Eating on a budget can be difficult in Hong Kong, the city is insanely expensive. Their rents are outrageous, and unfortunately, it shows on the price tags. However after living in Hong Kong for 6 months, I’ve found that the best way to get cheap eats is to eat like a local!
The best way to dine well while spending less is to eat at cha chaan tang style cafes. The food itself is affordable and none of these recommendations require a tip!
These are my top 3 budget meals in Hong Kong:
1. Kam Fung Restaurant
WHAT TO GET:
Satay beef instant noodle – $31HK = $3.96US
Pineapple bun with butter – $9HK = $1.15US
Cold milk tea – $21HK = $2.68US
Meal Set D (all of the above*) – $44HK = $5.62US
*Note: Base price for Meal Set D is $39HK, adding butter to the pineapple bun is $3HK, and additional $2HK for cold milk tea)
This cha chaan tang has the best pineapple bun with butter that has ever grazed my tastebuds. The pineapple bun is always freshly baked and the pat of butter is thick but not overly rich.
You may wonder how something so simple, such as satay beef with instant noodles can taste so delicious, “it’s just beef with some top ramen.” You could not be more wrong, the satay sauce goes amazingly well with the beef and the noodles are prepared perfectly al-dente.
The iced milk tea here is amazing because they don’t actually ice it, they put the entire glass in the fridge so you get full-on HK-style milk tea flavor and no dilution from the ice!
Those of you who don’t read/speak Chinese may struggle a little at this cha chaan tang because this is definitely where the locals go; however in my experience taking American friends here, they are very friendly and will try their best.
2. Tsim Chai Kee Noodle
WHAT TO GET:
Wonton OR beef slices OR dace fish ball (choice of 1) noodles – $29HK = $3.71US
A bowl of noodles with ALL 3 – $39HK = $4.99US
I love the wonton here, they are full of shrimp and a great deal. The noodles are chewy and the shrimp-based broth is excellent. You can also opt to include fresh beef slices and a giant dace fish ball which are insanely good. The beef slices are super tender and the fish ball is made fresh and delicious. I can usually only manage getting one item (usually just the wonton), but if my eyes were the same size as my stomach, I’d get all 3!
3. Tsui Wah Restaurant
WHAT TO GET:
Breakfast Set C (includes ham & shredded squid macaroni in broth with a side of buttered toast; choice of breakfast meat – sausage, spam, OR ham, with fried OR scrambled eggs; an HK-style milk tea OR coffee) – $36HK = $4.60US, +$3HK = $0.38US for iced milk tea or coffee (otherwise, it comes hot)
Condensed milk bun with butter – +$14HK = $1.79US with the purchase of a breakfast set
Hainan chicken rice with chicken soup and 3 sauces – $67HK = $8.56US
First things first, this is a large restaurant chain in Hong Kong; they have multiple locations and bilingual (Chinese-English) menus, so no worries about the language barrier.
For Breakfast Set C, aside from the ham and squid macaroni in broth with buttered toast, I usually go with ham and fried/scrambled eggs and an HK-style milk tea. Though macaroni in broth might sound strange to Westerners, it’s a comfort food I grew up eating in my local Chinatowns. I always add on the condensed milk bun with butter. The key here is in the bread, it toasts to a perfectly crispy texture, and is super tasty.
The Hainan chicken rice is amazingly delicious here, it comes with the whole nine yards – poached chicken, chicken soup, rice cooked in chicken broth, and 3 dipping sauces. FYI, this is only available after 11am for lunch and dinner.
If you’re Jones-ing for some food at the airport, there is also a more casual, cafeteria style Tsui Wah location there called Tsui Wah Eatery.
While these selections aren’t the cheapest eats in Hong Kong, they’re great deals at sanitary conditions. Plus all of my recommendations are under $10US per meal and they’re delicious so it’s worth it!