Hong Kong is an amazing place to live, but let’s just say expenses can run a little high… all the time. One way to cut down on costs is by dining out less. But let’s be real — that’s not going to happen, not with all the amazing places to eat in Hong Kong. Spending less on eating out, however, is a real solution to eating well without going broke. And nowhere helps you save money while still eating great meals quite like the city’s cooked food centres.
One of the last vestiges of old Hong Kong, cooked food centres feature fresh ingredients straight from the wet markets sold on the floors below them. Nowadays, these raucous food halls offer a variety of cuisines, from Italian plates at ABC Kitchen in Sheung Wan and Thai curries in Nam Long Shan to Chinese stir-fries. These aren’t just food courts for cheap eats, either. They cater to retirees, office workers and tourists alike. Check out these food stalls the next time you’re looking to eat on a budget without sacrificing quality. By Chloe Li
RECOMMENDED: Burn those excess calories with a hike among Hong Kong's hills.
Hong Kong’s best cooked food markets
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In the heart of the business area, the Sheung Wan market and cooked food centre caters largely to office workers (as well as the usual crews of retirees). Don’t miss Shui Kee Café 《瑞記咖啡》. This is the place to go for a Hong Kong-style breakfast. That means French toast, a pork-filled sandwich or, the platonic ideal of breakfast in Hong Kong, noodles with luncheon meat and a fried egg. Wash it down with the stall’s specialty: milk tea served in a glass bottle, the old-school way. Wok-and-toss Sheung Wan Tung Kee《上環棟記》is also a stall not to miss, if you want more than just toast.
Think local markets serve only local dishes? Think again. This snug market serves a range of top-notch international cuisine. From ABC Kitchen to Chauturi Indian and Nepalese to Beijing Dumpling House, you’ve got it all here. ABC Kitchen specialises in Hong Kong-style Italian dining and changes its menu every four or five months. Yes, really. White wine with foie gras, fresh oysters and smoked pigeon in a grimy food court? Only in Hong Kong. Visit at dinnertime for the full experience. At lunch, try Tsang Kee for dessert. This small stall has over half a century of history, and its Teochew-style glutinous rice dumplings are made fresh, by hand, every day.
The Ap Lei Chau market and cooked food centre is the backyard choice for the Aberdeen crowd. Grab some seafood in the wet market — or head to Aberdeen Pier early to score some seafood fresh from the fishmongers who fling abalone, mussels and lobsters up to you from their boats — and take it to the cooks manning the stalls in the cooked food centre. The stall called Tak Faat will prepare it how you like it for $150 per head, which is a great deal for a made-to-order seafood feast.
This rowdy affair proves that cooked food markets are for more than just budget eats. Here, your dinner is likely to devolve into a wild night out. That’s largely thanks to Robby Cheung, the eccentric co-owner of Tung Po Kitchen. Cheung’s karaoke skills and moonwalk are as legendary as his restaurant’s Guangdong-style food, such as the salted duck egg yolk prawns and the famed ‘wind sand chicken’. Pair any of these dishes with beer served in China bowls, and it’s easy to see why this wildly fun dive, made popular in part by Anthony Bourdain, has become a favourite among expats and locals.
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Bowrington Road is right in the scrum of Causeway Bay, close to all the shopping malls, swept up in the neighbourhood’s day-and-night activity. So it’s little wonder that its sprawling food hall — one of Hong Kong’s first cooked food markets — is incredibly popular. It has a few special selling points, too. That would be the vegetarian cuisine served at Kan Kee and the halal restaurant, Wai Kee, which serves an excellent curry mutton on rice and is favoured by the large local Muslim community. Three shops stay open at night; visit Wing Kee around dinnertime to try the lauded roasted duck on rice.
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Don’t let the rundown old building that houses this cooked food market put you off. Nam Long Shan Road cooked food market is a gem. Visit one of the several Thai restaurants here, like Green Curry House; try one of the salads, satays or curries; and you’ll realise what a massive bargain this place is. While you’re on the southside, you might as well venture out to discover some of the other hidden gems in this neighbourhood.
Claypot rice is the name of the game here. Humble Siu Wah Kitchen inside the Aldrich Bay cooked food centre is renowned for its version of the dish. Here, the clay pot is placed over a charcoal grill, which cooks the rice more evenly than a gas grill would and gives it a nice crunchy texture. Go for the classic mushroom with chicken or goose liver, or try it topped with mutton and cumin.
Tucked away in the municipal services building in Happy Valley, this cooked food centre specialises in seafood. Lots of it: fish, squid, scallops, razor clams and so much more. You can have it wok-fried and served with fresh veggies from the market. But if you’re not looking to up your omega-3 intake, check out Cheong Kee for a sweet treat. The stall’s two-inch-thick toast comes topped with your choice of sweet butter, condensed milk, jam or peanut butter topping. It’s crispy outside, fluffy inside, and sheer decadence in bread form.