Eating Like A Local in Sheung Wan (when you’re an expat)
Are you an expat who's wandered past a local restaurant with a massive queue outside and wondered exactly what they're serving that's so good? Check out our guide to local dining in Sheung Wan to find out more and expand your culinary horizons!
Despite living in Hong Kong for over four years now, it took me an embarrassingly long time to explore the local dining scene. I’m talking about the city’s cha chaan tengs and dai pai dongs that can be seen in every direction, are often packed with locals at all hours, and have queues out the door during lunch service that no Western restaurant in Hong Kong can compete with. After living in the relatively local neighbourhood of Quarry Bay (though it seems to have gentrified a fair bit since then) for my first 2.5 years in Hong Kong and not exploring the area’s dining scene, I vowed to do so when I moved to the other side of the island: Sheung Wan.
Sheung Wan is the perfect spot to dig into a wide variety of local eats that are easy to order, make for a great Instagram photo-op, and are so cheap you’ll think they made a mistake. Start your local foodie tour with a killer protein fix at Ma Sa Restaurant (23 Hillier Street) with their popular three sunny-side up eggs on rice with char siu for only HK$32. The owner speaks English well, so there’s no need to worry about a language barrier. Just be sure to arrive early, as they often run out of char siu after the lunch crowd, which will leave you stuck with either luncheon meat or spam instead.
Arguably one of Sheung Wan’s most well-known local eateries is Kau Kee (21 Gough Street) for their famous beef brisket noodles. Don’t let the queue deter you from trying these noodles; they’re worth every bit of hype they get. Try going at an off-peak hour to avoid an extra-long queue and be sure to order the beef brisket with E-Fu noodles (HK$48). If you like your brisket either leaner or fattier, just tell the waiter, as the brisket varied from bowl to bowl when I last went. Kau Kee is certainly not a place you go to catch up with friends over a meal; you get in, sit down (likely at a table with a few other hungry foodies), slurp up your noodles, and leave.
If you’re still hungry afterwards, head across the street to dai pai dong Sing Heung Yuen (2 Mei Lun Street) for their tomato noodle soup. Prices for the soup range from HK$25 – $39 depending on what additions you add in – sausage, beef, pork chop, ham, egg, vegetables, and the list goes on. As the weather begins to cool down, Sing Heung Yuen is a much more attractive spot to eat since you’ll be dining outside, and eating soup on a hot and humid Hong Kong summer day is nobody’s idea of an enjoyable experience.
Going along with the theme of food that is best enjoyed when you can step outside and not sweat instantly is Kwan Kee Claypot Rice (263 Queen’s Road West – okay, okay, so it’s technically in Sai Ying Pun, but it’s close enough to basically be in Sheung Wan). You can opt for something relatively safe, like the pork and chicken claypot rice (HK$67) or go all out and order the frog and preserved duck claypot rice (HK$85) if you’re more open and adventurous when it comes to food. Either way, be sure to head there before or after the dinner rush to avoid having to wait around for a table.
Another favourite spot to get your pork chop fix is For Kee Restaurant (200 Hollywood Road). Quite possibly the “most local” of all the restaurants listed here, For Kee doesn’t have an English menu (at least not when I was there) and the owners’ English is extremely limited, so it’s best to visit here with someone who can speak Cantonese. There are a wide variety of pork chop rice dishes you can order, but the most popular is the plain pork chop rice with their homemade sauce and their pork chop bun. I would skip the pork chop bun and stick to the pork chop rice with some Chinese veg and a fried egg on top, which will run you around HK$65.
To finish off your local foodie tour of Sheung Wan, visit Shui Kee Coffee (Shop 17, 2/F, Sheung Wan Municipal Services Building) for their signature cold milk tea served in an old-school glass bottle (HK$12). Aside from the milk tea, Shui Kee Coffee serves up much of your traditional local Cantonese dishes you’ll find at any dai pai dong and cha chaan teng; pork and egg sandwiches, HK style french toast, and spam instant noodles. In terms of vibe, don’t expect much as it is in a cooked food hall, but for an incredibly cheap drink and bite to eat in a setting that has you feeling like you’re back in the 80’s, you can’t really complain.
thisgirlabroad is a Canadian expat who found herself packing her life up in the Great White North to move to a city filled with skyscrapers, dim sum, and 7-Eleven’s. She’s been living, loving, and eating her way through Hong Kong for the past four years without any plans to slow down. Between working full time, managing her blog, and freelance writing, you’ll likely find her with a strong cup of coffee in one hand and a jar of crunchy peanut butter in the other.