(CNN)Hong Kong can seemingly transform overnight.
Shops open and close in the blink of an eye. Skyscrapers spring up out of nowhere. The skyline never remains the same for long.
Unlike cities with old bones — like London and Paris — there aren’t as many tangible artifacts in this Asian metropolis of 8 million people.
The most reliable Hong Kong history comes not in museums or architecture, but rather, in the form of food.
“If you want to experience Hong Kong of the 1960s, you really have to look at food because it’s mainly the food that has survived intact,” says Daisann McLane, who runs food concierge and experiential tour company Little Adventures in Hong Kong.
The group’s food and culture walks take travelers into the delicious underbelly of Cantonese life — uncovering everything from cafes and bakeries to markets and tea shops.
McLane tells CNN Travel the stories behind some of her favorite Hong Kong food experiences — and what they reveal about the city’s colorful history.
Preserved in time
She says the movement began with Lau Kin Wai, the author, food historian and restaurateur behind Kin’s Kitchen — a Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant — who pioneered the private kitchen scene in Hong Kong.
Innovative chefs like Lau Chun — Kin Wai’s son, who helms the kitchen — are designing small menus and resurrecting labor intensive dishes that had fallen out of fashion.
“Given that Cantonese cooking is so tradition bound, this is nothing short of a revolution,” says McLane.
“I don’t think there was any point in Hong Kong history that has been this creative and intellectually radical — unless perhaps the emergence of the modern cha chaan teng in the 1950s and 60s.”
Where to find it: Try traditional Cantonese cuisine with a modern touch at pioneering Kin’s Kitchen (5/F, W Square, 314-324 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, +852 2571 0913).
Seventh Son (4-6/F, Kwan Chart Tower, 6 Tonnochy Rd, Wan Chai; +852 2892 2888) — a spin-off of historic Fook Lam Moon restaurant.
Hidden in a fancy basement location, Mott 32 (Standard Chartered Bank Building, 4-4A Des Voeux Rd Central, Central; +852 2885 8688) serves up contemporary art, high-quality cocktails, and Chinese food using premium ingredients.
Head to Ho Lee Fook (1 Elgin St, Central; +852 2810 0860) for inventive ingredients in a funky atmosphere.
The line at Little Bao (66 Staunton St, Central; +852 2194 0202) is worth the wait. The button-hole address offers modern fast food takes on Cantonese flavors.
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