Photos by Claire Zheng
Known for efficient service and affordable prices, cha chaan teng (literally ‘tea restaurants’) have always been highly ranked on Guangzhouers’ lists of places to eat. An import from Hong Kong, as the population of such diners has expanded, so locals have become increasingly picky about where to go for their authentic HK fix.
Located on Huale Lu in the Taojin area, Hong Kong Bistro hopes to tap into that market by offering a precise cha chaan teng replica. Decked out in bright orange tones, its wallpaper is composed of nostalgic Hong Kong ads and distinct street views. Piled red plastic crates with glass bottles of Coca Cola, the open beverage bar and a continual stream of Hong Kong TV programs on the goggle-box all feed into the restaurant’s ambiance.
The attention to details continues with the food. Hong Kong Bistro only utilizes healthy cooking oil and eschews monosodium glutamate. Professional bakers and siu mei (Chinese rotisserie) masters make the bread and roast the meats.
Chee cheong fun (RMB16/bowl) and wun zai ci (RMB24/bowl) are considered two signature street snacks in Hong Kong, and both are done well here. The former consists of steamed rice rolls with lightly fried sesame seeds, black sweet sauce, sesame paste, chili paste and soybean sauce dressing on top. Just the right amount of chewiness and balancing numerous flavors, it is ideal for an afternoon break. Wun zai ci – often mistakenly believed to be shark’s fin because it contains the word ‘ci’ (fin) in its name – is a dark brown, sticky concoction of translucent fensi (glass noodles) with chicken pieces, slices of fungus and dried scallops.
The restaurant should be particularly proud of its pork chop bun (RMB22), crispy on the outside and soft inside, with a large serving of pork that’s big enough for two dainty ladies. Cart noodles are also a must. Widely seen in Hong Kong in the 1950s when street vendors sold it on roadsides in low-income districts, it has since become a food fad. Customers can choose the noodles, side dishes and soup that will go into their serving (RMB28 for three side dishes, RMB38 for five). Chicken wings, sausage, meat balls and pig skin are among the most popular noodle accompaniments, while fish, spicy Sichuan and curry are amongst the soup selections.
To ease your palate from the generally intense flavors of the main meal, choose a refreshing beverage like the iced Sprite with salted lime (RMB18). Alternatively, cool off with a concoction of vanilla ice cream and mango blocks titled the Plant Ice-cream (RMB38). Conceived to look like a piece of vegetation, it is covered with a think layer of chocolate chip dust and a sprig of mint leaves.
With Hong Kong Bistro in Guangzhou, there’s no need to catch the train for a genuine taste of the Pearl of the Orient.
// Hong Kong Bistro, Shop B7-9, G/F, Central Plaza, 38 Huale Lu, Yuexiu District 越秀区华乐路38号广怡大厦首层B7-9 (8360 2347)