Far removed from the glossy sky rises and ritzy restaurants of Hong Kong Island, Sham Shui Po stands as a comforting antithesis to the breakneck speed of the city’s gentrification. While the faded shopfronts make it far from the most attractive area in town, the old city is still very much felt in the spirit and dynamism of the neighbourhood — not to mention the long-standing food stalls that pepper the streets, many still operated by families with recipes passed down through generations.
The quest for the odd trinket or gadget (Sham Shui Po is a treasure trove of computer parts, accessories, toys — you name it) brings many people to this side of town, but those who thrill off cheap eats to rival the flavours of Michelin-starred dishes come here for one thing alone: the food. From street noodles to wok-fried pad Thai and steaming bowls of ramen, here are the essential culinary pitstops to make on an eating tour of Sham Shui Po.
Lau Sum Kee Noodle
For more than 60 years, Lau Sum has remained a bastion of traditional Chinese noodle-making, one of the few places in town that still forms and moulds its dough from the swift rocking motion of a bamboo pole. Called jook sing, the bouncing pole kneads and flattens the batter into submission, the sunshine-hued dough (made traditionally with duck eggs) ripped into threads and piled high on plates to be dusted over with savoury shrimp roe or spooned over with braised pork knuckle. Other staples here include Chinese sausage rice, beef brisket noodle soup and generously stuffed wontons. Two locations within walking distance of each other ensure you never have to wait long for a table.
Lau Sum Kee Noodle, 48 Kweilin Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, +852 2386 3533
Kung Wo Tofu
There’s nothing polished about Kung Wo Tofu, but that’s the charm of this local institution tucked amongst the bustling street markets of Sham Shui Po. As the name suggests, smooth and silky bean curd is the star of a menu that hits both the sweet and savoury end of the spectrum. Tuck into puffs of deep fried tofu crisped to a golden brown or stuffed with savoury fish paste, crisped up in front of you on the large cast-iron pans, then sate your sweet tooth with the signature dish, a wobbly, silky, light tofu pudding that glides effortlessly down the throat. Homemade soy milk rounds out the cheap-as-chips menu, with the tofu pudding setting you back just HK$7 a bowl.
Kung Wo Tofu, 118 Pei Ho Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, +852 238 66871
Michelin-recommended Thai Chiu now has a branch in Central, but it’s worth seeking out the original storefront in Sham Shui Po: This no-frills, hole-in-the-wall spot has caught the critical eye of red book inspectors for years now, thanks to its winning assortment of Thai food staples which adhere closely to authenticity. The menu certainly doesn’t shy away from familiar Thai dishes, but it’s the fresh ingredients and careful rendering of recipes that makes the food here stand out: Think a luscious red curry chock full of spices, robustly flavoured pad Thai which bears the essential wok hei from a searing turn in the pan, and tom yum seafood soup bursting with fragrance and complexity. The low-key atmosphere — yellow tabletops and backless bright-green stools — only serves to reinforce the atmosphere of dining in a bustling Thai market stall.
Thai Chiu, 101 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, +852 2314 3333
Having graduated from dai pai dong to proper sit-down establishment, this local eatery is frequented by families on the weekends who gather around the large round tables catching up over platters of steamed fish, wok-fried noodles, and fresh seafood from Hokkaido scallops to seasonal Japanese crabs, chosen from the live seafood tanks which flank the entrance. The dining room is completely nondescript — think beige-coloured walls, slightly faded gold tablecloths and stiff-backed conference-style chairs — but the lack of atmosphere is redeemed by the vivid flavours which pop off the plate, from deep-fried eel tossed in spicy salt to the signature braised chicken chock full of delicacies such as abalone and sea cucumber.
Glorious Cuisine, 31-33 Shek Kip Mei Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, +852 2778 8103
Cheung Fat Noodles
The shabby green awning of Cheung Fat Noodles officially stamps it as a dai pai dong, one of the last vestiges of the open-air food stalls whose numbers have dwindled to less than 28 still operating around the city. Pull up a stool and enjoy the savoury depths of springy shrimp roe noodles, the fresh bite of a simple plate of choy sum or stir-fried Chinese chives, or the warming depths of the fish ball broth, studded with the fragrant bite of green onions. The beef brisket noodles are also worth trying, braised to fork-tender and swimming in a deep-flavoured broth with noodles and scallions.
Cheung Fat Noodles, G/F, 14 Yiu Tung Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, +852 2777 2400
Kakurega Ramen Factory
Amidst the sprawl of street food stalls and local Cantonese diners that populate Sham Shui Po, Kakurega Ramen Factor is a diamond in the rough: a modest Japanese ramen bar specialising in the art of tsukemen noodles. Opened by the founder of the popular Butao Ramen, Kakurega follows the same format of serving a limited number of bowls a day: just 50 for lunch, and 50 for dinner. In the tsukemen style, the noodles arrive separate from the broth: Twirl the flat, slippery noodles around your chopsticks, dip them into the piping hot broth (white, black or red), and shuffle it into your mouth with bits of seared fatty char siu, soft-boiled egg, bamboo and spring onions. Long after the noodles are gone, dilute your bowl with extra broth and slurp up every last bit of the velvety liquid slicked with garlic oil and miso.
Kakurega Ramen Factory, Room 7083, 7/F, Dragon Centre, 37 Yen Chow Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, +852 3487 0989
Hop Yik Tai
Cantonese rice noodles rolls, or cheong fun, serve as a blank canvas for all manners of toppings and sauces at this unassuming street stall. Famed for its carb-centric creations, the squiggly white logs come drenched in sauce, from soy sauce to sweet chilli and sesame, and paired with as assortment of fishballs, meatballs, siu mai and more. Forego utensils for toothpicks to devour the plate of delightfully nutrient-free comfort food.
Hop Yik Tai, 121 Kwelin Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, +852 2720 0239
Specialising in Cantonese-style sweets, Heart’s Dessert is a cosy rest stop for satiating your sweet tooth between all the savoury street snacks. Coconut jelly, mango and coconut pudding, red bean and tapioca soup, chocolate lava cakes and shaved ice are amongst the familiar desserts served up in this cutesy café. For a heartier affair opt for the fluffy Belgium-style waffles gussied up with caramelised banana and a scoop of ice cream.
Heart’s Dessert, G/F, 57 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, +852 2668 0748
Tim Ho Wan
Hit with a craving for char siu buns? Head to Tim Ho Wan, that Michelin-starred darling which skyrocketed to fame for its promise of exquisitely crafted dim sum (spearheaded by founding ex-Four Seasons chef Mak Kwai Pui) at dirt-cheap prices. While pushing on 50 locations now around the world, Sham Shui Po is the only branch left in Hong Kong to retain its Michelin-star designation in this year’s guide, which makes a stop by this Hong Kong institution an obligation for any foodie wandering in the vicinity of SSP.
Tim Ho Wan, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, +852 2788 1226
A good, juicy burger might be just what you’re craving after an afternoon of exploring the alleys and side streets of Sham Shui Po. At Burgerman, freshly ground beef patties form the base for excellent burgers which tread the middle ground between the greasy comfort of diner patties and the cheffy creations that have inundated menus in recent years. Savour the monstrous creations topped off with spicy grilled peppers, sautéed mushrooms and caramelised onions, or the outrageous surf ‘n’ turf combo of beef patty and buttery grilled lobster — an Instagrammable creation that inevitably requires disassembling with fork and knife before tucking into its various mouthwatering components.
Burgerman, G/F, 65-71, Yen Chow Street, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, +852 2361 1330