07 April 2016

Hong Kong Mar 2016 - Food Trail I Cha Chaan Teng

Continued from Hong Kong March 2016 Introduction.

Like I mentioned in the introduction, I had ample time this trip to eat whatever I wanted and so I made a list of all the Cha Chaan Teng 茶餐廳 to visit after reading reviews on the internet and recommendations from friends. In the end, managed to cover some of the cafes in my list, but there are still quite a few missed out. Well, there's always a next time!

Before I begin, I'll like to share some tips about visiting Cha Chaan Teng based on my personal experience. Prior to this, I was quite apprehensive to go Cha Chaan Teng alone because I don't really speak Cantonese. I can listen and understand simple conversations, but I speak only the bare minimum and my hb always laugh at my weird pronunciation (seriously I can speak better Japanese and even Korean). In addition, I know that staff at Cha Chaan Teng have notorious attitudes and I get really intimidated (I don't know why), especially during rush hours.

And so, this time I made it a point to go to all the Cha Chaan Teng during off-peak hours, like 10.30-11.30am. I find that the staff seemed more relaxed, less offensive, and some even appeared friendly. There were ample seating so I didn't have to share table/squeeze with strangers (搭台 dap toi), hence I could take more time to shoot my photos and eat the meal at my own pace (without worrying about time and people waiting for their turns). I also tried to order food using Cantonese as far as possible, and somehow the staff were more receptive and some even smiled at my feeble attempt. Hence, using these tips, I managed to get by and enjoy the Cha Chaan Teng experience :)

One of the first Cha Chaan Teng I tried was this super old-school one, Star Cafe 星座冰室 at Tsim Sha Tsui since it's quite near to the hotel, about 10-15 mins walk.

If directions weren't provided (in the internet by some kind bloggers), I believe I wouldn't even know about the existence of this place because it's hidden underground in an old dingy building.

From the main road (Nathan Rd), turn into Kimberly Rd, after passing The Mira Hotel main entrance/lobby, you'll see an entrance to Champagne Court "B" (at the entrance there's also a stall selling magazines/newspapers/titbits). Walk all the way straight in, you'll see a small food stall, this is not the one. Look to the right and there's a signage and staircase. Take the flight of stairs down and walk left, and you'll spot the cafe.

The building was a bit dim with only few shops opened (I adjusted the lighting in these photos) so I would advise single travellers to come here in day time, at least not so scary.

The Cha Chaan Teng itself is quite spacious and since it was off-peak, only a few tables were occupied. The elderly uncle who took order was quite friendly and approachable; when I told him the food tasted great, he gave a really wide grin :)

Based on internet recommendations, I went for the Tomato, Luncheon Meat and Egg Noodle 番茄餐肉捞蛋面. The noodles was so yummy and satisfying, it's like normal instant noodles but the texture was qq and cooked just right. The broth was so unique with blend of tomato and egg, slightly tangy with creamy sweetness from the egg and salty taste of the luncheon, wow! So simple, yet so profound. I couldn't help but slurp down the entire bowl (I usually don't finish whole bowl of noodles). To top it off, typical Cha Chaan Teng drink, Honey Lemon 柠檬蜜.

Next time I visit HK, hope that the shop will still be there, I want to try the other items as well, this is certainly one of my favourite meal for this trip.

Star Cafe 星座冰室
Shop No. 36, Champagne Court (B), 16-20 Kimberley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Mon-Sat: 08:00-21:30

Getting There: MTR Tsim Sha Tsui, exit B2 (5 mins walk)

HB joined me for dinner and I recommended this Cha Chaan Teng that's very near to Star Cafe. This is a big and modern cafe with a large variety of food on its menu. Service was quite friendly as well; it was raining when we were there and the shop owner actually provided plastic bags for us to put our wet umbrellas.

The beef brisket noodles that hb ordered was not bad, noodles al dente and beef bisket tender. Soup broth quite tasty too.

