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 visited the city until you've dined at a dai pai dong in Hong Kong, the last remaining street food stands in a city filled with towering, glassy skyscrapers.
The bustling open-air street vendors once filled Hong Kong’s side streets with the smells of spicy stir-fries and the sounds of chattering locals. Their name dai pai dong translates to 'stall with large license', a way of separating them from the mobile street vendors that used to ply the same streets.
This is Cantonese cooking at its best served up in atmospheric settings – smoky roaring woks, neon-lit backstreets, colourful plastic tables and no-frills cooking.
They won’t be around forever though. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department are not issuing or renewing the dai pai dong licences in an effort to clean up the city leaving less than 30, but there are still street food vendors to be found if you know where to look.
Here's our rundown of the best dai pai dong in Hong Kong.
5 Shepherd Street
+852 2577 3117
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 noodles with egg, French toast, marinated chicken wings and Hong Kong milk tea. Expect to at this Hong Kong dai pai dong during peak hours.
14 Yiu Tung Street
+852 2777 2400
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. This dai pai dong in Hong Kong won't be around forever.
10 Stanley Street
+852 2541 5678
There are several Hong Kong dai pai dong 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.
219 Ki Lung Street
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 pigs liver or chicken’s feet, all of which hit the mark. Or there's always the Hainan poached chicken and rice.
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. Just get there early. Locals nab the tables from the early evening onwards.
2 Mee Lun Street
+852 2544 8368
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 your last bite. Arguably one of the most famous dai pai dong in Hong Kong and well worth seeking out.
3 Staveley Street
+852 2544 5923
An iconic dai pai dong in Hong Kong, but one of the trickiest to find. It occupies the steps of Staveley Street, a small lane that's often packed with people passing through.
If you do find it and manage to grab a table during the busy lunch time rush, try the stir fried noodles straight off the wok or the pork cooked in chillies over rice. Like most dai pai dong, you can only enjoy the busy pavement atmosphere for so long before you'll be shunned away for the next patron. Enjoy it while it lasts.
15-16 Yiu Tung Street
So Kee is a typical dai pai dong in Hong Kong, one that has mastered the art of yuen yeung - a blend of milk tea and coffee.
Other than yuen yeung, the draw for hungry office workers and local labourers is pork noodles topped with an egg and the excellent, perfectly crispy French toast. It's cheap too. You'd be hard pressed to spend more than $30 for lunch, cheap for a city known for its sky high prices.
2 Elgin Street
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. Just try not to topple down the sloped street the stall occupies.
The shabby shacks that have fed locals for decades are soon to be no more unless the next generation pick up the few licenses left. It would be the end of a very long era if the dai pai dong in Hong Kong disappear for good. But they're still here for now. Go, eat and try them now while they still are.
Still confused about where to eat in Hong Kong? Fear not. You can always join our daily Hong Kong food tour and hit the culinary scene running.
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