No, this is not your usual French toast dust in powdered sugar with a side serving of fresh berries. Instead, it’s the deep-fried, golden-yellow make of the Hong Kong-style French toast. Craving for this creamy and filling breakfast staple? See our top picks of the best places to find the classic French toast in Hong Kong.
Of all the cha chaan teng classics, the local French toast is sure to rank high above the rest. It’s been named by CNN as one of the best foods in the world and successfully made moves across the globe as a defining icon of the city. After all, what’s there not to love? It’s a crispy deep-fried bread that’s also swimming in a delicious pool of syrup, condensed milk and butter. Yum!
Typically you’ll find this an enduring staple across the city’s range of Cantonese-style cafes, tea houses and dim sum parlours. Some stay true to the original with a traditional, simple make that goes best with a cup of silky smooth milk tea. But others have creations beyond the usual, coming up with creative renditions of their own. Either way, the sweet-meets-savoury experience of the French toast is a must no matter the time of day. So, find out where you can gobble up this delicious dish.
Warning: Sweetness overload may occur.
The best places to eat Hong Kong-style French toast
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We’ve mentioned the hidden gems tucked surreptitiously away at Hong Kong’s unassuming cooked food markets. At the Sheung Wan Cooked Food Centre — not the Des Voeux Road location — is Shui Kee Coffee, a rustic spot known for its cha chaan teng-style serves, including a much raved-about Hong Kong-style French toast. A perfect archetype of the classic dish, Shui Kee’s rendition is crisp around the edges and fluffy in the centre with a generous pour of condensed milk that complements a sweet to the savoury.
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Sham Shui Po’s Sun Heung Yuen is beloved for three dishes, two of which you don’t have to pay special attention to because you’ll be enamoured by their third: Hong Kong-style French toast. Drenched in generous layers of egg batter before deep-frying, the restaurant also smears in layers of soft butter between for an extra fluffy bite. With the final drizzle — no, sorry, pour — of honey syrup, it’s the very decadent, very indulgent take of the original. Sun Heung Yuen is also always ridiculously busy, so head over early to skip queues and avoid eagerly hungry crowds.
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You probably didn’t notice Si Yik during your visits to Stanley, distracted by the newer, shinier, brighter restaurants and cafes that have opened up by the waterfront. But under a bright green tarp behind the unassuming fresh fruit stall is this rustic dai pai dong well-known as the home of one of Hong Kong’s best French toast. They serve their crispy make with an alternative kaya filling — not the only thing the restaurant does differently — and hand-whisks egg whites into the usual eggy batter for an airier texture before deep-frying at a high temperature. Nevertheless, it’s worth a visit, and budding French toast enthusiasts might even suss out the secret recipe.
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Another cooked food market location is Sing Kee. This time, it’s a couple of stations down to Kennedy Town and serves a very traditional, very delicious make of Hong Kong-style French toast. It might not entail an unexpected surprise but trust that the deep-fried coating of the battered toast is crunchy and crispy, the bread itself fluffy and the dish drenched in condensed milk, honey and a generous slab of soft butter to satisfy all cravings.
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Along with the dim sums, many come to Chau Kee for their cha chaan teng snacks, including the Hong Kong-style French toast, which the restaurant has creatively invented their own by adding a runny lava centre. Deep-fried for a golden yellow crust, the toast is served whole, free from any of the usual accoutrements for a satisfying slice through the rich and indulgent centre. There are currently three flavours to choose from: black sesame, ube and the crowd-favourite, egg custard.
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The first thing that sets Hing Kee Cafe’s Hong Kong-style French toast apart is that it’s pan-fried on low heat instead of the usual vigorous deep fry. This explains the uniform colour and evenly caramelised crust on the crispy exterior. The other thing is the puddle of condensed milk that pools over the surface. With no additional condiments sandwiched between, the thick slab of toast is kept light and fluffy in the centre and makes up for the glorious amounts of sweet accompaniments and melted butter.
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This local cha chann teng might be more well-known for its pig liver and beef noodles, but it doesn’t mean the French toast is overshadowed. If you want a sweet alternative (or company) to the piping hot noodles, then the kaya French toast is a must. After all, many travel far and wide just to dine at this Sham Shui Po cafe. Just like its signature dishes, the French toast is made fresh daily. It looks simple — fluffy bread with butter — but the kaya jam is a nice extra touch. We promise you won’t be a let down.
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Take your French toast dining experience to the next level with Lok Yuen’s unique offering. Ditching the classic custard-dipped bread with bread and honey, the French toast here is stuffed with fresh beef, which has been marinated with satay sauce. The result is a golden-brown bread with butter and condensed milk. Feel the blend of sweet, savoury, and even spicy flavours melt in your mouth with each bite. Delicious!
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Not to be confused with the Michelin-starred Man Wah in Mandarin Oriental, Man Wah Restaurant is the go-to for those craving some local comfort food. Smacked right in the heart of the buzzy Mong Kok neighbourhood, the local eatery is a crowd favourite. There’s plenty to pick from here but the French toast is undeniably a must-eat. The 1.5-inch thick slab filled with condensed milk and butter is just an absolute guilty pleasure. You will surely ask for another serving.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Why is French toast popular in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong-style French toast is popular because of its delicious crispy deep-fried bread that’s also swimming in a delicious pool of syrup, condensed milk and melted butter.
- How do you say French toast in Cantonese?
French toast is pronounced as ‘西多士’ (sai1 do1 si6*2) in Cantonese.
- What is a typical Hong Kong breakfast?
A typical Hong Kong breakfast includes French toast, noodles with satay beef, egg and luncheon sandwiches, and many more.