My stir-fried beef kway teow was ok, the wok hei not quite there but overall taste was acceptable, liked the beef which was tender and moist.

They even have dim sum on the menu and we tried the classic har kow and siew mai which were surprisingly quite good.
Had to take photo of this mug because we liked it very much (bought one from a kitchenware shop subsequently), helped keep drinks cold. We also liked it that lemon coke is the standard drink in HK (unlike SG).

Overall, this Cha Chaan Teng is not bad, spacious, prompt service and reasonably friendly staff, not the best but ok standard.

Relax for a while 輕鬆一下

G/F, No. 25 Kimberly Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

During this trip, I found myself venturing to Hong Kong island/Central area a lot. Last few trips, I didn't have opportunity to explore the soho area, so this time made it a point to do so.

To kickstart my exploration, I had a hearty brunch at Honolulu Cafe, Stanley Street. In fact, there are a number of good eateries in this street, like Yat Lok Roast Goose (covering in next post), Luk Yu Teahouse (tried once, good standard but very expensive), as well as Wellington Street (parallel) like Yung Kee Roast Goose, Tsui Wah cafe, Tsim Chai Kee, Mak's Noodles etc), and one of the entrance to the mid-levels escalator starts at the end of Stanley Street.

Went in close to 11am and the cafe was relatively quiet; mostly locals chit-chatting or reading newspapers. But the staff weren't exactly friendly, one of them simply knocked a plastic chit on my table and muttered "sek meh" (eat what); well I took it that this is a norm anyway.

Read from reviews that the Bo Lo Bao and Egg Tart here are good, so I ordered both. Saw chicken pie as well, and feeling gluttony decided to try. For drink, milk tea which is a must-order for Cha Chaan Teng (I don't drink coffee anyway).

I super love the egg tarts here!! The pastry is the flaky type, light and fragrant; and the custard was so smooth and creamy, almost melt-in-the-mouth, overall not too sweet! The Bo Lo Bao was equally tasty, the crust was so crispy and slightly sweet. The butter had melted and the fragrance filled the super fluffy bread (I prefer the butter to be melted because I've tried those sandwiched with slabs of butter and felt a bit sick after eating). Forget about the chicken pie, the pastry was too sweet and filling hard and cold. Milk tea was milky and thick.

I would return for the egg tarts and bo lo bao next time! Heard that they are opening a branch in SG soon, hmmm, maybe I'll give it a try (if there's no q).

Honolulu Coffee Shop 檀島咖啡餅店
G/F, 33 Stanley St,, Central
Mon-Sun: 07:30-23:00
Getting There: MTR Central, exit D1 (8 mins walk)

Sing Heung Yuen 勝香園 located between Sheung Wan and Chung Wan is highly recommended by my friend who happened to be in HK as well (too bad couldn't meet up with her), and many food blogs. Strictly speaking, not a Cha Chaan Teng, but a 大排檔 dai pai dong meaning roadside dining. The stall is set-up al fresco style with foldable tables, stools and canvas sheet shelter.

Heard that the stall would be very crowded during lunch hours so I went around 10.30am and there were already many customers, mostly tourists and a few locals. Luckily there were a few single seats here and there so I simply 搭台 dap toi. The stall was ran by a few friendly aunties, one of them laughed at my attempt to order the dishes in Cantonese :p and confirmed my orders in English. Ha.

Based on internet recommendations, ordered the Tomato and Beef Noodles 番茄牛肉面, Crispy Honey Lemon Toast 柠蜜脆脆, Iced Salted Honey Lemon 咸柠蜜冰. I knew it was too much food for me, but I really wanted to try both :p

Within 3 mins, a steaming bowl of reddish soup was plonked onto my table. The broth was really tart, much more than the one I had at Star Cafe. I guess because a lot of mashed tomatoes were added. If canned tomatoes was used, I believe it's like a whole can? Nevertheless, it was really appetising. The instant noodles were cooked perfectly and the beef slices were very tender.

