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LNII Series: Daipaidong (Big Row Stall)

LNII stands for Lower Ngau Tau Kwok (II) Estate, the last resettlement estate to be redeveloped in Hong Kong. The first six instalments of this series can be read here, here, here, here, here and here. The photos presented in this series were taken by me with my GX200 during my two visits to the estate. Okay, it is about daipaidong this time.

R0013476 (Medium)
(This is a remaining daipaidong in LNII located right next to the ground floor lobby of this residential block)

If there is one thing famous about LNII, it must be its daipaidongs. In their heydays, these daipaidongs sprawled into almost every corner on the ground floor between the residential blocks at night. It was quite a sight really.

"But wait. What is a daipaidong for goodness sake?" you may wonder.

Daipaidong is a quint-essentially old-Hong Kong style of eateries for cheap eats. The original daipaidong has two parts, namely, the open-air kitchen and the alfresco dining area. The kitchen is actually a makeshift stall made with wood or iron sheets, with a big sheet of nylon sunshade dpd_1956_MKoverhead. Except for the open side giving(This is an origial daipaidong at Mong Kok of Kowloon in 1956. The special squatting position
to take meals in an
original daipaidong  reminded people of coolies and drew tourists' curiosity)
access to the kitchen, the stall have foldable wings on the other three sides as tables with long wooden benches placed underneath. When business is good and the benches are full, the stall owner simply put more foldable chairs and tables sporadically around the stall to serve hungry customers. The sight of row after row of chairs and tables is probably why it is called daipaidong, literally big row stall. There are other versions to explain the origin of the name.

R0013466 (Medium)(Food is prepared near the walkway leading to the ground floor lobby of the block. The wires and cables along the ceilings are not for the daipaidong but the blocks, giving another glimpse of the poor living condition in LNII)

The 1960s and 1970s were the burgeoning years of daipaidongs when these cooked-food stalls were commonly found on streets, alleyways and not least in the resettlement housing estates like LNII. They were open until the small hours. But mostly gone are these original daipaidongs. In place of them, eateries with seats and tables spilling over onto the shop fronts are taken as modern daipaidongs. They can be found in market buildings, cooked-food kiosks in public housing estates and open markets like the Temple Street night market. The first two bear no comparison with the old daipaidongs for the crude atmosphere and the hubbub of lively (a.k.a. swearing) conversations which make daipaidong dining a very unique experience.

R0013469(The greasy stains on the wall and the fan are as spectacular as sickening.  Could it be the effect of cooking there for 40 years, the same age of LNII? Likely. And I like that big, think chopping board.  A very daipaidong sight indeed)

So head to the Temple Street night market for the daipaidong experience closest to the original one in the present-day Hong Kong.

In case you wonder what to expect in a daipaidong, here are some suggestions:

R0013470First things first, germs. The most special aspect about any greasy spoon like a daipaidong is its crudeness, including whatever defies cleanliness. So prepare a strong stomach for it in case you are lucky enough to catch germs (don’t worry because the germs will be only strong enough to cause a running stomach for a night).

(Daipaidongs are not where to take clean food for sure.  But most germs are believed to be unable to survive the fierce heat and rough environment of the kitchen) 

Second, check out for the locals in cheap T-shirts and counterfeit Levis or stinky white-yellowish vests and shorts with flip-flops on a hot summer night. These are the daipaidong dress codes, another informal aspect of daipaidongs which makes them popular among the locals. For sure, listen and tell yourself if you hear the locals speaking up in foul language.

R0013481(Baring the upper body is another daipaidong dress code, alas, at least for men)

Third, certainly, try the wide array of inexpensive homely food ranging from Canton hotpots, Si Zi Tou (literally, Lion's Head Pot which is a meat pot marinated in thick sauce with veggies) to You Yu Pin (slices of squid heavily dyed in orange colour).

R0013480(Eggs, veggies on a walkway…. Wonder where the raw meats are placed? You don't want to know.  The meat will make a tastyLion's Head Pot anyway)

Lastly, take your camera and (ask for permission to) visit the kitchen. Check out for the chefs frying ingredients in oversized iron-cast woks on huge fire which almost reach their height. Take a photo of that but don’t get burnt.

R0013471(Note that the daipaidong chefs don't wear the iconic chef hat. Look rather for sweating bald headed middle-aged guys like him)

Mark that there are different variations of modern daipaidongs. Skip the daipaidongs which are actually chachantangs (restaurants offering HK-style western dishes) in disguise. Pay a visit to a real chachantang instead. And about the heavily orange-dyed squid, it is a special Chowchau dish. Usually, a daipaidong offering the dish displays a whole giant orange-coloured squid, which cannot be missed if you look carefully.

So, is there still any old-style daipaidong in Hong Kong? The one on Wellington Street in Central, featured in the video clip below, is probably still in business. But, you know, old things are weak. And weak things can be gone in any minute.

(The marvelous video is used by permission, courtesy of Hip Hong Kong. Thank you, Liza)

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