Hong Kong is the culinary capital of the world. Much of the food scene was influenced by migrants calling Hong Kong home. However Hong Kong has something to call their own – the Cha Chaan Teng 茶餐厅.
Early in the colonial days, western restaurants were an upper class thing. However after WWII, the local Chinese opened ice cafes 冰室 that offered cheap versions of the western cuisine, usually coffee, English teas, sandwiches, etc.
Then in 1946, the first Cha Chaan Teng called Lan Heung Court 兰香阁 appeared in Central. The oldest surviving one from that era is Lan Fong Yuen 兰芳园, opened in 1956 and still operating today in Central.
It was during this period, the “stocking tea” was invented. The quintessential drink that symbolises the Cha Chaan Teng was invented during this boom time. Legend has it, a chef by the name of Lam Mok Ho mixed different types of tea leaves and used a special cloth filter to separate the tea leaves. The filter was like a sock and was dyed brown by the tea, and people started to nicknamed this the “stocking tea” 丝袜茶. No trip to the Cha Chaan Teng is complete without a cup of the “stocking” milk tea, with its rich Black & White brand evaporated milk.
As the economy boomed in Hong Kong, people ate out more and more, and Cha Chaan Teng became the dining option of choice for the working population of Hong Kong. You can get breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper in these restaurants that can be found all over Hong Kong. The variety that you can get in them is pretty amazing, in some you can get over 200 items on the menu!
Another signature Cha Chaan Teng dish is the instant noodle with luncheon meat 餐蛋面. Instant noodle cooked for 3 min in boiling water and topped with stock, two sunny-side ups are added with a couple of slices of pan-friend luncheon meat to round up the dish. Variations included special stock or soup base like chicken soup, tom yam, etc instead of the powder stock base provided by the instant noodle. The noodles have to be Nissin Noodle 出前一丁. Thinking of it makes me hungry… let me go make one for myself now.
However you can never get the same preparing it at home even if you had all the ingredients because you can never replicate the assembly line process in the Cha Chaan Teng.
Tsui Wah Restaurant 翠华餐厅
Tsui Wah started as an ice cafe in Mong Kok in 1967 and grew to be the biggest Cha Chaan Teng franchise in the world. You can find Tsui Wah everywhere in Hong Kong, and since then they have expanded to China, Macau, and Singapore.
The food was nothing to shout about. It’s just a quick choice if your hotel did not provide breakfast. I find their recent “innovation” of changing the classics a bit disturbing. But such was the trends these days. Anyway, their milk tea was still OK.
Tsui Wah Restaurant (many branches)
Hong Kong, Causeway Bay, 景隆街20-22 號地下