Dai pai dongs are open-air food stalls, serving cheap meals such as congee, rice with roasted meals and noodles, that were once very popular in Hong Kong. These stalls are considered as important part of Hong Kong culture and efforts are being made to preserve them.
The name literally means "restaurant with a big license plate" but the term has evolved to refer to any food stall operating on the streetside with foldable tables, chairs and no air-conditioning. The officially recognized ones, or those which actually have the "big licenses" have diminished over the years. As of last count, there are only 28 remaining official dai pai dong stalls in the whole of Hong Kong, mostly located in in Central (10), Sham Shui Po (14), Wan Chai (1), Tai Hang (2), and Tai O (1).
But being "unofficial" is not necessarily a bad thing. Some of these street food stalls serve good quality eats and refreshing thirst-quenchers at very affordable prices. If you are not picky and have a strong stomach, these dai pai dongs can be excellent sources of satisfying and cheap eats in the city.
One of the unique features of the dai pai dongs is that customers can order tailor-made dishes. Because there is limited tables and chairs, it is considered good manners to share tables with total strangers.
Several dai pai dongs are usually clustered in one area and "cross-stall ordering" is allowed. This means that a customer can sit and order noodles in one stall and order his milk tea from another.
Stalls operating in daytime also serve different kinds of meals than those doing business at night. Nighttime dai pai dongs usually sell seafood and other dishes that are a bit pricier. Day-time dai pai dongs, on the other hand, offer cheaper meals like congee, rice with roasted meals and noodles.
Some of the best dai pai dongs are those located in Temple Street near the Temple Street Markets. The ones in Graham Street in the heart of Central are also very popular, usually jampacked with office workers during lunch hours. There are also good dai pai dongs along Haiphong Road near Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui.