Hong Kong’s Tai Po Market | A Walking Food Tour

I love food markets! Visiting them during our travels is one of my very favourite activities; I find them captivating!

I get so excited seeing all the goods for sale – fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, some of which I have never seen before… not to mention all the specialist food and drink products, with entire stalls dedicated to variations of a single item such as rice noodles, pickles, preserved seafood, offal…

I can watch vendors prepare and serve, and customers select and buy, for hours and hours without getting bored. Of course, food markets are often so visually stimulating that I cannot help but take a tonne of photographs, doing my best not to get in the way of those who work there, or are trying to do their shopping!

In January, we visited Hong Kong for the first time – a destination I’ve longed to visit for many years.

I was keen to explore the food markets I’d read about in Tai Po Market (the name applies to the neighbourhood and the local station). With limited mobility on my part, I wanted to see as much as we could in as short a routing as possible. Although I usually visit markets on my own, this time I booked us a guided walking tour with Hong Kong Food Crawlers, the idea being to tour the area with a local expert to help us identify what we were looking at and seek out the best things to eat and buy. Our private half day tour cost HK$ 1795 for the two of us, approximately £180 at the exchange rate during our visit.

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On the day we meet founder and guide Ashley at Tai Po Market station, about 50 minutes by train from our home base in Tsim Sha Tsui. Tai Po is out in the New Territories of Hong Kong (not far from where Ashley grew up) and the market areas form the older part of the district.

Just a short hop from the station is the Tai Po Hui Market, housed in a huge and modern purpose-built multi-storey building since 2004.

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We start the day with breakfast in the vast food court on the market building’s top floor.

First, a bowl each of savoury broth filled with fresh rice noodles (in three different styles) and topped with fish balls, fish cakes and crispy fish skin. Each filling bowl is HK$ 30 – about £3 at today’s exchange rate and is full of flavour and different textures. The soup is made by one of Ashley’s favourite shops in the food court, number CFS36.

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We also enjoy another Hong Kong classic – deep fried French toast with butter, condensed milk and kaya (coconut) spread. Incredibly good! After those filling bowls of noodle soup, the three of us share a portion for HK$ 19, ordered from neighbouring shop CFS37.

Ashley also introduces us to a fabulously refreshing soft drink – a salty preserved lemon served with Seven Up lemonade – she uses the straw to break up the lemon so the flavour mixes into the drink to make it wonderfully salty sweet. HK$ 18.

On our way out to explore the rest of the market below, we pause for another sweet treat, a Chinese steamed red bean and rice flour pudding, served hot straight from the steamer. At just HK$ 5, this is a great value snack.

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The wet market is split into sections and floors according to the kind of produce being sold – fish and meat, fruit and vegetables and all kinds of other products.

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I’m mesmerised by the skilled actions of the salesmen and women and fascinated to see so many products that are unfamiliar to me.

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At one grocery stall there are fungi that look like the kind of sponges I use to wash my face, others that look like carved wooden spearheads and some that look altogether alien in origin!

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One stall specialises in rice noodles in all kinds of different shapes and textures, selling them by the weight. To one side of the stall sits an elderly lady, her fingers following a practised rhythm as she shapes fresh noodles by hand.

At another stall, a gloved and aproned man deftly makes fish balls, portioning and shaping the mix into medium sized spheres.

Mostly we just look, but I pause to buy some preserved egg yolks hanging from the awning of one of the stalls and Ashley buys us a gift of a popular snack called Ma Jai, rice crispies in a sticky sweet fried batter.

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We eventually (and somewhat reluctantly on my part) leave the wet market building to stroll through the shops in the outdoor market area.

Within this district is a small Man Mo Temple.

By the way, there are several temples in the city with this name; this is not the one most commonly listed in the Hong Kong tourist guides, that one is located in Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island.

This Man Mo Temple was built in 1891. Dedicated to the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo), it was first used as a the office for the village rural committee, where an arbitration service was provided to villagers and traders. It has been a place of worship for around 100 years, and locals often make a stop during their shopping excursions to ask for blessings for themselves and their families.

There’s something magical about the huge conical incense coils hung from the ceiling, and the smoky haze they create makes the small temple space more mysterious. It’s a good place to pause and rest from the busy bustle of the market outside.

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Many of the shops in the streets outside sell similar fresh produce to the vendors inside the wet market building, but there are also shops selling dried preserved seafood, specialist foods and decoration for Chinese New Year (which falls soon after our visit), and a couple specialising in household and kitchenware.

