Friday, August 7, 2009

Hong Kong: Cha Chan Teng special

You cant consider yourself to have experienced Hong Kong until you step into a Cha Chan Teng and experienced the ambience and buzz in the eatery - the brusque (and if you are lucky, enthusiastic) service, the fast-in-fast-out turnover of the place, and the noisy atmosphere and general busy-ness of the place. Most of the time, the popularity of the place is proportional to the quality of the food you can come to expect.
This first place I am going to talk about is Honolulu Cafe (Central, Hong Kong). We have returned to this place many many times for its egg tarts.We also almost always order the yuan yang - coffee and tea, and the ones here tend to be really milky - as compared to the faux ones in Singapore which has a larger coffee component which kinda overwhelms the tea.
My dear friend Kelly also started a pineapple bun (polor bun) frenzy and we loved it that it came with a thick slab of cold butter.
The egg tarts were the best part of the meal cos it was the flaky kind, which is quite rare in Hong Kong where there are many with buttery crusts..
The egg custard was really soft and flimsy and you can see the flaky, crisp layers of crust beneath - it was such a thin layer the whole egg tart eating experience was gone in a flash.
We came to Cui Hua (Central, Hong Kong) later that night. This place was also featured on the U-Magazine and is famous for its fishball noodles. This place operates 247 and is in the clubbing district so it is popular with the clubbers for supper. This place is so colourful and has so many cheerful bright colours it makes us happy just being in that place.
This was my mixed fish ball noodles - there was fish everything - fish ball, fish cake, fish stuffed beancurd and beanpaste - I liked it all cos it was great comfort food in the middle of the night.
Kelly had less variety in hers as she just went for the normal fishball noodles set - and she was eyeing those fried chicken cutlet/chicken rice/curry chicken that other tables were having.
Whilst the fishball noodles was nothing much to rave about, these hot buns are - they are just toasted butter buns were awesome !!! they were toasty and buttery and so delicious- especially since they were only HKD$1 (like, 20 cents in Singapore?!) per bun.
Their french toast was pretty much normal - all the grease and fried batter you can imagine, its here =P
Another place we always frequent (cos we're always in the Mong Kok area) is Jin Hwa (Mongkok, Hong Kong). We receed this place the night before and never looked back since then - we came here about 3 times.
The hot yuan yang here is my favourite, cos its so thick but well balanced.
The stir fried beef horfun is highly recommended. Plenty of worhei, and tender beef slices. Its greasy but we loved it.
The black pepper chicken chop with rice was also good, there was plenty of rice to mop up all the delicious black pepper sauce. It was high quality cha chan teng fare, I wished there were such good everyday meals I can tuck into back home in Singapore.
Then before our second visit back to Jin Hwa again, we stopped by Kang Nian Bakery just next door to it.
One of the novelties in Hong Kong is that their street food is literally, sold in the streets. This bakery kept churning out baked goodies and displayed it outside the eateries, a whiff of the pastries and its hard to rein in your temptation.. This napolean cake is like Hong Kong kueh lapis - layers of butter cake sandwiched between bread pastry.

