No, this is not your usual French toast dusted in powdered sugar with a side serve of fresh berries. This is dedicated to the deep-fried, golden-yellow make of the Hong Kong-style French toast.
Of all the cha chaan teng classics, the Hong Kong-style 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 above crispy deep-fried bread that’s also swimming in pools of syrup, condensed milk and melted butter?
Typically you’ll find this an enduring staple across the city’s range of Cantonese-style cafes, tea houses and dim sum parlours, and while some stay true to the original with a traditional, uncomplicated make that’s best paired with a cup of silky smooth milk tea, others have strayed beyond the expected with creative renditions of their own. Either way, the sweet-meets-savoury experience of the French toast is a not-to-be-missed classic no matter the time of day. Here are the best in the city.
Hong Kong’s best 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, 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 don’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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Over at another cooked food market location, this time a couple station down to Kennedy Town, is Sing Kee, who serves a very traditional, very delicious make of a 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 drencedh in condensed milk, honey and a generous slab of soft butter to satisfy all cravings.
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A dedicated dim sum restaurant aside, 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’s 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. Which would explain 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 make up for the glorious amounts of sweet accompaniments and melted butter.