In Hong Kong, you are never more than a few metres away from a street stall, snack shop or local eatery. Eating is no exception in a city known for its efficiency – it’s a quintessentially Cantonese experience for your meal to be cooked, served and eaten within fifteen minutes. For where to grab a quick and tasty bite, here are five local spots that are hugely popular for their Cantonese-style classics.
Joy Hing Roast Meats
You may have heard of Central’s Yat Lok, the Cantonese canteen famous for its roast goose. While it’s definitely worth checking out, I personally think the higher price point is unjustified based on actual taste. Instead I’d recommend Joy Hing in the neighbouring Wan Chai district: a bustling spot that similarly specialises in succulent roast meats. It’s the typical Hong Kong experience of cramped seats and rushed service, so prepare to share a table and eat quickly. You can choose from rice with char siu (honey caramelised pork), siu yok (pork belly), siu ngo (roast goose), and more. Leave room for dessert though, because you’re less than a five minute walk from Tsui Yuen Dessert, where you can enjoy my favourite sesame glutinous rice balls (tang yuan), served in a soothing ginger soup.
G/F, Flat C, Cheung Hing Building, 265 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai
Mak Man Kee
Before I introduce Mak Man Kee, a brief overview of wonton noodles, the classic Hong Kong dish, is necessary. Its history originates from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou but was brought to Hong Kong by Mak Woon-chi, founder of the noodle chain Mak’s Noodle. Each plump wonton contains a shrimp filling, paired with addictively textured noodles that are blanched in a light but flavoursome broth.
While Cantonese restaurants are common worldwide, I have yet to eat a version of this dish that rivals those of Hong Kong’s street stalls. The noodles’ signature chewy texture is never quite perfect abroad, likely because these local noodle houses have been specialising in this understated and comforting dish for decades. While there are many worthy outlets that serve wanton mein, Mak Man Kee is a classic, no-frills chacaanteng (local Hong Kong diner) that boils its broth for five hours with the traditional ingredients of dried flounder fish, pork bone and shrimp shells, giving it extra levels of umami.
G/F, 51 Parkes Street, Jordan
Shun Hing Cha Dong
Eggs hold a special place in the heart of Hongkongers, which is why Shun Hing Cha Dong’s signature scrambled eggs are so consistently sought after. Housed in a physical shop with an alleyway next door that they use for outside seating, the eggs are made silken smooth with extra runniness; they’re the ultimate Cantonese comfort snack. Useful to note though that it only starts serving the egg with rice combination after 11am, with shrimp or char siu pork options, combined with the delicious mix of homemade soy sauce and shallots. Make sure to not visit too close to its 3pm closing time, as it’s common to find many dishes already sold out.
5 Ormsby St, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Sun Heung Yuen
Originally opened in 1968, Sun Heung Yuen has long been famed for its egg and beef sandwich, a twist on the corned beef egg sandwich that is another staple of classic chacaantengs. Traditionally, it’s made with corned beef from a can that’s brined and cooked to exacerbate flavour, sandwiched between toasted white bread. Here though, it’s made with freshly minced and marinated beef and fried eggs instead of scrambled, as is the tradition. Purists may look down upon this sandwich but I personally find it tastes fresher and better.
G/F, 38 Kweilin Street, Sham Shui Po
Hok Yip Tai
A minute away from Sun Heung Yuen, Hok Yip Tai serves another Cantonese street food classic: stir fried cheung fun rice rolls, generously seasoned in XO and peanut sauce, sprinkled with sesame seeds. I would highly recommend washing this down with the delicious soymilk too.
G/F, 121 Kweilin Street Sham Shui Po
Man Tsai Kee Noodles
For a more low-key and hidden away noodle experience, I’d recommend visiting the seaside neighbourhood of Sai Kung where the pier is bustling with boats, seafood restaurants, and stunning views of the neighbouring islands. Here, there is a quaint noodle house called Man Tsai Kee, which serves generous bowls of flavoursome broth with larger-than-usual wontons and dumplings, as well an assortment of other more local toppings – like intestines. Particularly adorable is the wall covered in photos of happy Hong Kong celebrities who have visited to eat at this hidden gem.
16 Tak Lung Front St, Sai Kung
Sai Kung Cafe and Bakery
Another must-visit in the Sai Kung neighbourhood is a Cantonese bakery famed for its buttery and melt-in-your-mouth pineapple buns, the perfect balance of sweet and savoury. Make sure to ask for a fresh one that’s still warm from the oven.
G/F, 6-7 Kam Po Court, 2 Hoi Pong Square, Sai Kung
Header image: Sun Heung Yuen by Sarah Kohler.