HONG KONG — The buildings are tall, the neon is bright, and the cheap eats are fabulous in Hong Kong. Last fall, my niece Jenny and I took the two-hour train from Guangzhou in hopes of eating ourselves silly in a day and a half. With a list of noodle and seafood restaurants in our pocket, all recommended by a local friend, imagine our surprise as we tracked down these hole-in-the-wall joints and found photos of Anthony Bourdain on the wall. OK, so we weren’t the first to discover these places, but they are noteworthy nonetheless.
This bustling fast-food restaurant offers three staples: A fragrant, porridge-like rice soup (congee) with a dozen choices of add-ins such as sliced pork, fish ball, or pig’s liver; braised noodles with vegetables, fish, or stewed spiced ox-brisket; and noodle soup with vegetables, meat, or scrumptious shrimp dumplings. The host seats you at any available table, even one partially occupied. No use asking for napkins (they don’t have them), and water is served hot in 4-ounce plastic glasses. A chilled mini-bottle of Coke is $1. Our favorite: Deep-fried shrimp dumplings with a squirt of mayo on the side. $3.10-$4.10. 140 Des Voeux
Road Central, 011-852-2541-
Located on a steep street between Queen’s Road, in the glitzy business and shopping district, and an artsy area known as Soho, the focus of the menu here is — no surprise — noodles. It’s a tiny space, with a half-dozen green linoleum booths, a few round tables, and the chef on display in a glass-enclosed kitchen near the entrance. We sampled shrimp wontons and thin noodles floating in a rich broth of dried fish, shrimp, and shrimp roe. Other choices include beef tendon, brisket, pork dumplings, and fried shrimp roe with oyster sauce. Portions are small by US standards; a good thing when eating lunch twice in one day. $4-$5.50. 77 Wellington St.,
Temple Spice Crab
On the Kowloon side of the city, near the bargain-filled “Night Market,” this festive corner dining spot is open to the street. The menu features seafood: spicy crab, spicy grilled prawn, clams with black bean sauce, mussels, and more, plus noodles, crunchy green spicy beans, bok choy, and other quick, fresh dishes. Patrons squeeze together on benches at long tables. Rolls of toilet paper serve as napkins. Beer is the beverage of choice with 32-ounce bottles $1.90-$3.25. $5-$25. 210 Temple St., Kow-