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I could easily spend hours more here, watching shop owners and shoppers in action…

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Our guide Ashley, pausing for me to catch up once I’ve taken another thousand photos!

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After an hour or two of exploring the markets, it’s time to stop for another treat and I’m delighted that Ashley takes us straight to Ah Poh Dau Fu Fa (Granny’s Tofu Flower) on Tai Kwong Lane, a place also recommended to me by my instagram and blogger friend LucyLovesToEat.

This place is hugely popular with locals and I suspect many of our fellow customers have made the pilgrimage from from outside the neighbourhood too – the silken tofu pudding here is that good!

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It’s a very simple dessert – a bowl full of slippery smooth tofu swimming in ginger syrup and topped with bright yellow palm sugar, served hot or cold as you prefer.

At less than HK$ 10 per bowl, it’s hard to resist going back for more.

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After our reviving tofu pudding, we head back to the train station to travel a couple of stops to Fo Tan.

I had mentioned to Ashley while planning our tour that I would love to see behind the scenes of products being made and she suggested visiting the factory space of a traditional Cantonese bakery, where we could watch the staff make and package a variety of traditional treats.

The company has been in business for over 40 years and sells to bakeries across Hong Kong, rather than through shops of its own. The factory is located on the 7th floor of the Century Industrial Center, but it’s not really meant to be open to visitors so you may be refused entry if you go on your own.

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Ashley has already okayed our visit, so we’re welcomed in and allowed to watch the expert bakers at work.

Although the factory isn’t a shop, it is geared up for trade buyers coming in to purchase and the staff are happy for us to buy a few packets of their various specialities, all of which are just HK$4 per packet.

Of course, any keen visitor could head to Tai Po Market without a guide, and indeed some friends of ours in Hong Kong at the same time visited the next day after we enthused about our wonderful visit. But if your time is limited, or you would like to have a local expert at hand to tell you what you’re seeing, help you find all the best places and show you what to eat, then a food tour such as ours, from Hong Kong Food Crawlers, is an excellent idea.

Tips on where to stay in Hong Kong, what to eat in Hong Kong, and when to visit Hong Kong.

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90 Comments to "Hong Kong’s Tai Po Market | A Walking Food Tour"

  1. Jane Willis

    Oh what a nostalgia fest this post was for me! Back in the late 1970s, I lived in Fan Ling (it was then the next stop on the train after Tai Po, heading out away from the city) and did most of my shopping in Tai Po market. But back then, there was no market building, just a network of streets and alleyways crammed with tiny stalls and hawkers. The big new building looks far more hygienic, and it must be easier to find everything, but I fear it may not have as much character.
    However looking at the photos of the surrounding streets and shops, nothing else much seems to have changed. Sometimes our sterile British identikit high streets make me yearn for the colour, vibrancy and chaos of the wonderful New Territories towns and villages.
    Jane

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    What a wonderful set of memories you must have of living there! The new market building still has a really lively feel, and the food court on the top floor is amazing! I think since there are still plenty of traditional shops all around, it’s a good mix but of course it must have been incredible to visit before that new build came in.

    Reply
  2. Fiona Maclean

    I love your photos of this market. What did the preserved egg yolks taste like?

    I’m with you – I could spend hours walking round a place like this – you are lucky to have had the chance to do just that!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Salty, firm, eggy!
    Yes, was wonderful to spend a few hours here, could have spent even more!

    Reply
  3. Emily Coates

    Loved this round up – everything looks so interesting! I went to Hong Kong with family when I was 19 as a lot less foodie. I wish I could go back and appreciate all these things like I would now. Food markets are awesome. We did go up up Ngong Ping on the cable car and luckily I loved tea then as much as I do now – so we spent time at the tea houses 🙂

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I know what you mean, I want to go back to places I visited before really thinking about and researching the local food in advance, and therefore missing some potential treats!!

    Reply
  4. Evelyne CulturEatz

    Suchan amazing posts, all the photos are so gorgeous. Love the breafast and silken tofu. And i am a big fan of tempes there so nice to see the Man Mo Temple! I can spend hours in a market too.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    The breakfast and silken tofu were so good! Thanks for your kind comments, glad you like the photos.

    Reply
  5. Talin

    I love food markets too. I don’t think I’ve been to Tai Po, bookmarking it for next time. What fabulous pictures, love it!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    It’s out in the new territories, rather than the areas that visitors often tour, but well worth visiting, and only half hour on the metro!

    Reply
  6. kaveyeats

    I’m sure you’d enjoy it, Jemma, lots of inspiration for recipe development too!

