Header image courtesy of Brand Hong Kong (via Facebook)
Originally published by Amanda Shepard. Last updated by Beverly Ngai.
Dining in a dai pai dong (大排檔; an open-air food stall) is a quintessential Hong Kong experience, but outdoor institutions are all but a thing of the past. Given scorching temperatures, you’ll want to beat the heat and get off the streets anyway, so why not treat yourself to the best of both worlds? Enter Hong Kong’s cooked food centres—normally situated atop wet markets, they play host to a mixture of local and international cuisine. But not all cooked food centres are born equal, and we have put together our top picks, separating the best from the rest.
Don’t be put off by the rowdy wet market in the building—take the escalator to the second floor and through the double doors you’ll find a sprawling mecca of gastronomic gems. A massive hit with local office workers, the Sheung Wan Cooked Food Centre is beloved for its cheap and cheerful local fare, though there are a few regional Chinese and international eateries in the mix as well.
One spot that’s perennially packed is Shui Kee Coffee, a decades-old cha chaan teng that has achieved a cult-like status thanks to its winning Hong Kong-style French toast ($27) and silky bottled milk tea ($17).
Sheung Wan Municipal Services Building & Civic Centre, 345 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2853 2629
It’s worth making the pilgrimage to the far-flung northern district of Tai Po for the glorious feast of value-for-money delicacies that await at Tai Po Market Cooked Food Centre. With around 40 different stalls covering everything from local street food and soup noodles to dim sum and dai pai dong classics, you’re utterly spoilt for choice—and the great news is that you don’t have to settle on just one!
Take advantage of the communal dining space and let your tastebuds go wild with all the eclectic flavours on offer. In particular, the fried pork chop noodle ($80) at Tung Kee Shanghai Noodles (東記上海麵) and the sesame sweet dumpling ($7) at Sweet Bon Bon are must-try items on your food crawl.
Tai Po Hui Market Cooked Food Centre, 2/F, Hui Market, Tai Po Complex, 8 Heung Sze Wui Street, Tai Po | (+852) 2638 1948
Belying its name, Haiphong Road Temporary Cooked Food Hawker Bazaar is rooted in 40 years of history, re-opening last year to much fanfare after a major facelift. Boasting clean and modern interiors, the newly revamped space allows you to enjoy old-school dai pai dong and cha chaan teng eats without the sacrifice of dining comfort—talk about the best of both worlds!
Swing by Hap Heung Garden for their thick-cut kaya toast ($26) and satay beef noodles ($28) or sink your teeth into Wah Heung Yuen’s famous pork chop bun ($35). Both of these eateries have been around for as long as the food centre itself, so you can bank on their food being as authentically delicious as they come!
Haiphong Road Temporary Cooked Food Hawker Bazaar, 30 Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2376 1211
Housed in a seemingly innocuous municipal building on the island’s eastern edge, this cooked food centre is a known party place. This is largely, if not completely, due to Tung Po, which is owned by the ever-eccentric Robby Cheung, who entertains diners with good food and even better dancing. Expect beer in bowls and a party atmosphere, plus a selection of classic Cantonese dishes, as well as a few fusion additions thrown in for good measure. Tung Po is almost always a full-house, so arrive early to grab your table.
Java Road Cooked Food Centre, 99 Java Road, North Point | (+852) 2516 9404
Just a stone’s throw from Times Square and its adjacent luxury shopping malls is a slice of living history and old Hong Kong at its finest. Open all day and well into the night (from 6 am until 2 am), Bowrington Road Cooked Food Centre houses all manner of restaurants, from seafood specialists to roast meat stalls.
One of the more notable is Wai Kee, a Halal restaurant known for its roast duck and lamb dishes. The secret is out about this place and its wallet-friendly prices, so expect hefty queues, especially on a Sunday. Arriving early is always a smart idea.
Bowrington Road Cooked Food Centre, 21 Bowrington Road, Wan Chai | (+852) 2834 7729
Ap Lei Chau offers some of the freshest seafood in Hong Kong—quite literally fresh off the boat and still swimming in tanks on the ground floor of the municipal building. A selection of the day’s freshest catches is on offer upstairs. The cooked food center itself is total carnage—loud, rambunctious, and filled to the brim with tables and stools.
One of the more popular restaurants is Pak Ke Seafood Restaurant. Diners can either order off the menu or shop to their heart’s content in the market below, bringing it to the vendor of their choice to plate and serve.
Ap Lei Chau Market & Cooked Food Centre, 8 Hung Shing Street, Ap Lei Chau | (+852) 2554 9736
Though it may have developed a reputation as the French quarter in recent years, Sheung Wan boasts a wide range of cuisines, and the Queen Street Food Market is no exception. From Beijing dumplings to authentic Indian, and Thai cuisine to your classic dai pai dong dishes, the choice is seemingly endless.
A popular haunt on Friday nights is ABC Kitchen, an Italian eatery with red checkered table linen and a buzzing atmosphere. It’s a little heftier on the wallet than its market counterparts, but if the packed tables are anything to go by, it’s worth the price tag.
Queen Street Cooked Food Market, 38 Des Voeux Road West, Sheung Wan |(+852) 3542 5915
Over the sea but not too far away (even by Hong Kong standards), the cooked food market in Mui Wo is within sight of the ferry pier. It’s popular with local residents and hungry hikers and beachgoers who have trekked across Lantau and spent the day outdoors.
Though covered and shaded, it's an open-air market, so you’ll want to try and grab a table near the large ceiling fans where possible. Wah Kee is a favourite, although menus are fairly similar, each focusing heavily on local seafood dishes and starchy staples that go down a treat with hungry patrons.
Mui Wo Cooked Food Market, 3 Ngan Wan Road, Mui Wo | (+852) 2984 2240
Located near the old Kai Tak Airport, Kowloon City has in recent years become known as Little Thailand, thanks to the growing Thai community it plays home to and the plethora of authentic restaurants that have followed suit. In the walls of Kowloon City’s cooked food centre, you’ll find regional Thai cuisine at restaurants such as Amporn Thaifood. The best part? Without scrimping on flavour, you’ll dine at a fraction of the prices of more central locations. Cheers to that!
Kowloon City Market and Cooked Food Centre, 102 Nga Tsin Wai Road, Kowloon City | (+852) 2383 2224