Hong Kong isn't the only place one can eat tong shui (糖水) — which literally translates as sugar water — but the city has plenty of places which serve it.
The dessert isn't mere water and sugar, but rather a sweet soup served after meals. Its purpose is to moderate the body's "heat", quench thirst and regulate the digestive system. Adherents claim it cools the body in the summer and wards off chills in the winter.
Metabolic assistance aside, the consumption of tong shui is a long-standing Chinese tradition. Among assorted concoctions, the most famous is red-bean soup.
According to an old Chinese saying, the dessert evolved from red-bean sweet congee, made by mixing congee with red beans and cane sugar as a sacrifice to the food gods during the depths of winter. In time the congee was replaced and the dessert became the soup it is today, with lotus seeds often included in the mix.
Despite its name, tong shui isn't as sweet as most sugar-saturated Western desserts and is thus far more palatable. Popular choices are almond soup, snow fungi soup and tofu fa (豆腐花), or jellied bean curd.
While some may look funky, most are tasty and worth exploring.
Should you ever visit Hong Kong, make sure you leave room for tong shui after dinner.