10 cha chaan tengs to visit when travel to Hong Kong resumes
Updated: Jun 8, 2021
The Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble might still be postponed for now, but I'm pretty sure many of you are missing Hong Kong's awesome gastronomic delights.
When I visited Hong Kong a couple of years back, my favourite aspect was the food - I gained more than my fair share of calories wolfing down dim sun, egg tarts and drool-worthy roast goose.
When we finally get to go again, I'll definitely be popping by a cha chaan teng - which literally translates as tea restaurant.
Springing up during the 1950s, these eateries were cheaper alternatives to Western restaurants. They served an array of cross-cultural dishes such as spaghetti in soup and Portuguese chicken rice.
Today, cha chaan tengs are still an affordable option both for Hong Kong locals and tourists alike. The dining experience is one of a kind too. Think speedy service, loud chatter, cramped seating and of course, delicious food.
Here are some of the best cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong that are on my to-go list.
Australia Dairy Company
I visited this place a couple of years back, and was completely blown away by their scrambled eggs ( it tasted just as good when packed to-go). I’m not exactly sure what sorcery goes into their recipe, but it keeps people coming back. Long queues are often seen outside the restaurant, so get there early if you don’t fancy spending an hour in line.
Service is extremely efficient, but curt. Save for taking orders, don’t expect much interaction or even a smile from your server. Nevertheless, the food is sublime. Besides the scrambled eggs, I absolutely loved their signature egg custard pudding
What to try: Scrambled eggs with toast, Egg custard pudding
Address: 47 - 49 Parkes Street, Jordan, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 7:30am to 11pm daily. Closed Thursday.
Lan Fong Yuen
Don’t be fooled by the shabby exterior - this cha chaan teng serves up some seriously mouth-watering dishes! Set up in 1952, Lan Fong Yuen is believed to be the inventor of the classic “silk stocking” milk tea. Black tea is brewed and strained through cloth bags that resemble pantyhose, after which milk and evaporated sugar is added. Its pork buns are also said to be the best in town, with flavorful and well-marinated pork.
The premises are rather cramped, so we recommend take-out if you’re pressed for time. Or you can try your luck at their other outlet at Tsim Sha Tsui, located inside WK square.
What to try: Pork chop bun, Pantyhose milk tea
Address: 2 Gage Street, Central, Hong Kong / Shop 26, WK Square (Chungking Mansions), 36-44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Opening hours: 10:30am to 9pm daily. Closed Thursday.
Kam Wah Café & Bakery
A family-owned restaurant that has been in business since 1973, this was another favourite of mine from a past trip to Hong Kong. Located along Prince Edward Road, Kam Wah’s pineapple polo buns are seriously addictive. Crispy on top and filled with soft, buttery goodness on the inside, it may be impossible to stop at just one.
I also wolfed down their indulgent Hong Kong-style French toast, which is deep-fried and served with butter and condensed milk. Other recommended items include the egg tart, coconut buns and club sandwich. Oh, and the famous One Dim Sum is just a stone’s throw away, making Kam Wah a perfect supper spot.
What to try: Pineapple polo buns, Hong Kong-style French toast
Address: 45-47 Bute Street, Mong Kok, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 6:30am to 11:30pm daily
Mrs Tang Café
Another café known for its tasty pineapple buns. This one comes stuffed with tomato and egg, with butter wedged in between. Though it may seem like a strange combination, the blend of different flavours actually works well.
Other crowd-pleasers are the tomato soup noodles and the ‘champagne’ milk tea, which is served chilled rather than with ice. Do note that no English menu is available.
The popular café is also situated along the Ping Shan Heritage Trail, so you can visit monuments like the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda or Tang Ancestral Hall after your meal.
What to try: Pineapple butter bun with tomato and egg, Tomato soup noodles
Address: Hang Tau Tsuen, Ping Shan, Yuen Long, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 8am to 5pm daily. Closed Sunday.
Honolulu Coffee Shop
Established in the 1940s, Honolulu Coffee Shop is one of the oldest cha chaan tengs around. And don’t be mistaken, none of the items have any relation to Hawaii!
