind of east-meets-west offerings that gained popularity in the 60s, 70s and beyond: mixed-grill steak (pork chop, tenderloin of beef, spring chicken and pineapple), fried rice with black truffles and diced beef tenderloin, and classic comfort foods like Hong Kong-style French toast.
Must-try: Loyal pigeon simmered in homemade sweet soya sauce, baked escargot.
Opened in 1969, longstanding soy sauce western eatery Sammy’s Kitchen is run by Sammy Yip, a restaurateur in his late 80s who served Hong Kong’s last four colonial governments as a caterer and also cooked for the likes of late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. The place is all about combining Chinese and western styles of cooking. It’s particularly known for its steak, which are served with thick, flavoursome sauces made from Sammy’s own recipe of Chinese and western spices alongside port wine, tomato, onion, herbs and Cointreau. The decor retains a 90s feel, complete with red-and-white checkered tablecloths. The restaurant gained renewed interest in 2015 after the legendary neon cow-shaped signage erected outside – considered a landmark of the area – was sadly taken down after some three decades (out of concerns for public safety, which prompted an outcry). Thankfully, Sammy’s Kitchen stands as strong as ever.
Must-try: Sammy’s special baked pork chop with fried rice, pan-fried mixed-grill.
Ask any Hong Kong kid what sort of meal distinctly stood out in their childhoods, and you’re likely to hear them say: Boston Restaurant. The Hong Kong-style steakhouse serves up sizzling meats on iron plates, alongside soy sauce western staples like borscht or cream of mushroom soup. Back in the day steakhouses were considered epitome of fine-dining in Hong Kong – something which eventually inspired more middle-market restaurants to open up, catering to everyday Hongkongers’ tastes. That’s why here, instead of fries you get rice or pasta with your steak, which is of course piled with a delicious sauce (the Cantonese loves their sauce).
Must-try: Ribeye steak with peppercorn sauce.
Andrea Lo is a freelance journalist and translator based in Hong Kong. After cutting her teeth in the industry as a staff writer at a lifestyle magazine, she embraced the freelance life in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. She spends her time exploring the best of Hong Kong’s dining and nightlife scene, trialling new fitness trends, and travelling to exotic locales – all in the name of “research”.