Although Hong Kong is renowned for offering a wide variety of food genre and that it has attracted thousands of gourmets to visit the city, it is gradually losing one of its local dining culture – Dai Pai Dong. The name Dai Pai Dong means “restaurant with a big licence plate”, referring to the size of the licences, which are bigger than those of other licensed street vendors. Totally opposite to the Michelins, Dai Pai Dong are outdoor food stalls where you sit on a plastic tools, hearing people around you chatting and laughing. We should not over criticize the quality of the food but Dai Pai Dong definitely represents the spirit of Hong Kong. It is a place where people social, especially in mid-nights when most restaurants are closed, Dai Pai Dong are still full of people. Here is a short clip showing what Dai Pai Dong looks like nowadays:
The History of Dai Pai Dong
Indeed, the origin of Dai Pai Dong embedded a rather miserable history. The first licences were issued after the second world war to relatives of civil servants who had been killed or disabled in the war, allowing them to open small restaurants on the street and make a living. In the 1950s, Dai Pai Dong became a trend and you can find them almost in every corner of the street. People would gather and social until midnight. Soon, noise, hygiene and traffic led to complaints from the nearby residents. Since then Government decided to buy back some of the licenses and some cost over one million dollars. As at today, there are only 25 Dai Pai Dong left in Hong Kong: 11 in Sham Shui Po, 10 in Central, three in Wan Chai and 1 in Tai O, according to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, which manages the licences.
Since the number of Dai Pai Dong in Hong Kong is gradually diminishing, you should at least visit one of them no matter you live or visit Hong Kong in order to feel this unique local culture. In the next 10, 20 or 30 years, we may not even recall what Dai Pai Dong is.
If you are in doubt of which one to go to, you must try Sing Heung Yuen 2 Mei Lun St, Central, tel: 2544 8368
This definitely top the list because of its reasonable price, convenient location, together with its renowned tomato broth that is claimed to have been slowly boiled for 24 hours.During lunch hours, you will see a long queue of white collars so avoid visiting the store at those hours. The must-try menu is instant noodles or macaroni in tomato broth, lemon and honey crispy bun, milk tea.
Indeed, Hong Kong citizens now demand better quality of food, as well as dining environment; that is why these traditional Dai Pai Dong are disappearing one by one. They are certainly an important cultural heritage of Hong Kong and embedded plenty of stories of the locals. Should they vanish within the city, it will be a pity.
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