Like having breakfast at a cha chaan teng or diving into one of the city’s dim sum teahouses, you can’t say you’ve truly eaten in Hong Kong until you’ve dined at a dai pai dong, the last remaining street food stands in a city filled with towering, glassy skyscrapers.
The bustling open-air street vendors filled Hong Kong’s side streets with the smells of spicy stir-fries and the sounds of chattering locals. This is Cantonese cooking at its best served up in atmospheric settings – smoky roaring works, neon-lit backstreets and colourful plastic tables.
They won’t be around forever though. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department are, reportedly, not issuing or renewing the dai pai dong licences in an effort to clean up the city, but there are still street food vendors to be found if you know where to look.
Bing Kee, 炳記茶檔
Bing Kee is one of the last remaining beacons of old-school Hong Kong in the sea of hipster cafes and trendy eateries that have overrun the once working-class neighbourhood of Tai Hang. Don’t expect gourmet cuisine. Visit at breakfast and lunchtime for noodle soup topped with pork chops, French toast and marinated chicken wings. Expect to queue at peak hours.
Cheung Fat Noodles, 長發麵家
This tiny backstreet dai pai dong in Kowloon’s Sham Shui Po is as basic as they come. Don’t be fooled though. From their rustic tin hut, they knock out some of the city’s best street dishes – noodles topped with slow-cooked pork knuckle, fish balls and their signature ‘supreme soy sauce noodles’. Pull up a pew at one of the plastic tables with the local crowd, order a bowl of the good stuff and get ready to practise your chopstick skills.
Sing Kee, 盛記
There are several street vendors along Stanley Street, but you can’t do better than following the local crowds to Sing Kee. Come at night, crack open a bottle of beer and dig into sharing plates of stir-fried bak choi with garlic, shrimps with egg and black bean razor clams. Unfortunately, with neighbouring Graham Street market soon to close it’s only a matter of time till Sing Kee closes for good.
Keung Kee, 强記
Sham Shui Po’s Keung Kee might be small with just six tables, but don’t let a short wait put you off. Nor should the adventurous Cantonese dishes like cuttlefish cake, claypot chicken with pig liver or chicken’s feet, all of which hit the mark. You can sup on a cold one while you watch the chef’s flaming wok. At around $70 HKD, it won’t break the bank either.
Sing Heung Yuen, 勝香園
This Hong Kong institution is hidden away along Mee Lun Street in Central. A mix of office workers and labours tip up at lunchtime for warming bowls of tomato soup macaroni topped with pork chops or fried eggs and toasted rolls slathered with peanut butter and condensed milk. This is not a place to linger. Stack ‘em high and sell them cheap is the mantra here. Expect to feel uncomfortable if you don’t pay up and head off as soon as you’ve finished.
Yuk Yip Dessert, 玉葉甜品
Sign off your night at Yuk Yip Dessert on Elgin Street. For almost a century, this tiny dai pai dong has been churning out some fine Hong Kong desserts like black sesame soup and mango sago. Don’t come for charming service – the owners are staff are notoriously fiery, but deadly efficient and the food is worth the trek to find it.