Header image courtesy of Samsen
Thai boat noodles have been around since the 1940s and definitely are not a new culinary import to Hong Kong, having sat innocuously on no-frills Thai restaurant menus across the city.
Traditionally a casual street food, the defining point of this dish is in its broth; braised for hours with meat, bones, and pig’s blood, a proper boat noodle soup should be rich, hearty, and full of spices. Thanks to new Thai food concepts that have injected the cuisine with a fresh appeal, boat noodles have gained a lot more prominence over recent years. Here are some of the best restaurants in Hong Kong to slurp up some amazing Thai boat noodles!
Ask any Hong Kong foodie for their favourite modern Thai joint and Samsen will undoubtedly crop up. It made waves in the city’s F&B circuit when former Chachawan chef Adam Cliff came up with his own street food concept, which has remained hugely popular since its opening. While most of their menu is mouth-wateringly delicious and more than worthy of return trips, it is really their Wagyu beef soup noodle that is the crowning jewel.
Portions are massive, the soup is rich and aromatic, and the whole thing is topped with crispy pork rinds and Thai watercress. If beef is not to your liking, there is a pork version as well, and both are truly the stuff of culinary dreams, worth every bit of queuing. Do note that this signature dish is only available at the Wan Chai branch.
Samsen, 68 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai | (+852) 2234 0001
We’re not entirely sure why the owner of this vibrant little joint has named their restaurant after the number of the anti-Christ, but by the devil, are their noodles tasty. The pork Thai noodles come highly recommended, served with pork slices, meatballs, and pig stomach, while the beef Thai noodles come with fatty beef slices, beef brisket, and beef balls. Its whimsical décor and no-frills interiors, reminiscent of the bing sutt (冰室; “ice room”) and food stalls of yore, are balms for lovers of retro styles.
666 Boat Noodle, Chung Ah Mansion, 366 Des Voeux Road West, Shek Tong Tsui
Kowloon City—also known as Little Thailand—cannot be left out when it comes to Thai food, and Cheong Fat Thai Food has been around for more than two decades, first as a grocery store and then expanding into a restaurant as well. Its signature boat noodles come in a satisfyingly flavourful broth with meatballs, meat slices, and lots of bean sprouts on top.
Cheong Fat Thai Food, 25–27 South Wall Road, Kowloon City | (+852) 2382 0280
Pretty much right across the road from Cheong Fat Thai Food (the above restaurant) is the establishment called “Thai Roadside Food,” which does not have an English name to be identified by. We like that the locals describe this eatery as having the flavours and prices of yesteryear, and with a portion of their house Thai soup flat noodles going for as low as $35, there are truly dining bargains to be had here.
泰國路邊街美食, 26 South Wall Road, Kowloon City | (+852) 2716 3868
Tucked away just enough to be chill but still in the thick of it all, Ruam in Wan Chai is an upstairs garden bar and restaurant that has a terrace area that we like hanging out in, especially during lazy brunches over the weekend. Don’t miss out on the kuay tiew rua—boat noodles that feature beef tenderloin in a fragrant pig’s blood broth. You can offset the savoury meal with their coconut ice cream for finishers.
Ruam, 1/F, J Residence, 60 Johnston Road, Wan Chai | (+852) 3160 8535
Considering its far-flung location in the village of Kam Tin, this cheap and cheerful restaurant offers Thai cuisine at affordable prices—if you’re willing to make the journey out for it. Its Thai-style boat noodles come in an irresistibly aromatic soup topped with crispy pork crackling pieces and remain one of our firm favourites. If the shopowners and menus look somewhat familiar, that’s because Kok Kok is owned and operated by the grandson of the family who used to run Kowloon City icon Chaophraya.
Kok Kok, 90 Shing Mun San Tsuen, Kam Tin, Yuen Long | (+852) 9889 8579
Just across the road from Lee Tung Avenue sits Thaipei, a restaurant that serves up an interesting mix of Thai and Taiwanese dishes. While the Taiwanese food is apparently average at best, the USDA prime beef boat noodle consists of fresh rice noodles or vermicelli, tender beef slices, and a hearty broth, making for a pretty unbeatable combination. Full-size dishes are available during the day, with mostly skewers, snacks, and beer at night—though their boat noodles are also on the dinner menu by popular demand.
Thaipei, Shop B, Hundred City Centre, 7–17 Amoy Street, Wan Chai | (+852) 6013 8445
While the direct translation of this rustic restaurant’s name means to “eat rice,” Kin Kao’s noodle offerings are nothing to scoff at. All of their soup noodles come at a flat rate of $78, including the boat noodle soup, which is served with pork meatballs and sliced pork. Diners can also choose to have either flat noodles, Thai rice noodles, rice vermicelli, or egg noodles according to personal preference.
Kin Kao, Tai Wong Building, 3 Tai Wong Street East, Wan Chai | (+852) 2529 3806
This restaurant’s Cantonese name plays on what sounds like “noodles [that are] too rich,” but we think that is a tad misleading because these noodles are nothing short of delicious. Siam Noodles has two signatures: tom yum goong soup noodles and boat soup noodles. Diners get to choose their preferred soup base and a range of 10 different main toppings, ranging from Kurobuta pork to Boston lobster and seafood.
Siam Noodles, Kar Lock Building, 7 Lock Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2350 4808