What To Eat in Hong Kong Part 1: Cafes (Cha Chaan Tengs) and Egg Tarts + directions

If you are about to visit Hong Kong and wondering about the must-eats/food like I was right before I visited, then read on. This is a list that I think would be a good start to cover.   

Hong Kong, the city of lights. I last visited when I was 8 years old, so you can imagine how excited I was about this trip there. One thing that certainly stands out is the neon lights in Hong Kong. It illuminates life there and adds to the buzz of the hustle and bustle.

SO being touted as the centre where East-West meets, Hong Kong certainly has a plethora of food to offer.  

What's the most characteristic of Hong Kong in its food scene is the cha chaan teng 茶餐廳 (local cafes) culture and not to be missed at all every visit. Then again, they're everywhere so it's hard to avoid. This is where most locals typically take their breakfast/lunch/dinner - the menus include a huge variety from toasts to mains to desserts (and sometimes changes) for all meals. 

Cafes/Cha Chaan Teng 茶餐廳 

  • Australia Dairy Company 澳洲牛奶公司

This remains one of the best things tried on this trip. The famed, and some might say overrated, ADC scrambled eggs. There is usually a snaking queue outside, but happily, I found none at nearly 9pm on a Sunday night. Don't be surprised if your table has empty seats and you have to share, because this is typically the way in Hong Kong at cafes. 

I zoomed straight to their '快餐' (fast meal) set, at HKD 36 or S$7.50. Now when placing the order, be careful about 
/多士. It's the difference between untoasted (1st pic)/toasted (2nd pic). Also be sure to state your preference for 炒蛋 (pronounced 'chao dan' - scrambled eggs) otherwise you may end up with 煎蛋 (pronounced 'jian dan' - sunny side-ups).

3 sets available here
1. 快餐 (available all-day): toast bread, choice of fried/scrambled eggs, fresh milk;
2. 茶餐 (available 12pm -11pm): toast bread, choice of fried/scrambled eggs with 2 slices of ham, soup macaroni with cha siu (roast meat) and coffee/tea ;
3.'早餐'(available 7am-12pm): bread, choice of fried/scrambled eggs, soup macaroni with cha siu (roast meat) and coffee/tea

HK has a fast culture and this reflected in the service. Within 3-4 minutes, my order arrived - creamy, really creamy-smooth scrambled eggs that was seasoned with salt to just the right flavour. Pair it with the toast and voila. Simple but so satisfying, comfort food. For me, this lived up to the name. 

If you experience grumpy waiters/bad service, it isn't a surprise because they have a reputation for it, though I heard that this has vastly improved recently. Still, the nervous me ended up with un-toasted bread because when the waiter asked in Cantonese which bread I wanted /多士I answered almost at once in my feeble Cantonese the first thing that came to mind - "飽"(untoasted), as I was afraid of incurring the waiter's wrath. Luckily, it was a quick enough answer and so I ordered everything smoothly, though yes that meant I had untoasted bread.

I managed to squeeze in another visit back before leaving on a Sunday afternoon, this time with my mother and brother. At nearly 2.45pm, there was a queue though luckily, waiting time was 10-15 minutes as they move fast. this time, I made sure I specified toasted bread in the 茶餐 order. It was good the first time round with the untoasted bread, and now a few notches more satisfying with the warm, toasted bread that is slightly charred on one side.

My brother's order of ice milk tea, which I had a sip of, was very good. My favourite milk tea in Hong Kong so far actually, because compared to the other cafes', this is more alike our Singapore 'teh', but with that extra oomph of Ceylon tea aroma balanced with milk. I may have liked it more too because this came already-sweetened, while the other cha chaan tengs' serve theirs without sugar, so you have to add at your discretion - which for me, often means under-adding.

The ham macaroni (you can also choose pasta noodles or curved macaroni) came in a sweet, light chicken broth. Homely, though don't expect it to be spectacular because otherwise it's just char siew slices with pasta noodles/macaroni. It's the kind of simple, fuss-free food.  