    Reply
  7. Isobel Lee

    Your photography is stunning – really got a flavour of this market! I love food tours too and this blog post has really whet my appetite.

    Reply
  8. Sarah

    Love the photos of the food! Food markets are some of my favorite places to see too, for the reasons you mentions, and your photos gave me some nostalgia for my visits to markets around the world. We biked through a bit of one in Bangkok and I related to your comment about trying to stay out of the way – it can get so crowded! Especially with a camera or bike. Great article.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    The markets of Bangkok are high on my wishlist so I hope to visit soon. Love the image of yuo riding through on a bike!

    Reply
  9. Jackie

    Truthfully, who doesn’t love food markets? These photos are so inviting and I just want to jump in and eat everything LOL but seriously deep fried French toast with butter? Sign me up!

    Reply
  10. Jennifer

    Holy market full of foods I am totally unfamiliar with, Batman! I’d definitely need a guide and food tour to even begin to navigate all these things. But it sure would be fun to wander around looking at all those things.

    The thing I’m dying to do in Hong Kong is a dim sum tour. I’ve never done any research, but I’m sure they must exist.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    A lot of the food tour operators offer customised private tours – that’s what we did in this case, liaising with Ashley about what we wanted to see and do. Am sure she or one of the others could come up with a dim sum tour for you!

    Reply
  11. kaveyeats

    It’s a bit farther out from the usual areas that visitors explore, but not so far that it’s a pain to get to, so if you go back, hope you are able to visit!

    Reply
  12. Lucy

    Wow what an amazing place to visit, I love seeing all the food stalls selling interesting foods. Brilliant to see behind the scenes of the bakery too! That tofu dessert looks gorgeous, mmm.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, totally amazing place to visit and I was like the proverbial kid in a sweet shop the whole time. That tofu pudding was divine!

    Reply
  13. Brianna

    I am not very familiar with Asian foods, so I really need to do a tour like this. I think if I ever visit Hong Kong, this would be one of the first things I’d do. That deep fried french toast sure does look good!

    Reply
  14. Karla

    Gosh, I’ve been to this place and just like you, I really eat a lot in HK, I find myself on a “food tour” daily but for a very good reason, the food there is good.

    Reply
  15. Emma @ Supper in the Suburbs

    It looks like you had an amazing time. I’m the same. Will always try to visit a food market if I can. HK has been on our list for a while too. Will have to pin this for when I eventually make it!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    It’s definitely worth heading into the New Territories to visit this neighbourhood if you have time!

    Reply
  16. orangewayfarer

    The China markets are amazing everywhere in the Asian continent! So far I have experienced in Vietnam, Thailand and India (the one in Kolkata) How I love them! thanks a lot for sharing 🙂

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Wonderful, I’ve not been to those markets yet but will get there one day!

    Reply
  17. Anita

    I loved Hong Kong when I visited it a few years ago. I must admit you have done a very deep exploration of food markets. Your pictures look amazing. I would love to see more one day myself. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  18. Alaine

    Sounds like you had quite the foodie tour of Hong Kong! I’ve been to Hong Kong numerous times and have never been to that market. Too mesmerised by the shopping and dimsum! OMG dimsum in Hong Kong is seriously the BEST!!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I didn’t do as well on dim sum as I hoped, though we did have a couple of tasty experiences, so that’s something I need to do better next time. Hope you get to Tai Po Market on your next trip.

    Reply
  19. Katherine

    Would of been so interesting to watch the bakers and the smell of fresh baking! mmm… Hong Kong is on my list to visit and you’ve really shown how great the food markets look.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes I loved seeing that… we didn’t interact much with them as they were hard at work, and it was nice just to be allowed in and given permission to watch and photograph. But I would have loved to know even more!

    Reply
  20. amit

    This is great, I loved food market’s in South East Asia and in Singapore – These ones in Hong Honk look amazing. Can’t wait to experience them when I go there.

    Reply
  21. Drew

    I was just in Hong Kong yesterday! I live nearby in Shenzhen, so popping back over to check out Tai Po Market. Great overview of the area with fantastic photos. And you had me at deep-fried french toast with condensed milk!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Oh how wonderful, I’m glad you’ll be able to act on this post and go visit really soon! I am sure you’ll love the food court on the top floor of the wet market, and then exploring all the levels in the building and then the streets outside!!

    Reply
  22. Jenny

    I love markets and this looks like a great one, and good idea taking a tour so you have someone to tell you what everything is! In many parts of Asia I just have to wonder at the things I’m seeing and use my imagination as to how they might be used.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, it really helped having someone guide is, not only in what we were looking at but also practicalities such as ordering in the food court! As it’s not a particularly high volume tourist destination, the menus and so on are often not in English.