Amazingly, we also saw roast meats being sold too - they just hang the carcasses all ready to be chopped up..
The egg tarts were scorching - they scalded Kelly's but it was no problem for me cos I ingest burning foods (hot Soya bean milk =) ) all the time. Egg tarts straight from the oven is certainly the best way to have them.
Okay, so much for the prelude to our second visit to Jin Hwa. Having one round of pastries did not stop us from having another round...
THe U-Magazine actually recommended the Polor - you (pineapple bun with butter) but they sell out everything in the day so during our first dinner visit we didnt get to try it. This is one of the best we've tried, the top crust crumbles so easily, giving way to soft bread within..
Ditto for the popular egg tarts, the pastry has a more buttery texture as compared to our favourites from Honolulu...
It has a balanced proportion between buttery crust and eggy custard.
It was a freakin hot day so I settled for the cold yuan yang... if you noticed I like my drinks hot - whether is it soya milk, milk, tea, coffee - i think the hotness retains the wholesome flavour of the drink.,
On our third visit here we had the beef omelette sandwich but it doesn't beat Kam Fung's (scroll further down). Nonetheless, steamed bread in sandwiches is something we miss dearly from our Hong Kong days.
Kelly loved the beef horfun so much, we had another round - the crunchy beansprouts and leeks was a good balance to the greasy kway teow..
We couldnt miss the polor you again...
And the egg tarts !! (Actually, we were just eating not cos its fantastic -as compared to Honolulu or Tai Cheong - but cos its a little strange to just eat polor you without any egg tarts after that, its a ritual already....)
I guess you should know what time of the day I came to drink my cold yuan yang (and getting to those popular egg tarts and polor buns...)
Let's venture abit off the urban central Hong Kong into Stanley - a rustic, weekend getaway for many eco-loving Hong Kongers, and a playground for the foreign expats and tourists.
It holds a gem: Si Yi (Stanley, Hong Kong) a traditional eatery right in the city centre of Stanley. Whilst the expats and foreigners hang out at the waterfront bars which seem swanky on a cursory glance, real traditional food is to be found within this smoky, hot, crowded place, with almost aloof service (as it seems, a hallmark of Cha Chan Tengs)
Mind you, its quite a queue to get in, and sweating in the mid afternoon sun waiting in hunger for your lunch is no mean joke.
As usual, our yuanyangs..
The pineapple bun with butter...this was rather soggy though..
The beef omelette sandwich was quite good - in Hong kong, they steam all their white bread that is used to make their sandwiches, making it very soft and fluffy.
Well we made this treacherous journey and braved the long queue to have this French toast with kaya...
Yes, they place kaya in between pieces of bread, then they fry it in egg, then top it all off with a slab of butter - how sinful can this be !! It was a grease bomb, with kaya and butter spilling everywhere but it was most satisfying.
This entry is so dated, the Stanley excursion actually occured on Easter so we had hot cross buns after our lunch...this was by the waterfront of Stanley beach. We loved these cinnamon flavoured hot cross buns, with scattered sweetness of raisins.
We were actually opening our toys from the Kinder Bueno Easter eggs... Mine is the uglier one and I am sure you cant decide which is...
There is also a new Kinder Happy Hippo in the Easter sale..
I am sure they still look happy....
Later that night we stopped over at Kamfung Restaurant (Wanchai, Hong Kong) for dinner. I read in hautestuff that this place has legendary egg tarts, but a secret (that Yixiao revealed, thanks for the let in!) is that their beef omelette sandwiches were fab as well...
Well too bad that night they were closing so they had neither!! We settled for their sets instead - Kelly's teh ping (which was apparently famous) and my warm milk (so I can dip bread in)
I had the pineapple bun with omelette - sweat bread with salty greasy omelette was good comfort food, eggs with bread is always my favourite.
During our second visit to Kam Fung, we had the fantastic beef omelette sandwich. The steamed bread was so soft and lovely, holding in between creamy eggs and tender whole slices of beef. This is the best sandwich I could possibly have, simple and nutritious, but so good.
We had the chicken pie too - the pastry is extremely buttery, unlike the flaky ones that I prefer.
And I'm sure you can guess that the egg tarts are also extremely buttery..
Kelly had their famous milk tea..
After that we then moved on to our next U-magazine recommendation - a Kaya Pineapple bun, to be found at Harbourcity Kitchen (Convention Centre, Central, Hong Kong) They call it the Crispy Kaya Sweet Bun, and we were very excited to try cos it encompasses two of our favourite things. Note that there is a one-for-one promotion after 3 pm (but we couldnt wait for it).
Actually, they pride themselves on making real Pineapple buns, or Por lor paus. Almost all bakeries in Hong Kong sell them, but the crust is mostly a sweet crisp crust, with no relation to the 'Pineapple' at all. Here, in Harbourcity, the buns have a fruity crisp crust, giving way to a central core filling of pineapple chunks and kaya. Well the brown kaya wasnt strong at all !
Later that day (yes, we went to 3 cha chan tengs in a day), we had tea at Lan Fong Yuen (Central, Hong Kong), an institution in the Central CBD district. It looks like a shack, doesn't it? They are famous for their takeaway milk tea sold from this shack.
Luckily the interior was decent (crowded, but got aircon =)) and there happened to be filming of some food variety show when we were eating there. Quite good entertainment - and for a while I was quite excited to spot some HK star - but they started speaking mainland Chinese so..... =P They interviewed the bosses for such a long time, the food just became cold and I'm not sure if I'm convinced when they eat (a small bit) of the food and rave about it..... take your food variety shows' ravings with a pinch of salt...
I had the condensed milk with peanut butter thick toast - extremely creamy I loved it, especially when I dipped it into my milk tea..
We had the french toast with kaya too and this takes the cake for having such a thick layer of egg crispy batter. This is like the one we had at Si Y but the kaya is not the nonya kind that we're used to in Singapore. Its sweet but doesnt have a strong coconut flavour.
Ended off with their legendary hot milk tea..

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