47 Parkes Street, Jordan
Closed on Thursdays.
Jordan MTR Station (2-3 minutes walk) 
Exit C2 
  • Lan Fong Yuen 蘭芳園
Located in central, this is one of the old names in HK that's considered established for their 菠蘿包 (Po Lo Bun). Like a lot of the cafes in Hong Kong, they have breakfast sets available. This doesn't apply for the polo bun though, which you have to get ala-carte. 

The polo bun was served lukewarm with a thin slab of butter. Their stocking milk tea 絲襪奶茶, like all HK milk teas, are on the milkier side, with a distinct tea flavour. Add your own sugar on the side again. 

Not sure if this is the best polo bun, because it honestly tasted like the average polo bun to me. Either this, or the polo bun is just a overrated item overall with a slightly crispy butter-sugar crust. 

2 Gage Street, Central
Closed on Sundays. 
Central MTR Station (5-7 minutes walk) 
Exit C 

  • Tsui Wah 翠華餐廳
Tsui Wah is not the most representative of HK cha chaan tengs with its slightly higher prices and menu not having the typical spread of buns/toasts that other coffeehouses offer. It's more focused on mains such as noodles/rice and is probably familiar with most HK visitors as it has so many outlets dotted throughout the central areas. Some of these operate till the wee hours, making it a great spot for supper, as was the case for us at midnight that Friday we visited. 

The 奶油豬 is the signature dish, but we ordered the XO Prawn Noodles as well. This was springy egg noodles in a savoury sauce. The prawns complemented it well. Not cheap at HKD 68 (SGD $14) at this well-known chain in HK, but worth it. 好吃.

Now on the 奶油豬, literally translated as 'butter pig'. It is 2 pieces of muffin buns toasted to a crisp on the outside, with the bottom slathered with butter. It's served face up with condensed milk drizzled. The interior is fluffy when you sink your teeth into it and it has a satisfying crackle when you bite into it. Fantastic, especially if you are a bread person.

2 Carnarvorn Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Open daily.
Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station (2 minutes walk) 
Exit D1 
Other outlets available. 

Egg Tarts
  • Honolulu Cafe 檀島咖啡餅店
Honolulu Breakfast Menu
Honolulu is another old name in the Hong Kong cafe scene. They started in the 1940s and now have 2 outlets, one in Wan Chai and the other in Central. Their signature is the 192 flaky-layers egg tart in all its Hong Kong traditional-egg-tart glory. 

I didn't know what I was expecting, but I was blown away by the wobbly warm egg custard that threatened to spill out after a single bite - not too sweet, in additional to the very aromatic flaky tart shell. 

This isn't the shortcrust version that Tai Cheong does, and Tai Cheong has a good egg tart no doubt, but this tops my rank of egg tarts. My search is concluded (for now).

Pair the egg tart with the milk tea, which was more than decent in its tea taste and served without sugar. It's really quite easy to have a standard good milk tea in Hong Kong. 

I also took the polo bun, also another said signature - to go. It wasn't that much different from Lan Fong Yuen's.  

2 Gage Street, Central
Closed on Sundays. 
Central MTR Station (5-7 minutes walk) 
Exit C 
Other outlets available. 
  • Tai Cheong Bakery 泰昌餅家 
Tai Cheong is an established bakery known for their egg tarts. Try it if you can, as it’s different from Honolulu’s; the tart shell is made of shortcrust pastry. Though Honolulu is my best, the egg tarts at Tai Cheong come in close. That said, the standards do vary depending on the outlets. The one I visited in Central is takeaway only, whereas some others are cafés with seating.

The egg tart was warm and the shortcrust pastry buttery, but funnily, I remembered it being better in Singapore where the first bite was a blow on the senses with its buttery aroma and smooth, warm egg custard. This one was just…ordinary. Good news is, we folks in Singapore aren’t missing out because the standard at the Tai Cheong outpost is being maintained (or even raised).  

35 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central
Open daily. 
Central MTR Station (5-7 minutes walk) 
Exit C 
Other outlets available. 

This concludes part 1 round up of cafes and egg tarts.

Next post: Hong Kong Eats - Part 2 - Restaurants and Coffee places