Its signature offering is the Hong Kong-style egg tart. This flaky version is made with pastry (consisting of egg yolks and ice) that is layered with butter pastry, folded many times over and kept overnight in the fridge.
The joint also serves up great coffee and tea, as well as a delicious blend of both (yin yang milk tea with coffee). If you’re craving more savoury options, we hear the Swiss wings and curry fish balls are really yummy too!
What to try: Egg tart, Yin yang milk tea with coffee
Address: Luen Sen Mansion, Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 6:30am to 11:30pm daily
Though it isn’t decades-old like many of its counterparts, Capitol Café is certainly on-par in terms of food standards. Don’t miss out on the famous pork chop bun, scrambled egg toast with black truffle and toast with kaya and butter.
Capital Café was opened in 2010 by local record company Capital Artists, which manages Hong Kong superstars like Sammi Cheng and the late Leslie Cheung. Though you may not spot a celebrity there, the black-and-white interior makes for a classy dining experience. The service is great too, with friendly and pleasant wait staff - something you may not enjoy at other cha chaan tengs!
What to try: Pork chop buns, Scrambled egg toast with black truffle
Address: Kwong Sang Hong Building, 6 Heard Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 7am to 9pm daily
Ma Sa Restaurant
This cha chaan teng in Sheung Wan is a haven for egg-lovers. Their star item - spam and egg rice - comes with a generous serving of three eggs done sunny side up and a drizzling of soy sauce. You can also opt for other toppings like ham or cha siu.
You’ll have to contend with extremely long queues during peak hours though. With a small space, seats are limited. The restaurant has been featured in quite a number of local media as well, thus attracting the crowds. If its signature dish is sold out, go for the fish burger or fried beef noodles.
What to try: Spam and egg rice
Address: 23 Hillier Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 6am to 5pm daily. Closed Sundays.
This isn’t your traditional cha chaan teng. In fact, it’s better described as a hipster café with old-school elements. We’re talking retro red brick walls, neon-lit logos and vintage-looking window grills.
But rest assured - the café doesn’t replace substance with style. The macaroni with ham in milk & pork bone soup is particularly delightful, being rich and packed with flavour.
Dishes made with Trappist Dairy products (an iconic Hong Kong brand) are served too. You’ll also find Trappist milk in traditional glass bottles, along with other tasty treats like Trappist yoghurt and steamed Trappist milk pudding.
What to try: Macaroni with ham in milk & pork bone soup, Black truffle scrambled eggs burger
Address: Hang Sing Mansion, 48-78 High Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 7:30 am to 6pm daily
A hole-in-the-wall eatery located inside an old residential building, Star Cafe takes some effort to find.
You’ll be rewarded once you try its signature tomato noodles. Made on the spot, Nissin noodles are mixed with tomato sauce and freshly-cut tomatoes. It's an unexpectedly refreshing dish, and one that many locals flock to the cafe for. Other items worth trying include the ham and cheese sandwiches and red bean ice.
Decor-wise, Star Café is a nostalgic throwback to the 1970s. The place is decked with retro Coca Cola posters, newspaper clippings and even an old-school television.
What to try: Tomato beef noodles
Address: Champagne Court, 16-20 Kimberley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 8am to 9.30pm daily. Closed Sunday.
Cheung Heung Tea Restaurant
Over 50 years old, Cheung Heung Tea Restaurant continues to draw crowds for its scrumptious Cantonese pastries. Unlike many other cha chaan tengs, pastries are painstakingly hand-made.
This may be why the restaurant boasts many loyal customers, who come as early as 5:30am each day to savour its bakes. Most order the cocktail bun filled with lotus seed paste, buttery cookie-crust egg tarts and fluffy pineapple buns.
We recommend visiting here for afternoon tea, and ordering some milk tea to go along with your food. Cheung Heung’s milk tea is particularly well-brewed, with an aromatic, silky taste.
What to try: Cocktail bun with lotus paste, Pineapple bun, Egg tarts, Milk tea
Address: 107 Belcher's Street, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 5am to 6pm daily