The honey lemon toast and drink took quite a while though. Love the honey lemon toast, first of all super crispy, besides butter, I think a sprinkle of sugar and drizzle of lemon juice were added, making the toast both savoury, tangy and sweet. Yummy! I super love the salted honey lemon drink too, besides a thirst quencher, it helped to relieve the otherwise heavy meal (yes, I finished everything).

Sing Heung Yuen 勝香園

2 Mei Lun Street, Central
Mon-Sat: 08:00-17:30
Getting there: MTR Sheung Wan or Central

Whilst reading food blogs, it appeared that one of the quintessential food to eat at Cha Chaan Teng in Hong Kong is scrambled egg toast 炒蛋多士? And the most popular place to have it is Australian Dairy Company at Jordan, Kowloon. I heard about the scary queues there, so decided to skip it (it's simply not productive to spend time queuing, moreover alone). Instead, based on friend's recommendation, went for Capital Cafe 華星冰室 at Mong Kong.

Apparently the cafe is opened by a HK Recording Company or some celebrities? The walls are plastered with photos of celebrities, too bad I didn't spot any while dining there.

Once again ordered two items to try, the scrambled egg thick toast 炒蛋多士 and black truffle and cheese toast 校长多士.

The scrambled egg toast was served pronto, after a few snaps of photo, I quickly took a big bite of the toast with egg. Hmmmm, the bread was very fluffy with a nice buttery crispy on the surface, complemented with the creamy and smooth scrambled eggs. I haven't tried the one at Australian Dairy Company so couldn't compare, but this was good enough for now.

As for the black truffle and cheese toast 校长多士, it was unique indeed. Prior to this, I've not eaten truffle before, or probably teeny weeny tinge (couldn't even remember), but for this, the taste was earthy, somewhat familiar to mushroom (well, it's a mushroom) yet very strong. Surprisingly when eaten with toast and melted cheese, not bad at all. But after the second slice, kind of overwhelming.

And why is it called 校长多士, apparently, the HK singer/celebrity Alan Tam likes this toast very much so the cafe named it after him and priced it at HK$25 all these years (just like his age which he declared as 25 years old every year).

I guess I should really visit Australian Dairy Company next time, so that I could make a comparison of the scrambled egg toast.
Capital Cafe 華星冰室
G/F, 107 Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Mong Kok
Mon-Sun: 07:00-23:00
Getting there: MTR Mong Kong, exit B3 (5 mins)

Ok, this is not a Cha Chaan Teng, but Tai Cheong Bakery (now available in SG) famous for egg tarts. HB and I passed by after dinner at Yat Lok and I decided to tabao for breakfast the next day.

Actually we tried it before the last trip and I remember liking it a lot, so I wanted to make a comparison to Honolulu cafe again.

Probably it wasn't fresh from oven when eaten next day, somehow the tart didn't taste as good as I remember. The tart pastry was the sweet type, the custard filling was smooth and sweet as well but not soft enough, so overall, it's a bit too sweet for me. I prefer the Honolulu one with flaky pastry. Sorry.

Oh, my favourite Luncheon Meat and Egg Sandwich 餐蛋治, a must eat for me when I'm in Hong Kong. Ate this at a random Cha Chaan Teng at Tsim Sha Tsui, 5 mins from my hotel. After the food arrived, I started snapping photos, but soon received an angry glare from the staff, who simply shifted his eyes at a notice pasted on the wall "No Photo Taking!" Oops!! I totally didn't notice the notice lah! In fact the notices are pasted on the walls of every table.

Embarrassed, I finished my meal in 10 mins and quickly escaped. Didn't even bother to snap a photo of the shopfront less I got scolded again. Well, the cafe wasn't even crowded, and this was the first and one and only cafe I encountered with the anti-photo rule.

Anyways, was glad that I managed to visit these Cha Chaan Teng and tried the food that I've not eaten before. There are still quite a few to visit, so next time!

Stay tuned to my next post Food Trail II on roast goose, noodles, porridge and dim sum!

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