Fu­elling Hong Kong folk’s ap­petite for stock­ing milk tea

The Sun (Malaysia) - - WHAT2EAT -

sep­a­rate the mix­ture into smaller bowls, to be served as in­di­vid­ual serv­ings.) 5. Pour the egg and tofu mix­ture into

the casse­role dish. Add sesame oil. 6. Gen­tly stir to com­bine and dis­trib­ute the in­gre­di­ents through­out the mix­ture. 7. Place the dish in a steamer to steam

for 20 min­utes. 8. When done, re­move from steamer. 9. Driz­zle a lit­tle light soy sauce onto the sur­face and sprin­kle some chopped spring onions on top if you like. 10. Serve im­me­di­ately with plain rice. SOME cities are fu­elled by cof­fee. In Hong Kong, it’s milk tea – a po­tent nos­tal­giain­fused caf­feine hit – that keeps things run­ning, with fierce com­pe­ti­tion to brew the best in town.

There are thou­sands of restau­rants of­fer­ing the full gamut of both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional cuisines, but it is the city’s no-frills diner-style cafes, some of them decades old, which re­main peren­nial favourites with lo­cals and still do a roar­ing trade.

Known in Can­tonese as ‘cha chaan tengs’ or tea restau­rants, they serve up cheap lo­cal favourites – from fried egg sand­wiches and but­tery French toast to noo­dle soups and mac­a­roni.

The stan­dard ac­com­pa­ni­ment is a milk tea, or lai cha – a tangy, deep-tan brew made from blends of black tea strained re­peat­edly for strength, then mixed with con­densed or evap­o­rated milk.

The city gulps down around 2.5 mil­lion cups a day.

At fam­ily-run tea shop Lan Fong Yuen on a hilly mar­ket street in Hong Kong’s Cen­tral dis­trict, busi­ness shows no sign of slow­ing after 60 years.

Owner Lam Chun-chung says the no-fuss na­ture of Hong Kong’s tea restau­rants plays a big role in their pop­u­lar­ity in a fast-paced city.

“Peo­ple are al­ways in a rush. Hav­ing a quick bite with milk tea is fast and con­ve­nient,” says Lam, who adds that his cafe has much more char­ac­ter than the grow­ing num­ber of ster­ile cof­fee shops.

Cus­tomers sit around shared wooden ta­bles, many stop­ping for just 10 min­utes to grab a quick break­fast or mid-morn­ing boost.

A tea mas­ter jug­gles steam­ing pots on an elec­tric stove, strain­ing the hot brews through long cloth sieves – a key uten­sil for any se­ri­ous Hong Kong lai cha joint.

The sock-like strainer has lent Hong Kong milk tea one of its nick­names – stock­ing milk tea. At this cafe, tea is strained seven times to in­ten­sify the flavour.

Hong Kong’s As­so­ci­a­tion of Cof­fee and Tea says it is also build­ing a global fan­base.

The Hong Kong-style milk tea has flowed freely through the city’s ar­ter­ies for more than half a cen­tury, ac­cord­ing to as­so­ci­a­tion chair­man Si­mon Wong.

He tells how it was first served on Hong Kong’s docks to sailors and labour­ers, an earthy adap­ta­tion of the ad­mit­tedly weaker ver­sion made with fresh milk by the colo­nial Bri­tish who gov­erned at that time.

“Hong Kong peo­ple wanted some­thing with more punch. So we in­vented this type of brew­ing,” Wong says.

The strength of the tea and the canned milk made it value for money.

Wong’s fa­ther – a tea trader – was a pro­po­nent of the new con­coc­tion, set­ting up one of the first cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong, which still ex­ists to­day.

Main­land China has now also de­vel­oped a taste for Hong Kong-style milk tea, and im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties across the world are in­tro­duc­ing it to new coun­tries, says Wong. – AFP-Re­laxnews

Tea shops like Lan Fong Yuen (left) have been serv­ing milk tea strained sev­eral times through a ‘stock­ing’ (above) for years.

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