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
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
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
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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.