Much like the city’s dai pai dong, cha chaan tengs are a cornerstone of Hong Kong culinary culture. Popular for their down-to-earth and affordable menus stuffed with local comfort food, not all CCTs are the same. Some might specialise in one particular dish, while others are good across the board. Read on to discover the best cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong that you absolutely have to try. By Sarah Moran and Josephine Lau
RECOMMENDED: If you’re after more local cuisine, sample our pick of the best dai pai dongs or the best dim sum in town.
Best cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong
Anyone can cook eggs, but no one does it better than the Australia Dairy Company. The breakfast set consists of fluffy and moist scrambled eggs served with rich buttery thick toast, and comes with a plate of macaroni along with char siu in chicken broth. Australia Dairy Company also specialises in steamed milk pudding and custard dishes. Whatever you choose, just make sure you order fast, eat fast and leave fast as there’s almost always a long queue of people waiting, no matter what time you go.
Since the extension of the West Island MTR line, Kennedy Town has become a favourite destination for locals and expats alike to explore. Cheung Heung Tea Restaurant, one of the most renowned old-school cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong, is a must-visit spot. This place still retains the OG layout of having its own outdoor stall selling all kinds of baked goods, and has a nostalgic interior that gives a window back to the 1960s. Cantonese pastries take centre stage here, and the traditional 'cocktail bun' stuffed with lotus seed paste is an all-time favourite. Go for an afternoon snack and savour it with a silky hot milk tea. If you're lucky you’ll arrive just in time to see the egg tarts coming fresh out of the oven.
Once located near the harbour before the years of land reclamation, this stalwart neighbourhood favourite offers diners a simple menu with authentic Hong Kong dishes such as egg tarts, toasted goodies, pineapple buns and classic HK style beverages. Drool over its minced beef with scrambled egg on toast, cubed honey French toast with butter and their milk tea or classic red bean shaved ice drink. Hoi On remains one the last authentic old-school HK diners keeping it real in this fast-moving cosmopolitan city.
Kam Wah Café is a regular haunt for many Kowloon residents. Its famous ‘boloyau’ pineapple bun stuffed with a thick wad of butter has crowds queuing up all day long. The contrast of the crisp, sweet, crumbly top and pillowy bread underneath paired with the cold, salty butter is like heaven in your mouth. Kam Wah also serves a superb version of Hong Kong-style French toast.
Hidden within a factory building in Kwun Tong is Hoi Chiu Canteen, a popular café serving creative twists on cha chaan teng classics that can’t be found anywhere else: condensed milk toast sprinkled with Ovaltine powder; scrambled egg sandwich stuffed with an ample amount of scallion. Don’t think it’s imaginative enough? Then go ahead and order their signature macaroni dish. Instead of serving it in a classic chicken broth, the macaroni is wok fried with spicy mala sauce, and topped with shredded chicken, spicy pork cubes, and scallion oil.
Despite being a classic, Lan Fong Yuen can be easy to miss. A shack that’s half photo-op for tourists, half station for preparing food and drinks blocks the entrance to the restaurant. To enter, customers must pass through a small space around the side. Treat yourself to a cup of Lan Fong Yuen’s famous ‘silk stocking milk tea’ paired with French toast or a bun with condensed milk.
No trip to Happy Valley is complete without a stop at this famous cha chaan teng, which has been feeding Hongkongers since 1951. Original features like the wooden booths and patterned floor tiles give it a nostalgic charm. It’s well known for its egg tarts and pineapple buns, but also serves fried noodles and other CCT classics. Of course you have to try the milk tea too.
Established for more than 60 years, family-run Sing Kee started as a cha dong – a cha chaan teng that operates in a dai pai dong style. Since then, it has moved into the hawker centre of Smithfield market in Sai Wan. Although the location and chef have changed, Sing Kee still preserves its old-school layout, and has been serving the same delicious Hong Kong eats since its very first day. Everyone comes here for the famed satay beef noodles, but really it's their golden-brown french toast, filled with peanut butter and slathered with syrup and butter, that will make you fall in love with this place.
This legendary cha chaan teng sits just outside of Yuen Long town, on the Ping Shan Heritage Trail, but it’s well worth the trip. Mrs Tang’s speciality is her pineapple butter bun with tomato and egg. If a bun isn't enough to satiate your appetite, get a bowl of the delicious tomato noodle soup with chicken wings. Wash it all down with a bottle of ‘champagne’ milk tea, which comes chilled rather than diluted with ice. There are other branches in Kwun Tong and Wan Chai, run by Mrs Tang’s sons, but the original remains best.
Located in the basement of an old residential building – sometimes referred to as Kowloon’s ‘four floors of whores’ – next to the Mira Hotel, this basement cha chaan teng can be a little difficult to locate. The retro Coca Cola posters and faded newspaper reviews that decorate the walls and the mismatching wooden tables and chairs lend Star Cafe a nostalgic vibe. Locals flock here for the refreshing tomato soup noodles with egg and luncheon meat. The place is pretty ghetto, but that’s all part of the charm.
Any fan of Stephen Chow should recognise the above dish – spam with fried eggs on rice – from the actor’s classic Hong Kong film God of Cookery. Ma Sa Restaurant, an old-school cha chaan teng in Sheung Wan, rose to fame as a result of taking this particular dish to the next level, loading it with three eggs rather than the standard two. The runny, creamy egg yolk spreads all over the steaming-hot rice like a finger-licking sauce, the flavour enhanced by a dash of soy sauce. Not a fan of spam? Cha siu is actually the norm, but ham is another equally popular choice of meaty topping. Expect some riculously long queues if you turn up during lunchtime.
If you’re looking for some good ol’ comfort food that’s quick and filling, Swiss Café is the place to go. It offers a full cha chaan teng menu with your usual instant noodles and macaroni served with different types of toppings, a large variety of sandwiches and different rice dishes. The star attraction, though, are the Swiss wings – braised chicken wings marinated in a divine sticky, sweet soy sauce.
For those who love Hong Kong-style pies, this rustic cha chaan teng in Tai Po is not to be missed. Wah Fai serves up tummy-filling food from morning to night, and is deadly serious about their handmade pies. These winning pastries have been attracting customers since 1981, and later became even more famous when their apple pie appeared in a local movie. This slice of goodness filled with apple chunks, encased in a glossy burnt crust is simple, classic, and utterly tasty. If you're more on the savoury bandwagon, order the old-school chicken pot pie – deep-filled with chicken, cream soup, ham and onions. There's no chance you won't be back for seconds.