Continuing the Curry Puffy Cuisine Crawl, Tawn and I headed out to Central one morning to retrace Gary’s secondary school breakfast steps, on the hunt for Hong Kong milk tea. Our destination this morning was Lan Fong Yuen, ostensibly (but unverifiably) the place where milk tea was first created.
Located on the north side of Hong Kong Island, Central is the business district. Immediately to the south of it is the 1800-foot Victoria Peak. The rapid elevation gain combined with the population density creates an interesting warren of narrow streets that are great for exploring. The Central Escalator, a public conveyance system that combines moving sidewalks and escalators, makes it easier for pedestrians to go from Central to the Mid-Levels, a popular residential and, increasingly, commercial area part way up the mountain.
The Central Escalator bisects Gage Street right where it meets Wellington and right below it sits Lan Fong Yuen. The original shop (there’s a second one a few doors down) still has a pair of wooden stools out front on which you can sit and enjoy your milk tea and a light meal. The picture above shows the Central Escalator in the top left of the picture. The red taxi is on Wellington Street.
Looking down Gage Street from Wellington, you can hardly resist the urge to go explore. It is a lively street with vibrant sights, well worth a post-tea stroll. But before strolling, it is time for tea.
The interior is clean but dingy, looking just like a hundred other similar restaurants that have been around for ages. The staff is friendly and a picture menu makes it easy for those who don’t speak Chinese to order. Tawn, being part Chinese, gets spoken to in Cantonese everywhere we go in Hong Kong. He’s much too polite, of course, to tell them that he doesn’t understand, so just smiles and nods, occasionally responding in Thai or English.
This is the milk tea. Not much to look at, right? This is the essence of simplicity. It is a very strong black tea cut with evaporated milk. The flavor of it is almost coffee-like, in terms of the richness of the tea. It isn’t your grandmother’s Lipton.
The tea is made using pantyhose – the leaves steep inside a pantyhose strainer set in a metal pot. The pantyhose is attached to a wire handle and it is lifted up and the tea is allowed to drain into the cup. Worth noting, this is the exact same technique used by street vendors in Thailand for making Thai coffee and Thai tea. (Note to self – that’s a future entry needing to be written.)
Lan Fong Yuen is an all-day operations offering the tea along with a dozen snacky type dishes to satisfy your hunger.
The fried pork sandwich, a single piece of fried pork loin put on a hamburger bun with a slice of tomato and a slather of sauce. Incredibly simple, but very tasty. While at first glance you might think it is tremendously unhealthy, consider that the alternatives offered at fast food restaurants have been heavily processed with added fillers, salts, etc. This is just a slab of pork with some salt and pepper, fried up and placed on the bun. Relatively speaking, better for you than a filet-o-fish.
Probably a little less healthy for you is the French toast.
Two pieces of white bread stuffed with jam inside, battered with egg and then fried in lots of oil. I couldn’t identify whether it was butter or margarine on top and was tempted to think it was the latter. This was tasty but after two bites was a bit overwhelming. Probably best when trying to mop up a hangover.
Tawn ordered one of his childhood favorites – this is what qualifies as Chinese comfort food, it seems. A plate of noodles with some veggies and fried chicken on top. I looked at the noodles and remarked how much they looked like instant ramen. Which was the point at which I learned that they are instant ramen.
So what’s the verdict? Pretty tasty tea and the chicken and pork were both good. There were several other menu items we wanted to try but we had lunch plans just two hours later and needed some room for that. The French toast was fine but was pretty oily, all things considered. For a quick breakfast or a spot of afternoon tea, though, Lan Fong Yuen is definitely on the list!