Many first-timers to Hong Kong may hear the term ‘cha chaan teng’ bandied about, but what exactly is it? Most commonly found in Hong Kong, though now you can find them in Chinatowns in the UK, Australia and the US, a cha chaan teng is a Chinese tea diner that serves Hong Kong-Western style dishes on the cheap. Well known snacks include wonton noodles, scrambled egg and ham sandwiches, instant noodles with luncheon meat and beef and rice dishes, accompanied by popular drinks such as milk tea, ovaltine and lemon tea. For the uninitiated, cups of black tea are plonked onto your table before you peruse the menu (both Chinese and English you’ll be glad to hear) and then you can flag down a passing waiter, who will take down your order in a blasé manner, seemingly without paying attention.
These are my top 4 picks:
Tsui Wah Restaurant G-2/F, 15-19 Wellington Street, Central
Other branches in Central, Aberdeen, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei.
Some of you may be familiar with Tsui Wah, an all time favourite with clubbers who stumble out of bars in LKF and straight into this establishment to slurp bowls of noodles and chow down on toast. This grand institution of cha chaan tengs has several chains dotted around HK and Kowloon and is a go-to for a quick bite.
My top picks? Definitely the satay beef instant noodles or the pork luncheon meat with fried egg instant noodles, followed by the absolutely scrumptious ultimate comfort snack, the condensed milk pork chop bun. A very, very generous spread of sweet condensed milk on buttered lightly toasted pork chop bun (without the pork chop). I adore the buttery taste against the sweetness of the condensed milk. Pure decadence.
Something even more buttery, sweet, rich and sinful is the peanut butter and condensed milk on toast. The sweet toothed should definitely order this snack. Warning – food coma will strike almost instantaneously.
Café Matchbox 8 Cleveland Street, Causeway Bay
This little gem has decked out its interiors in a Hong Kong ’60s style, with funky green and white tiling on the walls, tacky plastic lights, green blinds and the strains of Canto music of years gone by, playing in the background. I love it.
The menu is jam packed with local comfort food, from your baked rice dishes to your soup noodles/ macaroni combo with good ol’ spam or ham with a fried egg. They also churn out some cracking traditional desserts such as egg tarts, mango pudding and cream cakes.
The best set meal there is the chicken pie in green pea soup followed by banana hotcakes. The other set offers scrambled egg and ham with a thick piece of buttered toast to start, followed by BBQ pork and peas in a noodle soup. Not as exciting but definitely just as comforting.
The green pea soup is an arresting sight as it’s very green. The chicken pie pastry is exactly like the pastry used to make the egg tarts- sweet, light and just the right kind of flaky and the sweetness makes an interesting but moreish contrast against the savoriness of the soup. The best part of the meal is definitely the banana hotcakes. Two gorgeous soft and fluffy hotcakes drenched in syrup and a drizzle of cream, topped with slices of banana and walnuts.
Hokkaido Dairy Farm Milk Restaurant Shop B, Capital Building, 6-10 Sun Wui Road Causeway Bay
2504 3138 hokkaidodairyfarm.com/
Hokkaido Dairy Farm Milk Restaurant 8/F, The Loop, 33 Wellington Street, Central
2810 0011 hokkaidodairyfarm.com
This is another small cha chaan teng in Causeway Bay that uses Japanese Hokkaido milk to make its food. There are several sets to choose from including the Breakfast set, the Sandwich set and the popular Hokkaido set which comes with fried eggs and ham on toast, (you can choose how you want your eggs), spaghetti in soup with BBQ pork and a choice of either Hokkaido coffee or tea.
There’s also the rather impressive looking 3 inch fried egg sandwich with your choice of meat filling- luncheon meat, corned beef or sausage.
Delicious at anytime of the day!
Capital Café Shop B1, G/F, Kwong Sang Hong Building, 6 Heard Street, Wan Chai
This quiet, little establishment in Wan Chai has cool, retro black and white tiling, Cantopop albums hanging on the wall and a huge spread of the singers’ signatures displayed proudly for all to see, (the owner, I read, is a former manager at Capital Records).
I really like this place for its no nonsense menu, very clearly laying out all that we love and adore in cha chaan tengs- thick, buttery toast, scrambled or fried eggs with ham and macaroni soup.
The sets are simple and cheap as chips at $25 for a breakfast set of macaroni and ham, fried eggs, toast and coffee or tea. The scrambled eggs are smooth and creamy, the toast fat and glistening with buttery goodness and the milk tea sweet and strong to start the day.
Eating and Reporting by Sassy Food Blogger, Michelle Ng of ChopstixFix. Michelle is a Chinese-Malaysian by way of London, who has loved food since time immemorial. One of her favourite phrases is, “Live to eat, not eat to live”! Food for Michelle is more than just eating. It’s such an integral part of everyday life; the smells, the memories, the sheer joy taken over savoring each morsel, hunting and searching for the “best”.