10 Dishes You Should Order at a Hong Kong Cha Chaan Teng

Pineapple bun and other cha chaan teng delights
Pineapple bun and other cha chaan teng delights.

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Few experiences encapsulate the blended culture and go-go spirit of Hong Kong like eating at a cha chaan teng (茶餐廳, literally “tea restaurant” in Cantonese Chinese). For many Hong Kongers, having breakfast at a cha chaan teng is an indispensable start of the day. They’re great places to get sandwiches, noodle dishes, rice meals, and hot drinks in a hurry, and at (relatively) low prices to boot.

The cha chaan teng of Hong Kong have their roots in the post-World War II economic boom. A growing number of Hong Kong Chinese were developing an appetite for British-style afternoon tea but they preferred localized versions of the accompanying foods. The cha chaan teng evolved to fill the demand, with a repertoire of dishes that fused British and southern Chinese cuisines to create an all-hours menu ideally suited for on-the-go Hong Kongers.

When you enter a cha chaan teng, time is of the essence: service will be curt and the quick preparation ensures that you’re in and out with minimum fuss. That also means you may not have the luxury to ponder over the menu options. Save time by deciding your order beforehand, and choose from one of the dishes listed here.  

01 of 10

Stocking Milk Tea

Hong Kong Milk Tea

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Cha chaan teng are literally named after their signature drink, tea. Every reputable cha chaan teng offers its own milk tea (奶茶, naai cha), usually brewed with a closely-guarded secret blend. Tea makers tend to mix different types of tea leaves, including (but not limited to) ceylon, pu-erh (a fermented tea), Assam, and oolong.

The basic ingredients of milk tea are ground tea leaves and canned evaporated milk. First, a strong black tea is brewed and filtered through a strainer that resembles a silk stocking. The tea is poured steaming hot into a cup, then combined with a copious serving of evaporated milk. The result is a sweet and silky-smooth drink that pairs well with everything else on the menu.

Where to Try It: Lan Fong Yuen, 2 Gage Street, Central

02 of 10

Noodles with Luncheon Meat

Luncheon Meat on Noodles, Hong Kong

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Luncheon meat and noodles? That’s par for the course in Hong Kong, where these canned meats are a common comfort food. Fried slices of luncheon meat, cooked instant noodles, and a fried egg are the components of this hearty (if salty) cha chaan teng standard called tsaan dan gung (餐蛋麵).

Instead of using pricier Spam brand meats, cha chaan teng prefer to use China-made Ma Ling and Great Wall brand luncheon meats in their noodle dishes. Locals swear by the contrast of textures made by the egg, noodles, and meat in the dish. It offers a stong hit of umami with a varied mouthfeel.

Where to Try It: Tsui Wah, Unit 1-3, Causeway Bay Commercial Building, 1-5 Sugar Street

03 of 10

Western Toast

French Toast, Hong Kong

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Western toast is similar to, yet different from the French toast you'll get at Western restaurants. Sai do si (西多士), the cha chaan teng’s version of the dish, uses a peanut-butter sandwich with crusts trimmed off. The sandwich then gets a dip in an egg batter, then a deep fryer. The golden-brown result is topped with a slab of butter and some condensed milk before serving. Western toast is sweet, dripping in fat, and is a massive threat to your circulatory system—but it’s a great pick-me-up for the start of the day, or as a hangover helper late at night.

04 of 10

Pineapple Bun

Bolo Yau, Hong Kong

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Despite the name, there are no pineapples in a pineapple bun, or bolo yau (菠蘿包). Instead, the name comes from the bumpy appearance of the bun's outer crust, which reminded diners of the skin of pineapples. This crusty, sweet bun is baked fresh every day, and served sliced in half with a slab of butter placed in between. Alternative fillings for bolo yau include red bean paste, custard cream, or even a scrambled egg.

Bolo yau is much beloved by locals—in 2014, the Hong Kong government added the technique of making pineapple buns to its long list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage” items.

