Once a sleepy district on Hong Kong Island, the Sai Wan area has developed into one of the hippest places in town. Fortunately, many parts of Sai Wan have not only retained their character, but also plenty of eateries that offer the best traditional bites. From noodle dishes and street snacks to classic Chiu Chow fare, we round up our top picks of old school eateries in the area – with insider’s tips from theDesk Sai Wan’s members.
Get your fill of regional Chinese cuisine at Tak Kee Chiu Chou.
Whether you’re a fan of freshly prepared stir-fry dishes, delectable marinated meats or hearty congees, Chiu Chow cuisine should be right up your alley. Tak Kee Chiu Chou is a highly rated restaurant serving up this regional cuisine, which originated from the eastern part of Guangdong, China.
“It’s very authentic – they haven’t tried to change their flavours to suit Hongkongers’ palates,” says Stella Wan, operations manager at Cellarmaster Wines, which was established in 2011 and moved to theDesk in 2016. “Even if you were ordering a simple lunch box for takeout, they would prepare it on the spot.”
Then grab a classic Hong Kong sweet treat.
Just outside Tak Kee Chiu Chou, an elderly lady serves put chai ko, or pudding cake – a much-loved traditional Hong Kong dessert that has become increasingly hard to come by.
Made with white or brown sugar with long-grain rice and starch, these delicious morsels are steamed in a small bowl – hence its name in Chinese, “clay bowl cake” – and contains red beans within. Besides these local favorites, she offers Chinese-style mochi, with sesame or peanut fillings.
A regular fixture outside the restaurant, she sets up shop from around 4pm onwards.
Embrace locally run joints at Shek Tong Tsui Market and Cooked Food Centre.
Cooked food centres are a Hong Kong institution. Offering everything from popular Hong Kong-style fare to western-inspired bites, Shek Tong Shui Market and Cooked Food Centre is an affordable and friendly spot to grab a bite.
Try Mei Mei Fong, a stall that specialises in cheese omelette and toast with a Hong Kong spin; or Hoi Kei Seafood Dai Pai Dong, which offers Cantonese cuisine’s greatest hits, like razor clams with vermicelli.
For winter warmers, try snake soup at Se Wong Kau Snake Restaurant.
Hailed for its medicinal prowess and warming properties, snake soup continues to be a venerable dish in Hong Kong – especially for the older generation.
Se Wong Kau Snake Restaurant is an old school eatery that serves up this dish, which is popular in the colder months. There is no mistaking what it specialises in – snake wines line the shelves at the shop.
If you’ve always wanted to try a dish made with something outside of everyday cuts or want to put those medicinal theories to the test, here’s your chance.
Satisfy those afternoon munchies at Grandy Mary.
Grandy Mary serves up egg waffles, Hong Kong’s favorite sweet treat, alongside desserts like ice cream, with a huge variety of toppings to choose from.
You know the drill: known as gai daan zai in Cantonese, they’re made with egg batter between two hot plates, creating spherical shapes that are crispy on the outside and soft to the bite on the inside.
This shop is a firm favorite with neighborhood dwellers for good reason. “The egg waffles are great in that, apart from the original flavour, you can also get things like oreo and chocolate on top,” says Wan.
Got a soft spot for spicy noodles? Head to A One Pork Chop Spicy Rice Noodle.
A One Pork Chop Spicy Rice Noodle serves up exactly what it says on the tin. The spicy sour pork noodles are a signature dish, and this tiny spot is especially popular with hordes of hungry office workers at lunch and dinner.
Spice not your thing? “The pork chop noodle soup is obviously delicious as it’s their specialty, but I usually go for a healthier option, which is the leak dumpling noodle soup with Shanghai noodles,” recommends self-confessed “spice lover” Mahee Leclerc, business development manager at HelperChoice, an ethical platform connecting domestic helpers and employers that was founded in 2012 and has been at theDesk for several years.
Prefer good ol’ soup noodles instead? Try Yuen Hing Lung Noodles.
Those in search of a bowl of noodles served in a piping hot broth need not worry about lack of options in the area.
“Yuen Hing Lung Noodles is, hands down, the best local Hong Kong place to grab a bite to eat,” says Rachel Li, research and policy officer at Justice Centre Hong Kong, which has been based at theDesk since August 2019.
The restaurant’s “noodle master,” Li says, can be seen preparing customers’ orders as they come in – a reflection of the restaurant’s quality. “I also love that it has been in Sai Wan for more than 60 years and is still going strong,” she adds. “Shops like this with a history and character are fast disappearing around Hong Kong.”