French toast and pineapple buns
When you’re looking to get your milk tea and pineapple bun fix, cha chaan teng’s are the place to head. Serving up an array of staple classics, these traditional 852 eateries are typically no-fuss and no-frills, but we go solely for the food on offer. Differing from dai pai dong’s, HK’s open-air food stalls (check out Sassy’s dai pai dong post here), these restaurants are usually open all day, with many staying open to the wee hours. Literally translated to mean “tea restaurant” in English, cha chaan tengs demonstrate Hong Kong’s unique east meets west culture, with dishes such as scrambled egg sarnies, thick cut toast with condensed milk, and instant noodle soup.
Though they’re not always offering the most nutritious meals, these spots offer quick and easy comfort food that’s sure to satisfy the whole family. To give you a little taste of old-school Hong Kong, we’re rounding up some of our favourite’s in the city, and giving you a head’s up on what to order when you’re there…
Kam Wah Café
Renowned for serving some of the best pineapple buns in the city, if you’re around the Prince Edward and Mong Kok area, Kam Wah is a must try. There are few things more quintessentially Hong Kong than a warm pineapple bun with a big slab of butter melting inside, and whether you’ve been living here for years, or are just passing through, the crispy topped buns with soft and fluffy centres are not to be missed! If you’re looking for more traditional HK sweet treats, you also need to try Kam Wah’s egg tarts – washed down with a cold milk tea, of course.
Note: For anyone who’s a little confused by the name, pineapple buns (or bo lo bau in Cantonese!), don’t actually contain any pineapple! The slightly misleading name originates from the crackly appearance of the top of the buns which is said to resemble a pineapple.
Must try dish: Pineapple bun with butter
Average price dish: $6 for a pineapple bun with butter
Opening Times: Daily, 6:30am to 12:30m
Kam Wah Café, 47 Bute Street, Prince Edward, Kowloon, Hong Kong, www.facebook.com/pages/金華冰廳-Kam-Wah-Cafe
Australia Dairy Company
Founded in 1970, Australia Dairy Company is one of the oldest restaurants in HK, but that doesn’t stop it from drawing in a daily crowd. True to a typical cha chaan teng, the service here is quick and often (very) abrupt, but that’s all part of the charm, right? The queues may be long, but due to the no nonsense staff, you’re sure to get seated quickly – even if you are sharing a table. For an authentic taste of the 852, try ordering the breakfast set, which includes a coffee, scrambled eggs, two slices of thick toast and macaroni and ham soup. The soup will never be my favourite thing in the world, but the creamy eggs and crispy toast are HK comfort food at its best.
Must try dish: Scrambled eggs and thick cut toast
Average price dish: $36 for the breakfast set
Opening Times: Daily, 7:30am to 11pm (closed Thursdays)
Australia Dairy Company, 47 Parkes Street, Jordan, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Man Wah Restaurant & Hing Kee (興記咖啡室)
French toast in Hong Kong is a little different to the offerings you get in other parts of the world. A popular dish at many cha chaan tengs, expect a thick cut piece of white bread, with the crusts removed, which has been deep fried until beautifully crispy, and then topped with butter and lashings of condensed milk. Some cha chaan tengs fill the toast with either peanut butter, eggs, Kaya (a sweet coconut jam), or even meat, but we love the peanut butter filled French toast on offer at Hing Kee in Sheung Wan. Or another favourite is the crisp, yet light offering at Man Wah restaurant in Mong Kok. Neither are too oily, and have been fried to perfection.
Must try dish: HK style French Toast
Average price dish: $20 (Man Wah) / $16 (Hing Kee)
Opening Times: Daily, 7:30am to 12:30am (Man Wah) / daily, 7am to 6pm (Hing Kee)
Man Wah Restaurant, 153-159 Tung Choi St, Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Hing Kee, 182 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Lan Fong Yuen
Open since 1952, Lan Fong Yuen on Gage Street is one of HK’s most historic cha chaan teng’s. It’s easy to miss (and actually started out as an outdoor dai pai dong!), but worth finding as its famous for apparently inventing “silk stocking milk tea,” aka – Hong Kong milk tea. Creamy from the condensed milk, yet still with a strong black tea flavour, many believe that Lan Fong Yuen serves the best rendition in town. Order the iced version on a hot day and, for a real treat, have it alongside a condensed milk bun, another cha chaan teng fave. The OG location is on Gage Street, but Lan Fong Yurn also has branches on Nathan Road (TST) and Connaught Road Central (Central).
Must try dish: milk tea and condensed milk bun
Average price dish: iced milk tea $16/ condensed milk bun $11
Opening Times: Daily, 7:30am to 6pm (closed Sundays)
Lan Fong Yuen, 2 Gage Street, Central, Hong Kong
How could we not mention Wellington Street’s super-sized cha chaan teng? Open 24-hours a day, Tsui Wah is the place to head for some late night (or early morning!) grub. Although slightly more expensive than your average cha chaan teng, Tsui Wah still offers up everything a traditional tea restaurant should, from Swiss sauce chicken wings and grilled pork chops, to beef brisket curry, though one of the most popular dishes is the Hainan Chicken Rice. Tsui Wah also has further locations across the city, but the Wellington Street restaurant is popular for its close proximity to LKF.
Must try dish: Hainanese Chicken Rice
Average price dish: $55 for Hainanese Chicken Rice
Opening Times: Wellington Street location is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Tsui Wah, 15 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong