Most people are familiar with delicious cha chaan teng usuals like French toast, egg tarts and milk tea. But what about the simple dishes that most locals fall back on for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and everything in between? There’s the super gratifying egg sandwich, a bowl of savory satay beef noodles, the crispy and juicy deep-fried chicken thigh, and the comforting “one plate rice.” Here’s our guide to the best everyday cha chaan teng dishes. Bonus: we’re also showing you our favorite places to try each dish (though these are just a guide, not a definitive rule!).
The egg sandwich is relatively plain and forgettable, but every time I order it, I regret not having more of them. It’s a satisfying and surprisingly light food. Toasts in Hong Kong are extra fluffy, giving the perfect crunch to the creamy eggs. It’s also a great takeaway option for those rushed mornings.
Where to get it: Australian Dairy Company, 47 Parkes Street, Jordan.
A deceptively simple treat that never fails to comfort. Look for crispy and thickly-sliced toast topped with a generous layer of peanut butter and condensed milk. The nutty and candy-like sweetness is a classic Hong Kong flavor combination. Extra points to cha chaan tengs that sprinkle granulated sugar on top. There’re plenty of toast toppings to try, from toast with a thick slice of butter (鮮油多) and condensed milk toast (奶油多) to peanut butter and jam toast (占醬多).
Where to get it: Sing Heung Yuen, 2 Mee Lun Street, Central.
If you like savory food, you’ll find satay beef instant noodles very gratifying. The steaming hot satay soup is salty and creamy, combined with the springy instant noodles — each bite is in itself a umami explosion. Some cha chaan tengs use canned satay beef, while the better ones will make their satay sauce and use fresh beef.
Where to get it: Sing Kee Restaurant, 2/F Smithfield Cooked Food Centre, 12K Smithfield Road, Kennedy Town.
All-day sets are a very popular local breakfast option, and are basically Hong Kong’s interpretation of the English breakfast. As its name suggests, all-day sets are available all day and can be found in most cha chaan tengs. The classic combination usually includes char siu macaroni in soup, scrambled eggs, ham and toast. It’s great for when you’re looking for something more affordable, or when you can’t decide what to order.
Where to get it: Angus Cafe, 14-28 Wang On Road, Fortress Hill, North Point.
Deep-fried chicken is a common comfort food in many cultures, and the beauty of the cha chaan teng version is that it usually comes with chips or salad and a drink, and is also much cheaper, than, say, Korean fried chicken. It’s crispy, juicy, and the best kind of greasy.
Where to get it: Capital Café, 6 Heard Street, Wan Chai.
For lunch and dinner, cha chaan tengs offer a wide variety of rice and noodles. Singaporean fried rice noodles is one of the most popular and representative cha chaan teng noodles dish, made with rice noodles, curry powder, meat or shrimp, vegetables and scrambled eggs. Like most cha chaan teng dishes, it’s richly flavored and very filling.
Where to get it: Ngan Lung Restaurant, Various locations, including 54 Jardine’s Bazaar, Causeway Bay.
One of the most popular but underrated food in cha chaan tengs is the “one plate rice” (碟頭飯). “One plate rice” can be as simple as ham and fried egg rice with black pepper sauce, or more home-style such as the classic braised tofu and roasted pork belly rice, a very well-loved rice dish popularized in a viral internet article on forum HK Golden, which called it “the romance of men” and declared it superior to dishes from all other cuisines.
Where to get:Hong Lin Restaurant, 100 Chik Fuk Street, Tai Wa.
Part-milk tea and part-coffee, yuen yeung is the drink that tastes of both the coffee aroma and the bittersweet aftertaste of milk tea. In the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, yuen yeung is also relatively gentle, as the coffee’s “heatness” and milk tea’s “coldness” offset one another. Fun fact: some cha chaan tengs also offer kid’s yuen yeung (細路鴛鴦), a blend of Horlicks and Ovaltine.
Where to get:Lan Fong Yuen, 2 Gage St, Central.
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