Alongside quintessential Hong Kong eateries like cha chaan tengs and hawker stalls is the humble dai pai dong — larger street food stalls that often feature simple table-and-chair setups streetside. While they might serve similar food that you can find at a cha chaan teng, such as noodles, fried rice and sandwiches, the culture surrounding them is fairly different.
Dai pai dong food stalls started popping up in the early 20th century. While they were originally granted operating licenses by the government, they began to be bought back and phased out due to hygiene concerns. Now, around only 20 establishments are left, with others migrating into cooked food centers, transforming into proper restaurants, or closing completely.
If you go to a dai pai dong, expect lots of racket, sitting next to strangers, and ordering your food from neighboring stalls as well as the one you’re dining at — but it’s all part of the experience.