- Cha chaan teng
Cha chaan teng Traditional Chinese 茶餐廳 Simplified Chinese 茶餐厅 Cantonese Jyutping caa4 caan1 teng1 Literal meaning "tea food hall" Transcriptions Mandarin - Hanyu Pinyin chácāntīng Min - Hokkien POJ tê-chhan-thiaⁿ Cantonese (Yue) - Jyutping caa4 caan1 teng1 - Yale Romanization cha4 chaan1 teng1
A cha chaan teng (lit.: Chinese tea diner) means tea diner, also called Chinese diner, is commonly found in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan, known for its Chinese food, eclectic and affordable menus, which include many dishes from Hong Kong cuisine and Hong Kong-style Western cuisine. Cha chaan tengs are also popular in Macau. Since the 1980s they can also be found in the Chinatown districts of many Western countries like Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and United States.
Name and description
Cha chaan teng establishments provide tea (usually weak tea) called "clear tea" (清茶 cing1 caa4), to customers as soon as they are seated. Some patrons use the hot tea to wash their utensils. The name, literally "tea restaurant", serves to distinguish itself from Western restaurants that provide water to customers instead of tea. The "tea" in the name refers to the inexpensive black tea, not the traditional Chinese tea served in traditional dim sum restaurants and teahouses (茶樓 caa4 lau4). Moreover, some cha chaan tengs prefer the use of the word "café" in their names.
The "tea" may also refer to tea drinks, such as the Hong Kong-style milk tea and cold lemon tea, which are very popular in cha chaan tengs. The older generations in Hong Kong use yum sai cha (飲西茶 lit. "drinking Western tea"), when dining in these restaurants in contrast with yum cha.
Cha chaan teng serves a wide range of food, from steak to wonton noodles to curry to sandwiches, eg Hong Kong-style French toast. Both fast food and à-la-carte dishes are available. A big cha chaan teng often consists of three cooking places: a "water bar" (水吧) which makes drinks, toast/sandwiches and instant noodles, a "noodle stall" which prepares Chiuchow-style noodles (including wonton noodles), and a kitchen for producing rice plates and other more expensive dishes. The invention of drinks like yuanyang (鴛鴦), Iced tea with Lemon (凍檸茶) and Coca-Cola with Lemon (檸樂) are often credited culturally to this style of restaurant.
A feature of cha chaan tengs are the set meals. There are various sets throughout the day for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. The lunch and dinner sets usually include a soup and a drink. Generally there is an additional HK$2 charge for cold drinks. Sometimes an additional HK$1 is charged for toasted bread.
Other sets include:
- "Nutritious set" (營養餐) - It comes with milk and other nutritional food
- "Constant set" (常餐) - Provided all day long, hence the name (it usually consists of a main course, omelette, white bread with butter and a drink)
- "Fast set" (快餐) - Immediately served (usually rice with sausages/ ham/ fried eggs with gravy)
- "Special set" (特餐) - Chef's (or Boss's) recommendation
Other kinds of local restaurant related to cha chaan teng in Hong Kong include chaan sut (餐室 lit. "meal chamber"), bing sut (冰室 lit. "ice chamber"), and bing teng (冰廳 lit. "ice dining room"), which a provide lighter and a limited selection of food than cha chaan teng.
In the old days, these eateries only sold different types of "ice", sandwiches and pasta but no rice plates. However, some of the restaurants bearing these titles today ignore the tradition, and provide all kinds of rice plates and even wonton noodles. Original chaan suts, bing suts and bing tengs, which can be regarded as the prototype of cha chaan tengs, are now scarce in Hong Kong.
- The similarities between the different set meals were made fun of by My life as McDull, a McDull movie.
- An important part of Hong Kong culture, cha chaan teng is featured in many Hong Kong movies and TV dramas, including the popular sitcom Virtues of Harmony. The TVB-made soap opera tells the story of a family who runs a cha chaan teng, usually boasting the egg tart and "silk-stocking milk tea" produced by them. Stephen Chow also played a cha chaan teng waiter in the 1998-comedy Lucky Guy (行運一條龍) and a cha chaan teng meal-delivery-boy in the King of Comedy (1999).
- Some beverage producers use the words cha chaan teng to name their products, such as "cha chaan teng milk tea" and "cha chaan teng lemon tea".
- On 19 December 2007, lawmaker Choy So Yuk proposed during a Legislative Council session that Hong Kong's cha chaan teng be recognised and put up to UNESCO as an "intangible cultural heritage of humanity". The proposal came about after a recent Hong Kong poll found that seven out of ten people believe the cafes deserve a UNESCO cultural listing.
- A comprehensive gallery of the cha chaan tengs found in Hong Kong
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