茶餐厅 / Char Chan Teng / Tea-houses are ubiquitous in Hong Kong.
They are generally the same – they serve up great coffee and tea and a whole range of fusion sounding drinks (lemongrass jelly honey tea anyone), Chinese noodle dishes, Western fusion (Beef Kway Teow with Swiss Sauce?), instant noodles with all kinds of protein, and a selection of yummy pastries and sandwiches.
They are the lunch and dinner choices of many HKG-ers on the go – and they are always on the go – and the food comes fast and fresh. There is also always a crowd, so don’t be alarmed if there is an empty seat in front of you that is abruptly filled with a stranger (just pretend he isn’t there and enjoy your food)
Turnover is high, but prices are cheap.
My go-to Char Chan Teng is Tsui Wah’s Central branch.
I also love Australia Dairy Company, but its a little out of the way in Jordan 😦 Had to pass on their lovely silky milk custard this time around.
Tsui Wah has several branches, with its Wellington St premises being the original one.
The Wellington branch was opened in 1967, and it fills three storeys which are opened as the lower floors slowly fill out. All six or seven times I’ve been there, its been full house.
Service is efficient, brusque, and if you don’t call out loud enough or wait for the waitstaff to take your order, you shouldn’t eat here, because no one will come – at least for a while.
Don’t come expecting anything fancy either. The decor ranges from slightly gaudy, yellow tile / wood laminate booths barely big enough for four people to squeeze in to kopitiam style wooden tables topped with glass and printed menus slipped in underneath. No frills.
Here’s me with two funky drinks we ordered that day – lemongrass soda water, and K’s honey calamansi whatchamacallit. Also pictured is the char chan teng classic Pineapple Bun (Polo Bun), but more on that later !
What we had this time round –
And this is why –
White, crustless, fluffy thick white bread – sandwiching – the fluffiest, smoothest, airiest scrambled eggs and crispy slivers of sinful luncheon meat.
This by the way, is just as awesome hot or cold. A, LY and I enjoyed it high altitude in the freezing cold at the top of The Peak, and it tasted like the best cold-cuts sandwich ever.
Although I think that the eggs at Australia Dairy are better in terms of creaminess, they don’t keep as well – they turned slightly rubbery after I carried them around for 2 hours (I just like to pick at my food).
This was the first time I tried TW’s XO prawn noodles and my reaction to it was mixed. The noodles were great – QQ, springy, and tasty with the XO sauce. The prawns were just middling – I felt that they were too crunchy and they were kind of cold from being doused in cold water (I think) to stop them from cooking after getting blanched.
I also wished that they would give me more of that yummy XO sauce to drown my noodles in, but at around $5, who is complaining really.
K ordered the Chicken Chop Spaghetti, which he said was underwhelming and I agree. I suspect everything was premade, because the sauce was flat, the chop was over tenderized, and the spaghetti limp and uninspiring. 😦
What never goes wrong, though, is their signature milk tea. Its unbelievably smooth without that slightly bitter and acrid taste that can so easy surface when tea leaves are overused and over-brewed. It’s also very fragrant and perfect with …
The Polo Bun, which, for the uninitiated, does not actually contain any pineapple. Instead, its named after aforementioned fruit because of the crackly crust that emerges on the soft bun during baking.
The result is an impossibly scrummy sweet bun with a crusty sugary top (just like Japanese melonpan), and a soft, fluffy sweet interior.
I don’t want to scare you, but the secret ingredient that makes it so fragrant is actually lard.
Of course I have to level up an already sinful pastry into a heart attack inducing version by ordering it with a pat of cold butter. Let me tell you, it is worth it. A little of that butter will melt instantly into the soft bun, releasing the scrummy aroma of butter and sugar, and the rest provides cold, creamy contrast when you bite into the bun and wash down all that fat with your milk tea.
The rate we were eating, I’m surprised I only put on around 1 kg after the trip.
15-19 Wellington St
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2525 6338
Part of our Tsui Wah pilgrimage inevitably continues at Tai Cheong Bakery for their famous egg tarts just one or two streets down.
To be honest, I was kind of horrified to see that they had refurbished the place. It just looked so sparkly and new and .. non-authentic that I had fears that their famous egg tarts (beloved by ex HKG governor Chris Patten) would no longer taste as good.
Well I didn’t really have to worry because a closer look into the shop showed that all the previous old ovens and trays and machinery had been kept.
However, the staff have been changed. I remember an old man in a stained singlet helped by his equally grumpy wife the last few times I was there. They have been replaced by aunties wearing uniforms.
Anyway we bought a box and the verdict?
K loved them, and so did M (he had three to himself the last time we were here) but I felt that they didn’t taste as good. For one, I spotted trays and trays of premade tarts in the back ground. Last I remembered, the old couple prepared the tarts a la minute and they almost always emerged piping hot, the wobbly custard and buttery warm pastry so fresh out of the oven that it was impossible not to make a mess eating it.
This time, the custard was rather solid and the pastry had hardened a little to more closely resemble the sugar crust pastry of a fruit tart, not flaky and buttery goodness.
Still, very good and worth a try. A tip though, if you want to bring them out of HKG, consume WITHIN A DAY. Or you will be rewarded with soggy crusts and hardened egg custard.
Tai Cheong Bakery
32 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, Hong Kong.
That’s it for now, ta !