If it’s 100-page wine lists and potatoes handpicked from the side of a Welsh mountain you want, head to where to eat on Hong Kong Island; if however, you want fantastic food for not a lot of money, welcome to Kowloon.
Less glitzy than the island it’s here that Hong Kong’s best Cantonese food is found in unpretentious neighborhood restaurants and overcrowded canteens. The world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant can be found here – just a few dollars for Dim Sum – as well as many of the city’s remaining Dai Pai Dongs.
As the historic home to Hong Kong’s immigrants there are also some fantastic ethnic options; from Currys in Chung King mansions to the steaming bowls of Pho in Kowloon City.
Cantonese food and markets
While Hong Kong Island may have many of the Michelin starred Chinese restaurants many would argue that the best, most authentic Cantonese restaurants are in Kowloon. This is where locals eat and locals are the most demanding customers when it comes to Cantonese cuisine. The neighborhood restaurants in areas like Mongkok and Yau Ma Tei may not have starched table cloths and white-gloved waiters but the food is very good and very cheap.
It’s hard to recommend a single district or street for Cantonese cuisine – whether that be Dim Sum or BBQ – as there are restaurants everywhere. Certainly, give Tsim Sha Tsui a miss. The streets hosting the Temple Street Night market have dozens of basic canteens serving up steaming bowls of wonton noodles or freshly cut BBQ pork and rice late into the night while the area immediately outside Mongkok MTR station is also teeming with restaurants.
Tsim Sha Tsui and Knutsford Terrace
Back in Tsim Sha Tsui, you’ll find a lot of overpriced tourist traps – mostly serving up uninspiring western food – although there are exceptions. Knutsford Terrace is Kowloon’s party district and there are a number of Western, Japanese and Asian restaurants clustered along the strip, as well as at Observatory Court around the corner.
It’s worth mentioning that many of the major malls also have proper sit-down restaurants – including some highly regarded ones, including the huge Ocean Terminal and the edgier Langham Place shopping mall.
Indian Food at Chungking Mansions
Much better is the Indian and Pakistani food on offer inside Chungking Mansions. The mansions have – for decades – been a magnet for sub-continent immigrants and amidst the phone shops and currency exchanges, you’ll find kiosks doling out keema naans, samosas and other delicious snacks from Delhi. They are a great place to fill up cheaply for lunch.
On the upper floors are dozens of full-blown restaurants although be warned the restaurants are usually as decrepit as the building itself and you’ll be lucky to find a window let alone air con. The mansions themselves are a maze and for first timers, it’s usually better to be guided by one of the restaurants touts at the mansion's main entrance. The Indian food on offer is some of the best and the worst in Hong Kong and you should choose your restaurant carefully; the Dehli Club is one of the oldest restaurants and remains one of the best.
More ethnic food is on offer in Kowloon City where Thai and Vietnamese immigrants have set up restaurants to cater for their respective communities.
While splashy magazine features mean many of these basic canteens have moved modestly upmarket the food remains authentic with little dumbing down of the spices and flavors for the local palate and prices are fair.
Most of the restaurants are on the streets just south of Kowloon Walled City Park and the best time to visit it is in the evenings.