Hong Kong is a city full of extravagantly expensive fine-dining options. But eating out in this city can often be more delicious when you opt for budget restaurants – if you know where to go.
Tim Ho Wan, Fuk Wing Street
Restaurant, Chinese, $$$
Tim Ho Wan is a Michelin-star budget restaurant chain
You can now find Tim Ho Wan all over Asia, but this Michelin-star budget restaurant chain actually originated in Hong Kong. The Shum Shui Po location is authentic, busy and serves all of the most well-loved dim sum options. The restaurant’s signature meal is the crisp and fragrant baked bun with barbecue pork – which is in a league of its own – but the siu mai (steamed dumplings filled with shrimp and pork) is also worth trying. Bring a group so you can try more dishes, and explore the markets and colourful old buildings after lunch.
Arguably Hong Kong’s most well-known cha chaan teng (a low-key café serving basic, affordable food), Tsui Wah is the perfect introduction to the city’s most iconic dishes. The most delicious items on the menu are the crispy pork chop buns, the tender Malaysian beef curry and the fishcakes in fish soup. Round off your meal with a strong milk tea and a steamed bun paired with condensed milk. The menu comes with pictures, and the lively atmosphere is definitely one to experience. Don’t expect beautiful interiors or Instagram-worthy café shots – it’s essentially Hong Kong’s answer to a greasy spoon. There are locations all across the city, but the Wellington Street branch is a great spot to go after a night out.
Few dim sum restaurants still feature carts loaded with bamboo baskets, which is one of the many things that make Lin Heung Tea House a unique dining experience. It’s been open for over 100 years, so when it comes to authentic dim sum, this is the spot. First, order a pot of Chinese tea and absorb the bustling atmosphere. Keep your eyes peeled for a lady pushing a loaded cart among the crowd of diners. She’ll lift up the lids of each bamboo basket for a few seconds to reveal the options. You’ll have to be quick at selecting your food, so don’t overthink it. Try any of the steamed dumplings, buns and spring rolls, and if you’re feeling adventurous, go for the chicken feet.
Don’t let the long line intimidate you; Kau Kee’s tender beef brisket is worth the wait. The small restaurant started as a humble stall in the 1930s and is still going strong today. The two must-try dishes are the beef brisket kway teow soup and the curried beef tendon noodles. The portions are incredibly generous and the beef brisket deliciously tender and flavourful. The curry broth is both fragrant and rich, making it a great choice for the winter months. Service is fast and efficient, but you won’t be able to linger long in the small restaurant. Make sure to check out the shops and cafés along Gough Street after you finish.
Kam’s Roast Goose earned a Michelin star just four months after opening
Head to Kam’s for the best roast goose in Hong Kong. Founder Hardy Kam is from the family behind the city’s famous Yung Kee Restaurant. But after many family disputes, he decided to branch off and start a more affordable and equally delicious version of the well-loved delicacy. Kam’s Roast Goose has proven its chops by gaining a Michelin star just four months after opening and now serves queues of happy patrons with its delicious signature dish. The succulent roast goose on rice is a must-try while visiting. But make sure not to miss the succulent suckling pig and flavourful char siu (barbecued pork). If you’re looking to try something new, order the century egg (preserved duck egg).
Next door to Kau Kee is Sing Heung Yuen, yet another solid choice for a classic Hong Kong brunch. Macaroni and instant noodles may sound simple, but just one bite will sell you on this lunchtime favourite. Sing Heung Yuen’s thick red tomato broth, created from a mixture of canned and fresh tomatoes, is what sets the restaurant apart from other cha chaan tengs. Have it with instant noodles paired with beef or the classic egg and macaroni, and make sure to finish with the satisfyingly sweet crispy butter buns. There are only a few outdoor tables, but it’s an excellent spot to people-watch.
Simple, delicately wrapped shrimp wontons are a staple in Cantonese cuisine. Mak’s Noodles perfected this delicate art form – so much so that they’ve gained a Michelin star. You’ll find branches scattered across the city, but the humble Wellington Street restaurant is the original. Mak’s slightly chewy noodles are served in a fragrant broth, and its shrimp wontons are lightly wrapped, freshly made and full of flavour. The classic crisp kai lan (Chinese broccoli) served with oyster sauce is the perfect accompaniment to this dish. Portions are small, so come here for a snack break while exploring the city.
Lan Fong Yuen has been one of Hong Kong’s most popular cha chaan tengs since 1953. This famous tea shop on Pottinger Street is a great spot to stop off in the city’s Central district. The crispy pork chop buns and buttery french toast are deliciously moreish. But if you’re ordering just one thing, make it the ‘silk-stocking’ milk tea, which gets its name from the net used to strain the tea. The lines can be long, but you can also order to go.
Located on the second floor of a rather drab municipal services building is one of the liveliest dining experiences in Hong Kong. Visit this dai pai dong (an open-air food stall) for dinner and you might be lucky enough to meet its hilariously charismatic owner, Robby Cheung. Beer is served out of vintage bowls and the menu is full of fresh seafood. Their squid-ink spaghetti is equally mouthwatering and messy, and the curiously named juicy wind sand chicken is also worth a try. If you love shellfish, make sure to order the razor clams, scallops and clams – all cooked simply in the traditional Cantonese style (gently steamed with some vermicelli, a dash of soy sauce and a sprinkling of scallions). Tung Po is a great choice for groups looking for fun and excitement alongside delicious food.
Australia Dairy Company on Parkes Street open early
Branches of Australia Dairy Company can be found all over the city, and its cheap prices and large portions will please any budget. The restaurant opens early for those who want to fuel up before sightseeing. Order a spread of macaroni soup served with ham, fluffy scrambled eggs and buttered toast. Don’t forget the milk tea to complete this classic Hong Kong-style breakfast. The steamed milk pudding is another speciality you definitely shouldn’t miss. The pineapple is also a great snack to help you beat the heat on scorching hot summer days.