From street food to cha chaan tengs and more, here’s where to get the best local food in Central & Sheung Wan…
I get it. It’s daunting to walk inside traditional Hong Kong eateries. The shouting, the Chinese-only menus (sometimes, there aren’t even menus), the strange looking food – it can be intimidating, even for us locals! But behind these unique traits are flavours beyond your imagination, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on that, would you?
Local Hong Kong food comes in many shapes and forms, ranging from street food to exquisite fine dining. Ahead, I’ll be sharing with you the classic spots locals go to regularly, along with the best dishes to order. Chopsticks at the ready, here’s where to eat like a local in Central and Sheung Wan…
Sassy Tip: We’ve included the written Chinese names of all recommended dishes – simply pull up this article and point to your dish of choice to order!
Read more: Your Guide To Local Hong Kong Desserts
Dai Pai Dongs (大排擋)
Dai Pai Dong literally means “big license stalls”. These local food stalls emerged after the Second World War when the colonial Hong Kong government issued licenses to those in need so they can start their own food business and make a living. In recent years, the cruel reality of economics has unfortunately meant that not many remain today. Officially, there are only 28 left across Hong Kong, while others have moved off the streets into cooked food centres instead.
Shui Kee (水記)
After 60 years in the business, Shui Kee still insists on using fresh beef to make its famous beef noodles – a rarity in Hong Kong today! While most restaurants have resorted to frozen meat for ease and convenience, Shui Kee’s owner spends hours each day preparing and processing the fresh beef, ready for the day’s orders. Fair warning, the stall is located on a slope, so you’ll have to engage all your core strength and balance for lunch here. The delicious noodles are totally worth it though, I promise!
What to order: Beef Brisket Noodles (牛爽腩麵, $38), Flat Rice Noodles (牛爽腩诃粉, $38), Fried Dumplings (炸雲吞, $19)
Opening hours: 11:30am to 5:45pm (closed on weekends)
Shui Kee, 2 Gutzlaff Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2541 9769
Sing Heung Yuen (勝香園)
If you’re in the area around lunchtime on a weekday, you definitely won’t have missed this pick. This humble looking stall is usually crowded with people waiting for a table, even in the peak of summer. The local food on offer is simple, yet emotional. Sitting here and munching up the Tomato Soup Macaroni and Lemon and Honey Toastie makes you think of times when life was less complex. While the food is hardly Michelin-level, the pure comfort of the dishes on offer will have you coming back time and again.
What to order: Tomato Soup Macaroni with Beef (番茄鮮牛通粉, $37), Butter and Honey with Lemon on Crispy Bun (檸檬蜜糖脆脆, $20)
Opening hours: 8am to 5pm (closed on Sundays and Public Holidays)
Sing Heung Yuen, G/F, 2 Mei Lun Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2544 8368
Dim Sum (飲茶)
Lin Heung Tea House (蓮香樓)
Nearly a hundred years later and this tea house hasn’t changed a bit! If you’re looking for some authentic dim sum with retro vibes, this place is a must-visit. As soon as it opens in the morning, the place is filled with seniors reading newspapers, enjoying their tea and snacking on dim sum. The menu is simple too: what you see on the dim sum trolleys is what you get (but during busy hours, be prepared to fight for it). The best part is you can find many classic dim sums here that you might not find elsewhere, including Quail Egg Siu Mai and Pork Liver Siu Mai, to name just a few. FYI, when you arrive, you’ll be expected to find your own table (if there’s not one available, you’ll have to hover until one becomes free).
What to order: Just point at whatever looks good to you, and say “ni gor”
Opening hours: 6am to 11pm (dim sum ends at 4:30pm)
Lin Heung Tea House, 160-164 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2544 4556
Read more: The Best Dim Sum In Hong Kong
Luk Yu Tea House (陸羽茶室)
Want to feel like a vintage Hong Kong movie star for a few hours? Then Luk Yu is the place to be. This tea house is a little bit on the fancier side, but rightly so as it insists on preserving the traditional qualities of a Hong Kong tea house. From the interiors, utensils and, of course, the choice of dim sum on offer, this place transports you back to the 1960s. It’s definitely worth a visit when you next have visiting guests in town.
What to order: Char Siu Pastry (叉燒甘露批, $62), Shrimp Siu Mai (脯魚蝦燒賣, $54), Shrimp Lotus Leaf Rice (鮮蝦荷葉飯, $106), Steamed Spare Ribs (柱侯蒸排骨, $60), Chicken Bun (滑雞球大包, $54) – and if you’re adventurous, Pork Liver Siu Mai (豬膶燒賣, $60)
Opening hours: 7am to 10pm (dim sum ends at 6pm)
Luk Yu Tea House, G/F – 3/F, 24 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2523 5464
Cha Chaan Tengs (茶餐廳)
A local food experience wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a cha chaan teng, or Hong Kong style cafe. These developed after the Second World War in response to the increasing influence of Western habits on the city’s food culture. While traditional Western full service restaurants were often too expensive for locals to dine in, cha chaan tengs became an affordable alternative, serving fusion twists on traditional European dishes.
Shui Kee Coffee (瑞記咖啡)
Nestled inside Sheung Wan’s Cooked Food Market, Shui Kee Coffee is a hidden gem. This local favourite started out as a Dai Pai Dong 60 years ago, and loyal customers still to this day come back regularly for its famous HK-style milk teas and French toast. Don’t be put off by the noisy market surroundings – the sweet scent of tea and toast will have you forgetting where you are in an instant!
