Why Hong Kong’s Cha Chaan Tengs And Dai Pai Dongs Are Nana Chan's Favourite Food Experiences
As part of our series celebrating the vibrancy and community within Hong Kong’s dining scene, we spoke to several of the industry’s leading lights about why they love the city’s unique food culture. Here, Nana Chan—founder of tea café Teakha and craft tea purveyors Plantation – tells us about her cha chaan teng cravings and special friendship with a 108-year-old spice shop.
Tell us about one of your favourite Hong Kong food moments.
My favourite Hong Kong food experience is definitely visiting cha chaan tengs—that’s the type of food I crave when I’m away from Hong Kong for longer periods, when I’m stressed out and need a quick binge, or when I’m happy and want something simple.
The allure of cha chaan tengs is quite inexplicable, I’d say. Their menus are often composed of cheap canned or processed foods and in some cases, the service is downright rude, but somehow they manage to capture the heart and soul of the city, and that is something very special to me.
My favourite of them all is Yue Hing, a dai pai dong on Stanley Street. The chef—the husband in Yue Hing’s husband-and-wife team—is known for being meticulous, making only one dish at a time to ensure only the best food comes out from his humble kitchen. I love their diced spiced pork, scrambled egg and melted cheese sandwich; it’s the layer of peanut butter and shredded cabbage, adding another level of flavour and texture, that makes it so addictive.
What are some of your favourite local ingredients?
Yuan Heng is a family-run spice shop close to Teakha, on Tung Street in Sheung Wan. We buy all the spices we use in our masala chai from there, including cardamom, cinnamon, peppers and star anise—which actually inspired them to make and sell their own masala chai mix!
Over the years, we’ve built a good rapport with the family who own it; believe it or not, they’ve now run the shop for over 108 years in Hong Kong. We love being welcomed by the aroma of punchy spices once we start walking down the Tung Street stairs—sometimes peppery, sometimes tingling and spicy, but always tinged with the warmth of a friendly neighbour’s face.
If you could only visit one restaurant in Hong Kong again, what would it be – and how does it sum up what you love about the city’s food scene?
One of my favourite restaurants in Hong Kong is Ronin. I’ve loved the restaurant from the get-go – the hard-to-find location and hidden door, the narrow dim restaurant space, the ever-changing food menu and impeccable service.
Ronin is Japanese, a modern izakaya of sorts, but I find their spirit very Hong Kong. Created by Hong Kong-based chef Matt Abergel (who is also behind Yardbird), their menu is based on whatever he finds fresh from the local markets every day. It is the perfect blend of sleek New York-style service and efficiency with local charm and ingredients, resulting in uber yummy Japanese dishes served with the best Japanese cocktails.
See also: 17 Best Ramen Restaurants In Hong Kong
- Yue Hing, Shop 82, Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong
- Yuan Heng Spice Company, G/F, 19 Tung Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, +852 2542 0275
- Ronin, G/F, 8 On Wo Lane, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2547 5263