A world of culture and authentic food
When I’m asked where my favourite place in Hong Kong is, I always answer: Chungking Mansions. I know what you’re thinking. Many think of Chungking Mansions as just a place for currency exchange and cheap guesthouses, and ‘dodgy’ is the word that I hear the most when it comes to people’s impression of this 17-story building on the Kowloon Peninsula.
I know, I know, venturing into the mansions might sound a bit daunting and unnecessary, but not when you know where to go and what to do! If you’re up for the adventure but don’t know where to begin, I’ve put together a list of things you can do that will help you make the most of your first Chungking visit…
Read more: Sassy Neighbourhood Guide: Kowloon City
Taste the Globe
As you enter Chungking Mansions, chances are you will have to squeeze through a crowd of men who try to hand you some leaflets for their restaurants. While there are so many Indian and Turkish restaurants in Hong Kong, there is no dining experience like in Chungking Mansions. Many restaurants on the ground and first floors are doorless so you can see people from all walks of life walking by, chatting, trading from inside. Among all the restaurants, my favourites are: Sher-E-Punjab and Turkish Kebab Restaurant.
What I like about Sher-E-Punjab is that its food is freshly made (many restaurants on the ground floor serve microwaved food). Its naan bread, chapati and paratha is served straight from the pan and are my ultimate comfort food when combined with Keema Matar (minced meat with green peas). Its Masala Chai is another must-order as the sweetness and flavours are perfectly balanced, which I find quite rare in other Indian restaurants in Hong Kong.
Located at the back of Chungking Mansions, Turkish Kebab Restaurant is a hidden gem great for authentic Turkish food and those looking for a bit of privacy inside the hustle and bustle. You will find beautiful Turkish decorations on the wall of this small, clean restaurant and an extensive menu (more than just kebab!) that will satisfy all your food cravings. My must-orders are cacik (yoghurt) with warm Turkish bread as an appetiser and Lamb Sac Kebab for a main, and of course, a proper Turkish meal isn’t complete without a cup of bitter, strong Turkish tea and some Turkish delight. Try order something new or simply ask the friendly Turkish owner for recommendations!
It’s not easy to find African restaurants in Hong Kong, and while my favourite Ethiopian cuisine is not available anywhere here, adventurous foodies can experience a taste of Africa without traveling to the continent. Though not very noticeable in the building, J’s African Taste (shop 106) and Elianna Nexus (shop 102) are two restaurants that serve similar food from West Africa. Order Fufu (a starchy filler) with Egusi (vegetables and beef stew) soup, a typical Nigerian dish, or fried plantain with Waakye, a Ghanaian special made with rice and kidney beans. You won’t be disappointed.
Sher-E-Punjab, Block B., 3/F., B-6 Chungking Mansions, 36-44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Tel: 2312 0366
Turkish Kebab Restaurant, Shop 47, Ground Floor, ChungKing Mansion, No.36-44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Tel: 24045175
Read more: Best Indian Restaurants in Hong Kong
Things You Can’t Get Elsewhere:
(We’re talking about the legal stuff).
You can find literally anything and everything in Chungking Mansions. I’ve heard people asking where to buy henna in Hong Kong and I wonder why nobody thinks of Chung King Mansions as an obvious place for it. If you are a henna lover (like me), then you will love the choices of henna here. You can find different colours from various brands and a henna tube usually costs $10.
Spices and Dates
There aren’t many places in Hong Kong where you can find a wide selection of imported spices from Southeast Asia and dates from the Middle East, all in one place. Whether you are very particular about spices or simply looking for ingredients for a new recipe, a trip to Chungking Mansions will help you stock up on kitchen essentials.
South Asian Snacks
Words cannot explain how happy I was when I saw these Britannia Good Day Pista-Almond Cookies at a grocery store on the ground floor the other day. I fell in love with these cookies when I was travelling in Sri Lanka and I couldn’t find them anywhere in Hong Kong. They are only $5 each and there’s also a peanut flavour. You will find more interesting South Asian snacks as you explore these little shops.
A Good Fix
You can fix watches, phones, clothes, whatever you could think of in Chungking Mansions. Prices are negotiable and while you might get the same service in Mong Kok or Sham Shui Po, these shops are not scattered and all located mainly on the ground floor so you won’t be wasting time seeking out the right place.
Textile from Different Cultures
Part of Chungking Mansions’ charm comes from the colourful clothing of different cultures you can find here. You will see Sari (Indian female garment), Salwar Kameez (national dress of Pakistan), Taqiyah (rounded skullcap worn by Muslim men) together with different accessories being sold by people of all cultures. Even if you’re not going buy anything, it’s a great experience walking around and feeling as if you’re in a market somewhere foreign.
Sassy Tip – Navigation for First Time Visitors:
Chungking Mansions is divided into A-F blocks: each block has a separate elevator on the ground floor. When you enter the building from the main entrance (opposite iSQUARE) and after passing through the money exchangers, you will find most of the clothing and electronic stores on your right side while food stalls and grocery shops are on the left side. You can take the stairs in the middle of the ground floor to reach the first floor, which has two restaurants (Sher-E-Punjab and Bismillah Kebab House). The remaining floors are private homes and budget hotels, with a few licensed and unlicensed restaurants (not for the faint-hearted).