The culinary delights hidden inside Hong Kong’s markets

Offering everything from Michelin-endorsed dim sum to juicy smoked goose served in a world-renowned restaurant, Hong Kong is home to some of the finest culinary experiences on the planet.

But there are hundreds of underrated meals that aren’t going to have quite the same impact on your credit card balance. And many of them can be found in Hong Kong’s hawker markets, which are filled with cheap, delicious eats.

“Hong Kong’s cooked food centers are a hub for grassroots gourmets,” says Lui Ka Chun, an author and founder of Word By Word Bookstore and Collective – a food-themed publishing house and shop.

“They represent the most familiar flavors for Hong Kongers. They’re home to many old classics that were once street food stalls in the past, presenting a very unique Hong Kong taste.”

Most of the government-run cooked food centers, commonly found attached to local fresh food markets, were built in the early 1970s. By moving some of the street hawkers indoors, city officials hoped to improve the hygiene and general environment of Hong Kong’s streets.

“The relatively cheap rent at cooked food centers means that shop owners could afford to spend more resources on food,” says Lui.

“They could still afford to slowly stew a congee and spend time on a bowl of noodles with quality ingredients. I often have lunch at cooked food centers because I think they’re so full of life.”

There are more than 60 government-run cooked food markets around Hong Kong today – some with better foods and cleaner facilities than others. But they are all home to affordable dishes and serve their surrounding communities.

These markets are often fast-paced, with menus only in Chinese (if they even have them).

But don’t fret – we have put together a list of eight top-quality Hong Kong markets along with some of the best dishes to try.

Bowrington Road Market

Bowrington Market

Located next to the Canal Bridge, where local grannies set up mini shrines to perform the act of cursing enemies by hitting shoes on stools -– an attraction in its own right – Bowrington Road Market is one of the oldest cooked food centers in the city and still draws huge crowds at lunch.

A persistent but efficient queue tells you just how popular the Kau Kee Beef Offal Noodles stall is.

Famous for its richly flavored beef and offal noodles, Kau Kee has a simple but meticulous system diners must follow. First, choose the type of noodles you want. Wait for your turn then tell the boss which toppings you’d like. He’ll listen while picking up the ingredients from the simmering pot and cutting them directly into your bowl. When the noodles are served, be ready to add pickles and chili sauce from the jars on the counter before moving to the cashier. Give them your drink order as well and they will tell you how much to pay.

If in doubt, just follow what the person in front of you does. The most basic order is ngau zaap meen (assorted beef offal egg noodles). For something more adventurous, we recommend the rice noodle soup (ho fun) with beef brisket, beef offal and fried fish patty (ngau naam, ngau zaap and jyu beng).

Beef noodles aside, the market also has a wide array of food offerings, including halal Cantonese roast duck leg from Wai Kee and vegetarian dishes at Kan Kee.

Kowloon City Market

Lok Yuen's beef-filled French toast is a popular Kowloon City Market dish.

The former site of the Kowloon Walled City, Kowloon City Market is one of Hong Kong’s favorite and most diverse food destinations.

The upstairs cooked food market has a handful of great stalls but the most famous of them all is Lok Yuen, a Cantonese eatery.

Its honey-glazed French toast with satay beef filling, paired with an icy glass of yuen yeung (a special Hong Kong-style milk tea and coffee drink) is the perfect sweet and savory afternoon tea set.

Don’t wait too long to check it out. Founded in 1988, the 35-year-old market is going to be redeveloped and the grocery stalls and restaurants will be relocated to a new center by 2030.

Queen Street Cooked Food Market

Queen Street Market

The Queen Street Cooked Food Market is the epitome of what a good hawker market should be.

Despite its relatively small size, this Sheung Wan space continues to lure local gluttons thanks to its diversity.

Tsang Kee is a Chiuchow family eatery that dishes out authentic gue, a Cantonese rice snack with sweet or savory fillings. Go early though – its stir-fried rice cakes and pan-fried Chinese leek pockets sell out fast.

Meanwhile, the market’s Chautari Restaurant is an authentic Indian and Nepali diner.

And then there’s Traditional Beijing Dumpling House, which makes some of the heartiest dumplings in town.

Chan Chun Kee specializes in pork offal soup, but its wok hei-filled Cantonese stir-fry makes it a popular dinner option too.

If you fancy Southeast Asian food, there is the Thai & Vietnam Cuisine restaurant in the corner.