Where to Try It: Tai Tung Bakery, B02-03, B/F, Lee Tung Avenue, 200 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai

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05 of 10

Baked Pork Chop Rice

Baked pork chop rice, Hong Kong

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For something more filling than buns, go big and order the classic cha chaan teng rice dish, gok ju pa fan (焗豬排飯). This casserole-type dish consists of a baked pork chop topped with cheese and tomato sauce and served over fried rice before it's baked to crispy, gooey, doneness. It’s heavy, fatty, and absolutely delicious.

There are almost as many varieties of baked pork chop rice as there are cha chaan teng across Hong Kong. There are no quick ways of making this dish—the pork chops, fried rice,and tomato sauce must be prepared separately—but the wait will be worth it.

Where to Try It: For Kee Restaurant, 200 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan

06 of 10


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This hypercaffeinated variation on milk tea originated in Hong Kong’s cha chaan teng. Yuanyang (鴛鴦) is a mixture of two parts milk tea and one part black coffee. Like milk tea, you can choose to have it served hot (yit, 熱) or cold (dong, 凍); either way, yuanyang is an awesome recharge for the tired tourist or the sleepy salaryman needing to get their caffeine on in the morning.

Where to Try It: Lan Fong Yuen, 2 Gage Street, Central

07 of 10

Wonton Noodles

Wonton noodle, Hong Kong

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Hong Kongers take their wonton noodles (wonton min, 雲吞麵) seriously. In fact, more than one Michelin-starred restaurant in Hong Kong owes its laurels to a wonton noodle soup that everyone swears by. The wonton noodles in cha chaan teng are much simpler affairs, but are no less satisfying to hungry patrons looking for a filling noodle meal.

This dish is quite simple: egg noodles are cooked, then drowned in broth and topped with wontons filled with pork and shrimp. It’s quickly made, and just as quickly eaten by chopstick-wielding patrons.

Where to Try It: Mak’s Noodle. 77 Wellington Street, Central

08 of 10

Beef Chow Fun

beef chow fun, Hong Kong

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This Cantonese classic noodle dish (gon tsau ao hor, 乾炒牛河) uses flat rice noodles , called hor fun, that arestir-fried in a wok at high heat with beef and bean sprouts. The deliciousness of the dish boils down to the quality of the marinated beef and hor fun noodles, and the judicious amount of soy sauce and lard used to prepare the dish.

The spiciness of the dish varies between cha chaan teng; you can control the heat by asking for a bottle of hot sauce to go with your plate of beef chow fun.

Where to Try It: Ho Hung Kee, 12/F Hysan Place, 500 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay

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09 of 10

Red Bean Ice

Close-up of red bean ice on a table
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When the summer months hit Hong Kong, cha chaan teng patrons start to order red bean ice (hong dau bing, 紅豆冰) in massive quantities. This dessert is an icy sweet treat that effectively beats the heat. Sweetened red adzuki beans are crushed, drowned in evaporated milk and syrup, then topped with crushed ice (and occasionally, a scoop of vanilla ice cream).

The crunch of the ice contrasts beautifully with the milk and adzuki bean’s respective body and mouthfeel. The chill of the dessert offers excellent relief against Hong Kong’s notorious heat and humidity.

10 of 10

“All-Day” Set Meals

All day set meal, Hong Kong

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The “all-day sets” are what you order if you want to try a little of everything. It includes macaroni soup with ham (fo teoi tung, 火腿通), scrambled eggs, buttered toast, and a drink. This dish evolved from the full English breakfast when local entrepreneurs put their own local spin on the dish, and voila, originated a favorite Hong Kong breakfast that can still be found in cha chaan teng everywhere.

Where to Try It: Australia Dairy Company, 47–49 Parkes Street, Jordan.

Article Sources
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  1. Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department. "First Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of Hong Kong." June 2014. 76.