    Reply
  23. Susanna

    I have a few friends who live in HK and I am always so envious of their food photos and yours do not disappoint either. It shows a very lively scene with some unique food. I loved that you got to take a tour and it’s amazing it looks like almost everything is made by hand. I would love to eat my way through HK>

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Thank you, yes it’s really a very food-loving place, and for me, many of the foods are not familiar, which makes them even more fascinating!

    Reply
  24. Wendy

    i love food markets! Especially in Asia where you can try all sorts of stuff you normally could not get back home. Your photos are really nice and show a good atmosphere of the market. That silken tofu pudding looked good!

    Reply
  25. Beth Jarrett

    There’s nothing I love more than walking through a food market! It’s full of culture and colour and not to mention, delicious food and smells. Your breakfast looked amazing!

    Reply
  26. Shruti Prabhu

    Oh! I love walking tours and I love food tours. Perfect combination of both! The dessert looks yummy! I bet this was a problem of plenty! I personally would make a beeline to the rice noodles.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yeah the rice noodles were great in the soup and I loved seeing the specialist food stall, a lady was sitting at the side making some more as we watched.

    Reply
  27. Jacky

    Wow, your pictures make me so hungry! I think I would never get my husband away from these market stalls 😀 I’d especially love to try the silken tofu pudding.

    Reply
  28. Sandy N Vyjay

    The Tai Po Hui Market seems to capture the vibrancy and colour of Hong Kong. When we were in HK, we too stayed at Tshim Tsa Tsui, but we were not able to visit the Tai Po Hui Market, because of a packed itinerary. Now I Know what we missed. The Tofu dessert looks really tempting, no wonder it attracts so many people.

    Reply
  29. Juliette | Snorkels to Snow

    Agreed, markets are a great way to explore a new place and local culture! The silken tofu pudding looks really interesting, would love to sample some of that. Markets like these really capture the essence of the local people.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Was delicious and yes, such a great place to get a feel for local life.

    Reply
  30. Megan Jerrard

    I love visiting local markets also, though I’ve never thought of exploring with a guide. I can definitely see the benefits, especially when there’s so much to see and do, it’s nice to have someone how knows which stalls to take you to, can explain what different things are, and talk to the shop owners on your behalf. Ashley sounds like a great guide, it was awesome that they pre organized access to the bakery for you – sounds like a cool experience to see behind the scenes! Thanks for the tip on Hong Kong Food Crawlers – will be sure to book when we hit Tai Po Market!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, I totally agree. Of course, we could have explored on our own but having Ashley guiding us meant we got to do more in a tighter time frame, and she was there to explain what some of the unfamiliar food items were!

    Reply
  31. Guy Crotty

    This is gold! I love food markets of all shapes and sizes for exactly the reasons you mention. I never went to the Tai po markets when we were last there but sounds right up my alley. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  32. Travelling Dany

    Just like you, we also love food tours, especially when we’re abroad! So we read this article with great interest, and loved your pictures! Thank you for being so detailled!

    Reply
  33. Emily

    I love the vibrancy of markets like this one! There’s always so much that I don’t recognise in them so taking a tour is a great idea. Other advantages are getting to see places like the bakery where you wouldn’t normally be allowed to visit. Great photos – really made me want to visit!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes on both counts, it’s great to have someone you can ask whenever you have a question and the visit to the bakery factory was a bonus!

    Reply
  34. Nina

    I love different markets are around the world! So many colours and neat signs. tofu pudding is one of my favourites, yum!

    Reply
  35. Sia

    i love visiting local markets, they are so colorful and authentic. What I love more though, is a food market! Fish is definitely not my thing but I would love to try those rice noodles in different shapes.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Definitely lots of other dishes available featuring those rice noodles, and of course much more. Hope you get to visit!

    Reply
  36. Edith & Juan

    Wow! So many pictures of the markets. You really captured the vibe. We also love markets, food, and just walking around so this is our type of place. Probably something I’d enjoy visiting. Great job capturing those pictures.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Thank you, I’m so glad you liked them, I hope they give a glimpse of what this neighbourhood is like.

    Reply
  37. cookilicious

    I too enjoy exploring local markets. You find such unique and rare ingredients hidden in these markets! Enjoyed reading your post.

    Reply
  38. Sam

    I love exploring new markets, looks like they have some great food choices! Thanks for sharing

    Reply
  39. Dom

    Hong Kong is such a great city for foodies. My tummy was rumbling when I was reading through. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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