What to order: Bottled Ice Milk Tea (樽仔凍奶茶, $17), French Toast (西多士, $26), Beef & Egg Bun (蛋牛飽, $17)
Opening hours: 7:30am to 5pm (closed on Sundays and Public Holidays)
Shui Kee Coffee, Shop 17, 2/F, Sheung Wan Cooked Food Centre, 345 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, 2850 8643
Hoi On Cafe (海安咖啡室)
Rumour has it this is the oldest Cha Chaan Teng in Hong Kong. 68 years on and it’s still serving some of the best café classics in town. Located near the pier, the original owner started the café with the hope that all sailors would return peacefully to Hong Kong, and enjoy milk teas and pastries with their friends and family. Fast forward to today, you may be hard pressed to spot any sailors, but you will find plenty of loyal customers indulging in toast and noodles. Come early as there’s always a crowd outside.
What to order: Beef and Scrambled Egg Toast (香蔥碎牛炒蛋厚多士, $32), Bite Sized French Toast (粒粒西多士, $35), Ginger and Scallion Dried Noodles with your choice of toppings (薑蔥香油撈麵; 叉燒 (Char Siu), 司華力腸 (Sausage), 雞翼 (Chicken Wings), 沙爹牛肉 (Satay Beef), $45)
Opening hours: 7:30am to 4:30pm (closed on Sundays)
Hoi On Cafe, G/F, 17 Connaught Road West, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, 2540 6340
Read more: The Best Pineapple Buns In Hong Kong
Lan Fong Yuen (蘭芳園)
Since milk tea became popular, many cafés have tried different methods to make the ultimate rich, smooth and creamy incarnation. But its Lan Fong Yuen which prevailed, becoming the founding father of the style of milk tea we see across the city today thanks to its “silk stocking” method. Don’t worry, the café doesn’t really use stockings to make its milk tea, but the sackcloth bag used to make the tea smoother ends up looking like a stocking because of the processing, hence the name! Pair your tea with the Kaya French Toast for the ultimate dream team combo.
What to order: Milk Tea (絲襪奶茶, $20), Kaya French Toast (傳統咖央西多士, $24)
Opening hours: 7:30am to 6pm (closed on Sundays)
Lan Fong Yuen, G/F, 2 Gage Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2544 3895
For Kee Restaurant (科記咖啡餐室)
When you arrive at this corner stall, the first thing you might notice are the resident cats. Look beyond the cuteness of the kitties, because inside are some superbly flavoured pork chops and silky smooth and creamy milk teas. Get there early if you’re wanting to grab lunch; it’s highly likely you’ll need to queue after 12pm.
What to order: Fresh Beef Toast with Onion and Satay Sauce (沙爹洋蔥鮮牛多士, $51), Rice with Pork Chop & Egg (豬排煎蛋飯, $52) – if you’d like to add vegetables, ask for “加菜”.
Opening hours: 7am to 3:30pm (closed on Sundays and Public Holidays)
For Kee Restaurant, Shop J-K, 200 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, 2546 8947
Mak An Kee Noodle (麥奀記（忠記）麵家)
If you live or work around Central, you might know Mak’s Noodles on Wellington Street. However, you probably haven’t heard of its older brother’s stall in Sheung Wan. This is the one local diehard wonton fans visit regularly. The wontons here are bite sized, with each mouthful containing the perfect crunch of shrimp, pork and silky smooth wonton skin. Some say this place serves the best wonton in Hong Kong, but I’ll let you be the judge of that!
What to order: Shrimp Wonton Noodles (雲吞麵, from $40) or Shrimp Wonton with Dry Noodles (雲吞撈麵, $62) – if you’d like to add beef brisket, ask for “加牛腩”.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 10:30am to 8pm; Sundays, 10:30am to 7pm
Mak An Kee Noodle, G/F, 37 Wing Kat Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2541 6388
Yat Lok Roast Goose Restaurant (一樂燒鵝)
First opened in Tai Po 42 years ago, Yat Lok was so popular amongst locals that the family decided to take their chances and open up in Central. Today, the Tai Po stall is nowhere to be seen, but the Central restaurant continues to be massively popular, and for good reason. The Roast Goose here is known to be one of the best in Hong Kong. Think perfectly crispy skin, tender meat and juices which are rich in flavour. Pro-tip: don’t order the Char Siu because it can be hit or miss!
What to order: Roast Goose Drumstick with Rice Noodle/ Rice (鵝脾瀨粉/飯, $118) or Roast Goose Chest with Rice Noodle/ Rice (鵝胸瀨粉/飯, $63)
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 10am to 8:30pm (closed on Sundays); Public Holidays, 10am to 5:30pm
Yat Lok Roast Goose Restaurant, 34-38 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2524 3882
Sang Kee Congee Shop (生記粥品)
I know congee probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you’re hungry – how good can rice in water taste? But believe it or not, congee is comfort food for locals. It sounds like such a simple dish, but true fans know the technicalities behind the creaminess, consistency and flavours. Famous for its fish and beef congee, this 40 year old eatery is a staple for locals, as well as attracting people from all across town.
What to order: Beef Congee (鮮牛肉粥, $35), Fish Belly and Beef Congee (魚腩牛肉粥, $57), Fish Ball Congee (正鯪魚球粥, $35), Fish Cakes (香煎魚餅, $17)
Opening hours: 6:30am to 8:30pm (closed on Sundays)
Sang Kee Congee Shop, G/F, 7-9 Burd Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, 2541 1099
All image courtesy of Cynthia Lok.