With its distinctive spicy, sweet and sour overtones, Thai food is one of the great cuisines of the world, and has a special place in the hearts of Hong Kong’s foodies.
But have you ever wondered exactly how this cuisine became so popular in the city – and why, out of Hong Kong’s 18 districts, it was Kowloon City that was at the epicentre of this boom?
The trend began around 30 years ago, when Thai merchants started arriving in Hong Kong to trade. Before the opening of Hong Kong International Airport on Lantau Island, the city’s Kai Tak airport was right next to Kowloon City. As the rent in that area was cheaper than in commercial hubs like Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui or Mong Kok, many Thai businesses settled there.
During the 1970s and 80s, some Hongkongers, especially those who lived in the infamous Kowloon Walled City (now Kowloon Walled City Park), married women who had migrated here from Thailand. It’s not surprising that many of these migrants, unfamiliar with Hong Kong, made a living by using the skills that were unique to them – cooking traditional Thai food.
In fact, the founder of one of the best known Thai restaurants in Hong Kong, Wong Chun Chun Thai, was also a Thai bride.
As Kowloon City’s reputation for having tasty, authentic Thai food grew, more restaurants opened in the area serving the cuisine. There are now dozens to choose from, but here are five that are simply too good to miss.
This restaurant has the best lunch menus you can find anywhere in the city. Lunch includes a main course, drink, and a dessert – all for less than HK$50! The dishes are also very filling. The spicy minced pork rice looks amazing and tastes incredible, and I’d love to know how the chef makes it.
Cheong Fat Thai Noodle House
Cheong Fat Thai Noodle House is well-known for its boat noodles, a traditional dish that dates back to the days when people who worked on boats would sell small portions of noodles together with a strongly flavoured home-made soup. This street food staple usually contains pork, beef, meatballs – and pig’s liver. Try it – you won’t regret it.
Ruamjai Thai Restaurant
If you go here, you have to try the grilled fish and curry dishes. The Thai curry is not too spicy and is mixed with coconut milk for a lovely creamy taste. No matter what you eat the curry with – rice or Thai roti bread – it’s delicious. You might even be tempted to go home with a takeaway box for later!
Siamsiri Thai Food
This eatery offers some of the best Thai-style meat dishes in Kowloon City. From roast pork neck to seafood, the dishes are always bursting with flavour. The roast pork is just right – soft and tender – while the beef dishes are packed with flavour. The seafood dishes come with a variety of sauces and seasonings, and best of all, you get to choose the spice level – how much heat can you handle?
Nam Wan Shop
What sets this place apart from the others on this list is the fact that it’s takeaway only. Go ahead and order the satay: it is grilled on the spot. And even though everything is made absolutely fresh, you can pick up your order within 10 minutes, while it’s still piping hot and delicious. I also really like the grilled pork neck, which comes paired with a Thai sweet and sour sauce – it’s a winner!