Dai pai dongs are emblematic of traditional Hong Kong street food.
They have been around since the 1940s, when the government began giving out licences to families of injured or deceased civil servants so they could hawk food on the streets. But from the 1950s, concerns over hygiene and traffic congestion meant that such licences were no longer issued.
Today, there are just 20-something dai pai dongs left, mainly in Central and Sham Shui Po, while the rest have been hustled into indoor food centres.
So do check out my list below.
Street food has evolved to include food sold at kiosks, as well as eateries selling humble – but oftentime sublime – fare, all around the city. The Australian Dairy Company and Lee Keung Kee North Point Egg Waffles are delectable eats you don’t want to miss out on either.
Hor Si Siu Chiu
Address: Ground Floor, Hang Hau Chuen, off Chap Fuk Road
How to get there: Take the MTR to Hang Hau. Walk for about 15 minutes
Opening hours: Open daily 6pm to 2am
Contact: +85 2 2719 6862
Topless old men, smoking in the open air as they inhale dark ale. Construction workers with leathered skin, chilling after a hard day of labour. Dating couples. Families. Celebrities.
They flock to this former village on eastern Kowloon for a rustic meal of the rib-sticking variety.
The chicken (above), cooked Sichuan style, is plump and succulent, the burn of the peppercorns subtle. Then there is a mixed dish of intestines, sausages and tofu, braised in a Teochew-style soy sauce.
A definite must-try is the gu lok yok. Each piece the size of a lime, with a barely there batter doused in a tart sauce, the sweet-and-sour pork is a winner.
So too the price, weighing in at HK$280 ($45.10) for four dishes.
Lau Sum Kee
Address: There are two outlets - 82 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Sui Po, Hong Kong or 48 Kweilin Street, Sham Sui Po, Hong Kong
How to get there: To get to either outlets, get off the MTR at Sham Shui Po. Exit D2 and walk for five minutes
Opening hours: Open daily from 12pm to 1am
Contact: +86 852 2386 3533
At Lau Sum Kee, noodles are still made the traditional way by kneading the dough with a bamboo pole.
This harks back to the 1940s, when owner Lau Fat Cheong’s grandfather sold wonton noodles on the streets of Guangdong, before moving to Hong Kong where he and his descendants continued the craft – first in a noodle cart, then a dai pai dong, and now, two tiny eateries.
Try the famous dry noodles sprinkled with shrimp roe (above). They are firm, with some bite, while the sides of wontons and shui jiao in soup are fresh.
And at HK$30 ($4.83) a serving, they are one of the cheapest in town.
When done with that, explore the neighbourhood for traditional desserts – either toufu fa or ma lai gou.
Bing Kee Tea Stall
Address: 5 Shepherd Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong
How to get there: Take the MTR to Tin Hau, get out at Exit A, and walk for about eight minutes
Opening hours: Open daily from 7.30am to 4.30pm
Contact: +85 2 2577 3117
Bing Kee Tea Stall is where you can have pork chop noodles (you have a choice between instant noodles and bee hoon) for HK$22 ($3.54) and milk tea for HK$13 ($2.09).
Alternatively, order the sliced pork sandwich, where the meat nestles nicely amid dollops of margarine. Complement it with a cuppa rich milk tea, the stall’s signature, and savour the medley of flavours in your mouth.
Mr Fung Yiu Tong, 60, one of the bosses today, declines to say what goes into the marinade – except the obvious ingredients of pepper and soy sauce.
But whatever it is, the sauce – and the cheap rent of HK$30,000 ($4,832) a year – has fed three generations of the family, starting from his mother and extending to his nephews learning to take over the business.
Australian Dairy Company
Address: 47-49 Parkes Street, Jordan, Hong Kong
How to get there: Alight at Jordan MTR station and take Exit C2
Opening hours: Open from 7.30am to 11:00pm, closed on Thursday
Contact: +85 2 2730 1356
Boasting all of Hong Kong’s favourites such as eggs, macaroni, milk tea, egg custard pudding and egg pudding, there’s basically nothing Australian about this eatery beyond its name.
Touted by many as “legendary”, be sure to order the soft buttered toast with scrambled eggs. The eggs are milky and moist without being too runny, and a perfect companion to the warm, aromatic toast.
The breakfast set at HK$26 ($4.19) consists of buttered toast with scrambled eggs, macaroni soup with ham, and coffee or tea.
The lunch set at HK$30 ($4.83) offers similar items, with the choice of spaghetti with char siew.
End off your meal with the steamed egg white pudding with milk. The dessert has a smooth, subtle texture and a fragrant aroma of milk and egg white. Satisfying yet not overpowering, just the way all desserts should be.
Lee Keung Kee North Point Egg Waffles
Address: 492 King’s Road, North Point, Hong Kong (main branch)
How to get there: Take the MRT to North Point and take Exit B3. You should easily find it upon exiting the station
Opening hours: Open daily from 10am to 11pm
Contact: +852 2590 9726
Whether you call them eggettes, egg waffles, egg puffs or gai daan jai, you know it when you see it thanks to its unmistakably distinctive appearance.
This popular street snack, in the shape of mini eggs attached to each other like a piece of bubble wrap, is typically made from a batter of egg, sugar, flour and evaporated milk. The batter is poured into a special two-sided pan and toasted fresh to a delectable crisp.
One waffle costs HK$15 ($2.42), while two costs HK$28 ($4.51).
The waffles at this stall are said to be thicker than usual, retaining a distinct fluffy consistency with a natural eggy fragrance. It is no wonder this snack seems to be a hit among local celebrities, with many photos and press clippings from over the years donning the shop front.
The stall’s name is said to mean "super hot gang" in Cantonese, but it has become more commonly known as North Point Egg Waffles, or simply "that place in North Point" for some.
Although there are now at least eight branches of Lee Keung Kee all over the city, the original branch is still the most popular.