History of Hong Kong-Style French Toast | The Beat Asia
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Hong Kong Unveiled: The Delicious History of Hong Kong-Style French Toast

Header The Delicious History of Hong Kong Style French Toast Photo by OpenRice/TheBigEatSister

Among all the Cha Chaan Teng snacks in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong style French Toast stands firmly with a special place in the hearts of Hong Kongers and visitors. A deep-fried peanut butter sandwich served with oozing syrup, butter, and sometimes with a scoop of ice cream. It is hard to not adore this culinary masterpiece.

But how did this dish become a beloved treat that people would crave after a long day of work? Let's take a journey through the history of how French Toast made its way into Hong Kong's Cha Chaan Teng cuisine.

Hong Kong-Style French Toast 1

Brief History of French Toast

The earliest known resemblance of French toast can date back to the 1st Century CE in Ancient Rome, where stale breads were soaked in milk and beaten eggs, pan-seared in oil, covered with honey and served as a dish called ‘Pan Dulcis’. Fast forward to the Middle Ages, where European cooks used every bit of their food to survive. Egg wash was used to moisturize heated and day-old bread, creating French toasts. The dish was given the name of ‘pain perdu’, which means 'lost bread’, as stale bread would have been tossed into the bin if not cooked that way. The recipe became popular when early settlers from England brought the recipe to America, Joseph French, an American innkeeper, replicated the dish and named it ’French Toast’ as we know it today.

The Hong Kong Twist on French Toast

The British brought the dish to Hong Kong during the colonial times, where French Toast became a high-end dessert enjoyed in hotels and restaurants. Hotels used sliced baguettes dipped in beaten eggs and milk, and topped with honey, powdered sugar, whipped cream and fruits. However, the dish was unattainable for most Chinese and the poor, as most ingredients were imported.

The magic of Hong Kong style French Toast happened in 1950s, when Chinese chefs from hotels tried to replicate the dish in Dai Pai Dongs (Hong Kong Street Hawkers), however they could not afford baguettes and Western cutlery, so they replaced it with sliced white breads and deep-fried them in woks instead of pans.

This inventive deep-fried and crispy version of French Toast became a unique and local twist of the dish, with diners using butter and syrup as toppings as a cheaper alternative. Still, the dish remained unaffordable for most people, as it cost HK$0.3 at that time, which is the same price as a hot-boiled porridge, which would have been a smarter option for a square meal.

In the 70s, Hong Kong’s rapid industrialization made it more affordable for people to enjoy afternoon tea and spend on food. The Hong Kong style French toast slowly became a common food seen in Cha Chaan Tengs.

Hong Kong-Style French Toast 2
OpenRice/chancka

The variations of Hong Kong style French Toast

Today, there are variations of Hong Kong style French Toast seen all over Hong Kong. Restaurateurs started putting not only peanut butter, but also jam, chocolate, and bananas between the slices of bread, while some fancy Cha Chaan Tengs even put cheese, ham, and bubble tea inside.

Another common variation is adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the French Toast, which has become quite the popular way to enjoy the Hong Kong style French Toast. 

Where to find the Best French Toast Places in Hong Kong

Hing Kee

If you’re looking for the most authentic and traditional Hong Kong style French Toast, Hing Kee is the perfect choice. Serving French Toast for over 60 years, Hing Kee is one of the oldest stores to sell Hong Kong style Pan-Fried toast, they do not use any fillings in between the breads, but they serve extra thick cut bread, upgrading the softness and texture of the fried toast. The store provides condensed milk and butter as toppings, adding an extra fragrance to the toast.

Where: Hing Kee Restaurant, G/F, 182 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 6AM-6PM

Sun Heung Yuen

There must be times where you are craving for French Toast at midnight, and Sun Heung Yuen is serving French Toast 24/7. They serve traditional Hong Kong style deep fried French toast without any fillings, but as it opens for 24 hours each day, it is the best place to go for a midnight craving of French Toast.

Where: Sun Heung Yuen, G/F, 38A Kwei Lin Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon

Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, 24 hours

Chau Kee

Bored of traditional French Toasts? Chau Kee is stepping the game up by taking a modern and adventurous twist on this traditional snack. French toast here are served with an oozing filling, with a choice of black sesame, sweet potato, and chocolate. But the standout option amongst all is the lava custard with salted egg filling, this sweet and savory filling makes for an unforgettable experience The diverse flavors are sure to excite your taste buds.

Where: Chau Kee, G/F H1, Tung Lee Mansion, 1C-1K Water Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Friday 10AM-8PM,

Saturdays and Sundays 9AM-8PM

Chan Sun Kee

Chan Sun Kee is serving French Toast in an interesting way to take the culinary experience into another level. French Toasts here are served as a plate of crispy bite-sized bread chunks, with a topping of condensed milk and syrup. Inside each small chunk of bread, you can choose between fillings of peanut butter, jam, and their secret menu option of red bean paste. Eating French toast here is extra convenient as you can enjoy small slices of French toast bite by bite.

Where: Chan Sun Kee, 1/F, Ap Lei Chau Municipal Services Building, Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong

Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 8AM – 5PM

Closed on Wednesdays

Orchid’s Lodge

For those looking to indulge in a truly decadent French toast experience, Orchid’s Lodge’s is a very generous French toast provider. They serve an enormous tower of French toast, stacked up to five layers with peanut butter filling and topped with a big scoop of customizable ice cream. Be sure to bring your appetite and carefree attitude towards calories for this one.

Where: Orchid Lodge, Chung Chi College, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Sha Tin, New Territories

Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 8AM-8:30PM

Saturday 7:30AM-5PM

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