Header image courtesy of Wang Sing (via Shutterstock)
Before convenience store chains like 7-Eleven and Circle K started proliferating throughout Hong Kong like wildfire, there was a time when the default place to go for quick necessities were the run-down, charmingly cluttered tuck shops known as “si doh” (士多), a phrase derived from the Cantonese pronunciation of the English word “store.”
Stocked with traditional local snacks, toys, and all manners of trinkets, these nostalgic shops had their glory days in the 1950s and 1960s and have since fizzled out of mainstream existence. However, if you venture to Hong Kong’s older neighbourhoods and suburban villages, you can still catch glimpses of these living time capsules. Here’s a look at six traditional tuck shops that have withstood the test of time, churning out old-school bites and a big dose of nostalgia!
With its trademark arched monkey bars ranked among the most iconic photo spots in the city, Nam Shan Estate has received its fair share of the limelight as an Instagrammer’s playground, but tucked within the confines of the same estate is a humble little tuck shop that has largely escaped the wandering eyes of outside visitors.
Known almost exclusively by its Chinese name, Naam Cheung Baan Gun (南昌辦館) has been selling all manners of packaged snacks, cold drinks, canned staples, and cigarettes for 40 years. Its old-school floor tiles and layout have stayed much the same over the decades. Rain or shine—even on Lunar New Year’s Day—residents of Nam Shan Estate can always count on this friendly neighbourhood store to take care of their snacking needs.
Naam Cheung Baan Gun (南昌辦館), Nam Shan Estate, 111 Tai Hang Tung Road, Shek Kip Mei
You can easily spot Wut Lik Store (活力士多) from a distance by its bright red and yellow Vitasoy-branded awning, which stands out like a beacon to hungry punters looking for a pitstop to refuel. With a 7-Eleven right across the street and with a plethora of restaurants in its vicinity, this friendly family-run tuck shop in Tai Wai is definitely up against some stiff competition. However, it easily manages to win over locals because of its affordable prices and touches of human warmth. Apart from snacks, cold drinks, and various modern necessities, they also offer oodles of classic street snacks like beef balls, rice rolls, and siu mai for those in need of a bite.
Wut Lik Store (活力士多), Hin Keng Street, Sheung Keng Hau Village, Tai Wai
Running the gamut from plush toys, CDs, and celebrity merch, to nostalgic sweets and movie-time snacks, this Tsuen Wan neighbourhood tuck shop is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, but one thing that they have got mastered are Chinese herbal drinks. Using family recipes passed down through the generations, all of the herbal drinks at Ming Fat Store (明發士多) are made fresh daily and low in sugar—a refreshing change from the usual soft drinks and sugar-laden beverages. Try the winter melon drink with barley, the perfect way to cool off on a sweltering summer’s day, while the monk fruit tea is known to instantly hydrate and soothe a scratchy throat.
Ming Fat Store (明發士多), 47 Tai Pa Street, Tsuen Wan
Three decades of operation and little reconditioning has left the storefront of Yau Wo Store (友和士多) looking a little worse for wear, but that hasn’t dimmed Ap Lei Chau locals’ appreciation of this nostalgic hole-in-the-wall—in fact, we would contend that it’s all just part of the charm!
For its small size, this tuck shop packs a seriously impressive variety of crave-worthy treats, ranging from giant jars of nuts and candies to handmade traditional Chinese snacks. Their red bean pudding and peanut mochi definitely deserve your attention, as they are hailed as some of the best in town. You would remiss not to try the near-extinct breeds of old-school Hong Kong-style desserts as well, such as the black sesame steamed pudding and banana cake roll, a chewy, banana-flavoured glutinous rice roll.
Yau Wo Store (友和士多), 110 Ap Lei Chau Main Street, Ap Lei Chau
Kwan Kee Store (坤記糕品專家) has been a reassuring anchor in the ever-bustling neighbourhood of Sham Shui Po since 1960 when it was first opened as a street stall selling drinks, snacks, and cigarettes. Don’t be fooled by its gritty, understated appearance—this tuck shop has been recommended by the Michelin Guide for its exceptional homemade local delicacies, with loyal customers making a pilgrimage here for a taste of their freshly made white sugar cake and red bean pudding cake (砵仔糕; but3 zai2 gou1). Their treats are known to be less sweet and made with natural ingredients—which means you can eat more without feeling too guilty.
Kwan Kee Store (坤記糕品專家), Shop 10, 115–117 Fuk Wah Street, Sham Shui Po | (+852) 2360 0328
There is no better reward at the end of a hike than a hearty meal and a refreshing dip in the sea. Located near Big Wave Bay Beach—just a stone’s throw away from the end of Dragon’s Back Trail—Tong Kee Store (棠記士多) is a popular haunt for hikers who have worked up an appetite after trekking the iconic coastal trail. One side of the tuck shop sells packaged snacks and drinks, as well as an array of beach toys and essentials, while the other side is an open-air seating area that invites diners for a casual sit-down meal.
From classic street foods like siu mai, fish balls, and beef balls to heartier cha chaan teng items like Hong Kong-style French toast and char siu rice, and even cooling beverages like iced red bean drink and fresh coconut water, Tong Kee Store is the place to get your post-hike cravings sorted.
Tong Kee Store (棠記士多), Tai Long Wan, Shek O | (+852) 2809 4005