Eating at a dai pai dong is a must-try Hong Kong experience and you can’t call yourself a real foodie if you haven’t dined at one. Characterised by its green-painted steel exterior, foldable tables and chairs, dai pai dongs are armed with fiery woks that cook authentic local dishes with grassroot origins. During its heyday, in 1950s Hong Kong, there were as many as 40 dai pai dongs in the city, but when the government stopped issuing new licences the humble food stalls began to vanish and now there are just over 20 remaining. Thankfully, the next generation of dai pai dong operators are working hard to keep them going to bring this old Hong Kong flavour into the future.
The cooked food market on Haiphong Road, which has a history of more than 40 years, reopened in 2020 after renovation. It retained the old dai pai dong design of an iron roof and an interior fitted out with nostalgic red light shades and big fans, but the venue is brighter and more spacious than before. There are a total of nine food stalls, many of which are time-honoured brands that serve Hong Kong delicacies. From Hap Hueng Garden’s satay beef noodles and claypot milk tea to Wah Heung Yuen’s secret recipe pork chops, Man Kee’s Hainanese chicken rice, and more.
The homemade beef balls from Tak Fat Beef Ball, one of the earliest street stalls in Tsim Sha Tsui established in the 1940s, are especially good. They’re made from high-quality beef brisket and rib-eye cuts mixed with sun-dried mandarin peel and preserved cabbage, for a bouncy and juicy beef ball in which many locals make a special trip to come and eat. You can even buy raw beef balls to take home for hot pot.
Address: 390 Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Though its name suggests otherwise, Leaf Dessert also offers a variety of noodles including pork knuckle, dumpling, and wonton noodles. Prices are reasonable and you can double up on the toppings of your choice. The beef brisket noodles are definitely worth trying with its tasty and generous portion size. You can then finish your meal with an affordable and traditional Chinese dessert including black sesame soup, sweet green mung bean soup, and sago soup among others. A great place to enjoy desserts in Central, the small stall offers a few foldable tables and chairs to perch on as you watch the world go by on Elgin Street, making it a very special dining experience.
Address: 2 Elgin Street, Soho, Central, Hong Kong Island
Phone: +852 2544 3795
The Woosung Street cooked food market opened in 1984 and has been one of the food landmarks of Temple Street ever since. Reopened in 2021 after renovation, the bazaar’s unique barrel-shaped design, which stands between Woosung Street, Temple Street and Pak Hoi Street with multiple entrances and exits to facilitate the flow of people, feels completely new. There are about 10 stalls inside offering cha chaan teng-style food from the morning to afternoon, and wok stir-fry and seafood dishes for dinner. In the evening, the crowds grow and the atmosphere is lively. Among the many stalls, seafood-focused restaurant Yuen Kee is very popular. They serve about a hundred different types of stir-fry dishes, chilled Chiu Chow dishes, and high-quality seafood. Must-tries include the salt and pepper squid as well as the steamed shrimp with garlic and vermicelli. The ingredients are always fresh, seasoned properly, and pair well with a glass of cold beer.
Address: 29–39 Woosung Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
Wong Tai Sin has two cooked food stalls that are part of the few remaining housing estate cooked food stalls in Hong Kong. One of which is Chui Wo Lee Restaurant, a dai pai dong co-operated by three veterans: Chui Kee, Sam Wo and Lee Hing that is open 24 hours a day, all year round. Here, you’ll find over 40 different kinds of Hong Kong-style dim sum which are ready to order every day at 2:30am. From 5am, there is congee, cheung fun and other various breakfast items available. Thereafter, there are plenty of stir-fry and soy-braised dishes as well as cha chaan teng classics and crowd-favourites to choose from. Each dai pai dong offers its own signature stir-fry dish prepared with green beans, fresh squid, dried shrimp, and cashew nuts, which is especially delicious when paired with wine. The braised baby pigeon, with its crispy skin and tender meat, is another must-order!
Chui Wo Lee Restaurant
Address: Shop No. 2, Cooked Food Kiosk, Ching Tak Street, Wong Tai Sin, Kowloon
Phone: +852 2323 1703
Sing Heung Yuen is one of the more well-known, time-honoured dai pai dongs in Central. It is a semi-outdoor stall which makes for a comfortable setting on easy breezy days. Lunchtime, however, is often crowded and frequented by many nearby office workers. The most popular menu item is the tomato soup noodles, which offers a choice of more than 20 different ingredients including pork chop, beef, luncheon meat, spiced pork, chicken wing, red sausage, fried egg, and more. Other items worth trying are the beef and egg sandwich and the signature crispy bun with butter and lemon honey, which many come back to enjoy time and time again.
Address: G/F, 2 Mei Lun Street, Central, Hong Kong Island
Phone: +852 2544 8368
If you’re looking for the best milk tea in Hong Kong, Bing Kee Cha Dong in Tai Hang should definitely be on your list. The tea stall opened in the 1950s and is located in a narrow street between two old-style tenement buildings. In the early days, Bing Kee only served milk tea, bread, cakes and Chinese pastries, and only began serving noodle dishes and coffee in the 1970s. Aside from frequent visits from locals in the neighbourhood, many young foodies come here to get a taste of the stall’s signature pork chop noodles and famed milk tea.
Address: 5 Shepherd Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong Island
Phone: +852 2577 3117
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