Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Hong Kong Diners (aka Cha Chaan Teng)

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 22, 2008

Have you ever been to a Hong Kong style diner? Seems like most non-Chinese have never heard of these places, unless they’re very close friends with someone of Chinese descent (and has some connections to the “old culture”). Diners eat with a knife and fork and it’s somewhat lower-end fusion, but in a very unique way. Menu offerings include:

  • Pork chop and rice casserole
  • Pastas (almost always spaghetti and macaroni. You can even get macaroni in soup for breakfast)
  • Buns (western style, but catering to the Hong Kong palate)
  • Sandwiches
  • Breakfast foods, including ham, eggs and toast.

Of course, a cha chaan teng isn’t complete without offering Hong Kong tea (very strong black tea, evaporated milk (or condensed milk) and sugar) and yeen yeung (half coffee, half Hong Kong tea). In Toronto, you can find cha chaan tengs in Markham and Scarborough, though there aren’t too many in the older Chinatown area downtown.

Have you been to one?  What do you think?  Why don’t people outside of the HK community know about these places?  I’ve never seen them reviewed in too many non-Chinese publications.

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7 Responses to “Hong Kong Diners (aka Cha Chaan Teng)”

  1. This is my least-favourite food in the world. It’s like Chinese people trying to make Western food and then failing.

    Pasta, such as spaghetti, is over-cooked instead of al dente. The tomato sauce is not really tomato sauce. Wikipedia says that it’s probably made mostly of starch. That explains the crappy taste.

    The food quality is bad, and they treat cheap Western foods like they are delicacies, such as mayonnaise.

    Drinks and desserts are all right, but the actual food seems really cheap and unhealthy and bad-tasting to me.

  2. Well, cha chaan tengs aren’t exactly supposed to be good cuisine, but it’s worth a mention.

  3. This is the kind of thing I *don’t* want non-Chinese people to know about.

  4. I’m actually wondering why HK Chinese people eat this stuff in Canada, when they can get real, better-quality Western food. I don’t understand how other people cannot tell how bad it tastes. I don’t understand why these “restaurants”, or rather diners, still exist.

  5. They exist because it’s nostalgic for some HK boomers. Many had their first dates at places like that.

    My mom learned how to eat with a knife and fork at higher end cha chaan tengs (which don’t really exist here, except perhaps Maxim’s).

  6. Yes, that makes sense now.

  7. Ashley said

    My dream is to have Hong Kong style diner. But, unfortunately, I haven’t had it before.

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