A hidden gem with an old-school feel
Fairy lights and fantastic food
The good things in life don’t always come easy. That’s as true in the world of Cooked Food Centres as anywhere else. Sure, you could stick around the island and poke your head into Tung Po Seafood Restaurant or Bowrington Road Cooked Food Centre every once in a while. But if the thought of crossing the water for dinner is enough to give you a nosebleed, you’re missing out on so much cooked food fun.
There are some great Cooked Food Centres on Hong Kong Island. But there are just as many hidden gems in Kowloon and the New Territories waiting to show you a good time. They may take a little extra effort to get out to for island folk. But the fun is in the adventure, not just the eating. And what’s a forty-five minute journey between friends?
One of the coolest New Territory cooked food centres is not actually a Cooked Food Centre at all. Located in the middle of Sha Tin‘s Wo Che Estate in a large outdoor covered patio, Wo Che Estate Market is an open-air affair more in line with dai pai dong of old than the Cooked Food Centres that have replaced them. With its twinkling fairy lights wrapped around the railings, its corrugated iron and tarpaulin roof, it looks like it has been thrown together in a hungry hurry with an eye firmly on the good stuff inside. But if the setting isn’t exactly the Mandarin Oriental, everything we love about the cooked food centre experience is still very much present and correct.
Good things come to those who wait
The first thing you should know about visiting Wo Che Market, is that it gets busy. Turn up between 7pm and 9pm on the weekends, and chances are your table-pouncing skills are going to be put sternly to the test. That’s no bad thing of course. At least you know that there are no free tables for a very good reason. Plus, you get to check out some of the delicious dishes flying by in the meantime, giving you extra inspiration when you order.
Inside, there are usually two or three restaurants firing up for the night time rush, each serving your classic dai pai dong dishes. The largest and consistently busiest of the three is Chan Kun Kee (陳根記). With its rowdy, jam-packed atmosphere and a steady stream of waiters in their smiley-faced waistcoats rushing by with trays full of steaming dishes, there’s that usual Cooked Food Centre feel, and no shortage of beer, that seems to complement the food so well.
And what of the food? The Chan Kun Kee seafood is always a good bet. The salt and pepper cuttlefish, stir-fried clams in black bean sauce, deep-fried squid, oyster pancakes, and deliciously fresh spring onion and soy sauce steamed fish, are all big favourites, with tray after tray leaving the open kitchen area. They do a beautiful drunken chicken and damn tasty crispy tofu rolls with a tangy vinegar dip. The shredded chicken also seemed to be popular favourites amongst the locals, as did the roasted pigeon.
The food is definitely of the no nonsense variety at Wo Che Market. With the number of people that need serving on any given evening, it’s very much a fry it up and get it out arrangement. Yet the quality of the food, generous portions and great price, make it definitely worth the trip.
If you’re the type that can’t stand waiting for a table and are likely to feel cheated if the food isn’t then up to Michelin standard, best stick to what you know. If, however, you’re the type that loves a Saturday night trek into the New Territories in search of fantastic food and a damn good time to go with it, you can add Wo Che Estate to your list.
Related Posts: For more Cooked Food Centre reviews click tag: cooked food centres. Or, if you want to make a day of it in Sha Tin, check out some of these related posts that will definitely help you work up an appetite.
Get Involved: If you’ve been to Wo Che Estate Market or have your own cooked food king, let us know in the comments below.
How to get to Wo Che Estate Market
MTR: The closest MTR station to the Wo Che Estate is Fo Tan Station Exit A. To get from the station to the estate, take a right out out of the station and head down the hill along the path beside the MTR tracks. Follow the path through the subway until you reach the estate. You should then be able to make your way through the tower blocks to the market on the north side of Wo Che Plaza. It’s about a ten minute walk from station to market.
Bus: If you would prefer to take the bus, bus 170 runs from Hong Kong island through Causeway Bay and Kowloon before reaching Sha Tin station. Check out the Hong Kong buses website for further information.
Chan Kun Kee （陳根記),
No. 3 – 5 Wo Che Estate Market, Sha Tin
Open daily from around 5pm to 1:00am