Hong Kong is a place full of Michelin-starred restaurants, glamorous champagne brunches, and rooftop patios bubbling over with beautiful people, sipping their expensive cocktails. All that is nice, but sometimes you need to break away from the high-life and get back to basics in order to try some really incredible food, at reasonable prices.

This is where cooked food centres come in. A step up from dai pai dongs (sidewalk food stalls), cooked food centres are typically housed in a municipal building, alongside the local wet market (so you know the ingredients are really, really fresh), sports centre, library, and bathrooms.

Photo by Greg Lane

Cooked food centres therefore serve as a friendly neighbourhood hub; and a place where people can gather for excellent but inexpensive meals. The digs are pretty basic—think big, round tables surrounded by plastic stools and the sound of roaring woks—but if you don’t mind the simplicity of the surroundings, you’ll be rewarded with generous portions of awesome food.

Each cooked food centre is a little bit different, and often reflects the demographics of a neighbourhood. For example, the urban-centred Sheung Wan Cooked Food Centre has a wide range of stalls, selling Vietnamese, Indian, and even Italian. But visit a Cooked Food Centre in a more rural area and you’ll likely only find local Chinese dishes.

To help you find and enjoy this culinary experience, here’s a list of markets with cooked food centres near major tourist attractions, so that you can combine a day of sightseeing with some low-key local dining.

Queen Street Cooked Food Market

With a great location in Sheung Wan, this market is popular with locals and expats alike, with lots of menus available in English. ABC Kitchen is especially popular for pasta, paella and roasted suckling pig, while Chautari has Indian and Nepalese cuisine.

Near: Western Market, Dried Seafood Street

Bowrington Road Market

Right in the middle of the action in Causeway Bay. You need to try the roasted duck on a bed of rice, or the various curry dishes, from Wai Kee, before going to the races at Happy Valley.

Near: Times Square, Happy Valley Racecourse, Hong Kong Tramways

bowrington road cooked food centres hong kong
Photo by Wpcpey used under CC

Fa Yuen Street Market

Located just north of the Ladies Market, the cooked food centre is on the 4th floor of the Fa Yuen Market. The most sought-after dish here is simple but delicious congee from Mui Kee, guaranteed to warm you up on a cold day.

Near: Ladies Market

fa yuen street market cooked food centre hong kong
Photo by Wing1990hk used under CC

Kowloon City Market

It’s all about Thai food here, in Hong Kong’s “Little Bangkok” area, where cuisine from the Land of Smiles reigns. Amporn Thai Food is well known for its crowd-pleasing green curry, pad thai, and sticky rice with mango.

Near: Kowloon Walled City Park

Yue Wan Market

After hiking Hong Kong’s most famous trail, the Dragon’s Back, head to the Yue Wan Cooked Food Centre, a stone’s throw from Chai Wan MTR Station. Have some stir-fried noodles from Kam Kee, and wash it down with a cold Blue Girl before heading home.

Near: The Dragon’s Back

Yue Wan Market Cooked Food Centre Hong Kong
Photo by YWFLum1un I0701 used under CC

Nam Long Shan Market

There’s a mix of Cantonese and Shanghainese food here, but one of the crowd pleasers is the Thai food from Pattaya (that’s the name of the stall), such as the sweet, sweet pineapple fried rice.

Near: Ocean Park

Mui Wo Cooked Food Centre

A few seconds from the ferry pier, this is an amazing open-air food centre right on the ocean, with beautiful views of the beach and surrounding mountains. Come for the view, but stay for the spiced salt squid from Wah Kee, and spend the afternoon relaxing on the sand.

Photo by Emily Dickson

Near: Silvermine Beach, Lantau Island