Wrapping up the list is ABC Kitchen, an unusual European bistro with red-and-white checkered tablecloths and a relatively opulent menu that includes items like pan-fried foie gras with apple sauce and roasted suckling pig served on verduras agridulces and mashed potatoes.

Tai Po Hui Market

Tai Po Hui

If you want to venture far from the tourist trail, the historic district of Tai Po and its Tai Po Hui Market and Cooked Food Centre in the New Territories is a good place to start.

With 260 grocery stores and about 40 hawker stalls in the cooked food center, Tai Po Hui is the largest food market in Hong Kong.

Dining at its cooked food center is an all-day affair. It begins before sunrise with cheap and rare old-school dim sum at Lam Kee.

For lunch, you can have a bowl of Shanghai-style crispy pork chop noodles at Tung Kee or wontons with bamboo noodles at Ping Kee.

In the evening, seafood aficionados can head to the massive fresh food market to buy the daily catches of the day and bring them up to one of the open-air stalls at the hawker center, where they’ll cook them up for you. Ng Zai Kee and Miss Three Seafood Restaurant are both popular choices among locals.

Finally, make your day whole with a Hakka mochi from Sweet Bon Bon.

Tsun Yip Street Cooked Food Market

Kwun Tong

Kwun Tong, with its small cafes and independent shops all hidden in unassuming industrial buildings, is a paradise for culinary treasure hunters.

This east Kowloon food market is one of the best-value lunch options in the neighborhood, featuring dozens of restaurants spread over two floors that serve everything from Sichuanese noodles to roast spring chicken.

Hoi You’s mouth-watering crispy “three yellow” chicken dish is one of the main draws of the market. Chuen Min is another popular option on Tsun Yip Street, serving regional Sichuan classics such as dan dan noodles and lesser-known dishes like burning noodles.

Yuen Long Kin Yip Street Cooked Food Centre

Yuen Long Kin Yip Street

A foodie haven in the north of Hong Kong, Yuen Long is a hub for both modern and traditional eateries. Yuen Long locals, however, don’t exactly advertise the delights of their cooked food center.

That’s because not only is the Kin Yip Street Cooked Food Centre one of few dai pai dong-style places left – semi-alfresco street restaurants – it’s also home to one of the best Cantonese roast meat restaurants in town. And lineups can get long.

The no-frills Tim Kee has long been attracting diners from near and far with its charcoal-fired Cantonese roasts. Its roast pork belly with crispy skin and flavorful char siu are two must-haves.

Unlike the honey-glazed versions that are more commonly found around town, Tim Kee’s meats are roasted and seasoned in a more traditional way, resulting in a rustic texture and a savorier char siu.

Combine Tim Kee with a visit to the nearby cafes and scenic hiking trails. Still hungry? Yuen Long is also home to the Kam Tin Cooked Food Market. Hong Kong’s oldest existing government hawker center, it opened in 1964.

Fa Yuen Street Market

FaYuen Street

After taking photos of the famed signs and market of Fa Yuen Street in Mong Kok, you can head into the Fa Yuen Street Municipal Building to refuel.

The relatively run-down look of the Fa Yuen Street Cooked Food Market inside only adds to the charm.

Among all the stalls in the market, Mui Kee Congee has the biggest following. This eatery stretches across a few stalls and displays a multilingual menu. Its specialty is fish broth-based saang gwan juk (fresh boiled congee).

A massive pot of rice congee is cooked in advance but each order is crafted individually. Once you order the type of congee you want, the chef will use a small pot to re-boil it and add the raw ingredients, simmering it till everything is cooked.

Aldrich Bay Market

While most of Hong Kong’s cooked food markets pride themselves on offering a wide range of food options, there’s only one reason to visit Aldrich Bay Market: claypot rice.

Located in a residential district on the eastern side of Hong Kong Island, Aldrich Bay in Shau Kee Wan doesn’t draw many tourists. As a result, this quiet market mostly serves locals looking for a sizzling-hot serving of claypot rice.

Shiu Wah Kitchen offers some classic claypot rice options like preserved Chinese sausages or sliced beef with egg as well as some unusual ones like geoducks and scallops.

The sweetened soy sauce, rich toppings and succulent yet distinct rice grains are all important elements of a good Cantonese rice casserole. But the star of every claypot rice serving should be its perfectly charred rice crust that sits in the bottom of the pot and easily peels off with a light nudge of your spoon.

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