Typhoon shelter crab is a dish that is very unique to Hong Kong and has a fascinating history. Its roots can be traced back to the typhoon shelters of Hong Kong, which were built to protect what used to be a large boat-dwelling community of fisherfolk and their families.
The boat-dwelling communities sold snacks, opened restaurants, and even offered entertainment from the boats. The typhoon shelter crab was a popular dish that arose from these restaurants.
The popular dish moved beyond the typhoon shelters and eventually made its way into Hong Kong's local restaurants. Over time, most of the boat-dwellers moved inland. The "marine population" in Hong Kong dropped from 130,000+ people in the early 1960's to just a little over a thousand by 2011. The era of dining on sampans in the typhoon shelters pretty much died out in the 1990's.
Typhoon Shelter Seafood Meal
In 2011, Chef Leung Hoi, a local chef who grew up in the typhoon shelter boat communities, successfully obtained a license to run a boat restaurant.
Shun Kee Typhoon Shelter, a floating restaurant located "off the coast" of Causeway Bay, offers dining in individual, traditional sampans docked right at the bay.
The Boat Ride from the Shore
Getting there involves first hopping into a little boat which takes you to the "dining boats". Don't be late! They'll tell you when to be at the dock to catch this little "transfer" boat.
The ride from the shore to the dining boats is short, but the views are stunning.
Each party gets its own individual boat. Our meal was about HK$500 per person (we had a party of 6 people) for the multi-course meal that you'll see in more detail below.
We asked the lady serving us how long she'd been at the restaurant, and she said "over 20 years." Chef Leung hired several former boat dwelling neighbors to join him in working at this restaurant, so it's quite possible that our server was an old time neighbor (I regret not asking at the time!).
All of the food is made at a central boat kitchen, and then "ferried" over to the individual boats by a server.
The Shun Kee Typhoon Shelter Boat Set Meal
Boiled prawns simply enjoyed for their inherent sweet flavor. These come with head and shell on, so you'll have to get your hands dirty to enjoy this dish.
Boiled sea snails, or whelk, is another simple dish. Just pluck out the bouncy, chewy meat from the shell with toothpicks.
Steamed razor clams with vermicelli and garlic is a classic Hong Kong seafood dish, and this one was delicious.
"Hand-Shredded Chicken" was a cold dish and also included chicken feet, chicken gizzards, as well as pig ears.
Typhoon Shelter soy sauce stir-fried clams was fresh and full of flavor.
The star of the show is, of course, the Typhoon Shelter Fried Crab. The crispy garlic is addictive and certainly the best part. The pairing with the crab is perfect, and it's hard not to put the garlic topping on EVERYTHING.
The token vegetable, steamed Chinese broccoli with soy sauce.
The amenities on the boat are pretty basic. There is a bathroom, but you need to use a bucket and draw water to "flush" it yourself. Other than that, overall we found the boat to be pretty comfortable.
General Thoughts: Shun Kee Typhoon Shelter Boat Dining
The food served on this boat is tasty, authentic, and no-fuss. The ingredients are fresh, and the preparation is simple. Is it the best I've had? In such a competitive environment as Hong Kong, there are plenty of excellent seafood restaurants in Sai Kung and the outerlying islands (Lamma, Peng Chau, Cheung Chau) that make arguably better versions of these seafood dishes. Same goes for typhoon shelter crab.
However, it's hard to beat the unique environment of this meal. We six gals had the whole boat to ourselves the entire evening. It felt comfortable, private, even "safe" during those Covid times (since it was outdoors). The view of Causeway Bay was stunning. The food was still very, very good.
All in all, I would not hesitate to come back here, especially if I am entertaining out-of-town friends. As an overall package, Shun Kee Typhoon Shelter offers a pretty unique Hong Kong experience in a location that's surprisingly convenient (right near Causeway Bay), yet feels like you have traveled to one of the outerlying islands.
The best part? I just walked along the harbour back home to Wan Chai. So convenient!
There are only limited number of boats, and it's not easy to book. Definitely book ahead!
Shun Kee Typhoon Shelter Boat
Water Selling Kiosk