Header image courtesy of Khyber Pass Mess Club (Facebook)
A mysterious maze-like melting pot, Tsim Sha Tsui landmark Chungking Mansions has always simultaneously fascinated and frightened the Hong Kong public. The 17-storey building first opened in 1961 as a high-end, mixed-use development with both residential and commercial units. But after decades of poor management, the building morphed into a bustling mishmash of shops, currency exchanges, guesthouses, and restaurants, and serves as an unofficial hub for Indians, Africans, and other ethnic minorities to stay or do business at.
The diverse mix of backpackers, traders, and refugees from all over resulted in Chungking’s unique food ecosystem, an array of inexpensive, homely restaurants in stark contrast to the upscale eateries in the luxury malls surrounding the building. Still, because these restaurants thrive on word-of-mouth and regulars, you won’t find much info on them online; here are some recommendations to get you started on the hidden bargains of Chungking Mansions.
With two decades of history under its belt, The Delhi Club is a reputable home-style Indian restaurant and one of Chungking Mansions’ mainstays amidst the constant flux of the place. Some highlights among their extensive selection of chicken, seafood, mutton, and vegetable curries include the aromatic and tender Mutton Rogan Josh ($82), as well as the buttery staple Chicken Tikka Masala ($74). To go with the curry, order some of their freshly-baked signature Cheese Naan ($25) along with a Mixed Grill platter ($110) on the side for piping bites of their chicken, fish, and mutton.
The Delhi Club, Room 3, 3/F, Block C, Chungking Mansion, 36–44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2368 1682
Hidden in the upper levels of the bustling building is the Khyber Pass Mess Club, but don’t be fooled by its simple interior—it is so renowned for its Indian curries that it boasts the restaurant name of “Curry King” in Chinese. Favourites include the velvety South Indian speciality Chicken Madras ($86) with hints of blended coconut and traditional spices, as well as the leafy Sag Paneer ($77) and its many bits of fresh and chewy paneer cheese.
A rarity for the restaurants in Chungking Mansions, their English menu actually includes short descriptions for each dish so that you can easily navigate the myriad of options. Plus, the waiters are more than happy to give suggestions for different kinds of curries based on your preferences as well. Aside from their curries, other mains to try include their superbly marinated clay oven Tandoori Chicken ($106) and Fish Tikka ($165), perfect for sharing with a group of friends.
Khyber Pass Mess Club, Flat E2, 7/F, Block E, Chungking Mansion, 36–44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2721 2786
Pop ‘round Bismillah Kebab House for a hearty taste of Turkey by way of their famous kebabs. Indulge in a large plate of Lamb Doner with Chips ($80) for the succulent meat and well-done steak fries, or the smokey Chicken Shish Kebab ($68) and its generous side of greens for a healthier choice. If you’re looking for a quick meal on-the-go, be sure to go for the classic, toasty Chicken Kebab Roll ($55) or a slice of their Lamb Meat Pizza ($25) for an exciting alternative to your workaday sandwich.
Bismillah Kebab House, Shop 68A & 75, Chungking Mansions, 36–44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2722 5733
Few restaurants can dish out quality, piping hot meals as fast as Syed Bukhara. With its bold green colour scheme, bargain prices, and wafting scents of whatever’s cooking in the open kitchen, the halal Malaysian restaurant in Chungking Mansions is a favourite amongst residents and visitors alike. Pull up for a hearty meal of Masala Dosa ($45), where a giant, fluffy piece of dosa is stuffed with a bountiful heap of vegetables, potatoes, and curry with three sauces of choice, and their fragrant dish of Mutton Biryani ($80) is sure to please, too.
Syed Bukhara, Shop 15 & 16, G/F, Chungking Mansion, 36–44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2367 6868
Unlike the conventional fishballs sold on the streets outside, Indian sweets make up the street food within Chungking Mansions. And since any sweet is priced at just $7 a piece, why not try them all at Wakas Sweet? Whether it’s the flaky melt-in-your-mouth cubes of Patisa, the soft syrupy ball of Gulab Jamun, or the Coconut Milk Sweets Barfi infused with mixed nuts and cardamon spice, you can only hop from one delight to the next. Feel free to ask the shopkeeper about the names and ingredients of each sweet, and do bring some back for your co-workers, family, and friends.
Wakas Sweets, Shop 55, G/F, Chungking Mansions, 36–44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 5345 4098
One of the classier eateries of the list, Swagat brands itself as an all-encompassing Indian restaurant serving both North and South Indian cuisine, carefully tucked away from the noise and bustle of the building. Among the vegetarian curries they specialise in, go for the classic Palek Paneer ($75) for a filling, creamy stew of spices, spinach, and paneer. Other notable dishes include the crispy snack Onion Bhaji. Finish the meal off by sipping on a refreshing, cold glass of mango or salty Lassi ($30) as you wind down after browsing the many curious shops in the building.
Swagat Indian Restaurant, Shop 103–104, 1/F, Chungking Mansions, 36–44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2722 5350
Swing by for a rare taste of Sri Lankan cuisine at the House of Curry near the back of Chungking Mansions. One curious Sri Lankan dish is the String Hoppers, where a dough of rice meal is pressed into noodles, woven into a disc, and then steamed—an intriguing variation on your usual noodles. The shop also serves Indian specialities such as the South Indian Chicken Thali ($50), where a steaming mound of rice is surrounded by six mini metal bowls. Dal, chutney, yoghurt, and more are designed to balance out the six flavours. Don’t miss the crisp, paper-thin rolls of Dosai ($25), in contrast to the heavier, thicker versions found in neighbouring eateries.
House of Curry, Shop 48, G/F, Chungking Mansions, 36–44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Perhaps you’ve heard of the surreptitious African eateries in Chungking Mansions. While you’d have to discover those for yourself—as they are unnamed and unlicensed—there is one place where you can eat African food out in the open. At Ghana Locals, you can enjoy a rare, homely taste of African dishes in Hong Kong, including specialities such as Fufu and Light Soup with Goat Meat ($60), where maize and green plantain flour is pounded into a smooth, chewy ball and doused in a light soup. Other mains include a nourishing dish of Jollof Rice with Chicken ($60) and Fried Plantain with Beans ($60) for a high-protein snack.
Ghana Locals, Shop 102 & 105, G/F, Chungking Mansion, 36–44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2776 7987