Header image courtesy of @hungrypiggiess (via Instagram)
Though newcomers to the city may be slightly confused by pineapple buns that don’t taste like pineapple or macaroni in tomato soup as a breakfast item, those of us who were raised with it know that cha chaan teng (茶餐廳; Hong Kong-style tea restaurant) food is a thoroughly comforting, if humble, cuisine.
One of the most classic Hong Kong cha chaan teng dishes is satay beef noodles, featuring the noodles of your choice—typically curly instant noodles or macaroni—in a rich broth redolent with spices and nuts, topped with bite-sized pieces of beef.
It’s a simple but winning combination that tastes like childhood for many Hongkongers—and its popularity means that there are loads of great examples to be discovered throughout the city. Below are just a few of our favourite versions, from thicker Southeast Asian-style soups to Hong Kong-style twists with claypots, hotpots, and toppings galore.
If you’re a satay beef noodle fan—which we assume you are, since you’re reading this article—make sure to visit Chan Tung Kee (陳通記) next time you head to Cheung Chau. This eatery inside the cooked food market on Praya Street is known for its full-bodied, peanutty satay soup, which comes topped with crushed peanuts for that extra crunch.
Choose from regular or fatty beef before taking your pick from the 10 different types of noodles on offer—at the end of the day, anything you choose will only set you back $33, which will be a pleasant surprise to anyone who’s used to paying a premium for extra fat on their beef and tuna.
It’s worth noting that the noodles do take a little longer than at your average cha chaan teng at about 20 minutes a bowl, but we reckon the excellent, affordable eats and friendly service more than make up for it.
Chan Tung Kee, Shop 13, Praya Street Cooked Food Market, Cheung Chau | (+852) 2981 8877
In the 30-plus years it’s been open, this Yuen Long cha chaan teng has built up a reputation for its rich, spiced satay broth—so much so that it attracts long queues of city slickers clamouring for a taste every weekend.
A bowl of satay beef noodles starts at $27, with the final cost depending on which type of noodle you choose—udon, e-fu noodles, macaroni, vermicelli, rice noodles, or instant noodles—and add-ons like chicken wings, pork chops, and sunny-side-up eggs (starting from $6).
Like Chan Tung Kee, Wing Shun’s rendition of satay soup is a little more concentrated than most, with a strong peanut flavour as well as a thicker-than-usual consistency that aficionados insist is best paired with the “Crab King” instant noodles on the menu, which supposedly grip onto the saucy broth better than the classic Nissin Demae.
Wing Shun Food Shop, Koon Wong Mansion, 2 Yuen Long On Ning Road, Yuen Long | (+852) 2474 7074
Even though satay noodles are popular year-round, there’s something about that rich, spiced soup that just hits the spot during colder months—which is why satay noodles and bo zai (claypots) make for a perfect pairing.
Try the claypot satay noodles ($68) from claypot rice specialists Wing Kee, the price of which includes your choice of protein (beef, pork chops, or fried chicken cutlets). The satay soup here is enriched with espresso, which adds a lovely depth of flavour and pleasant bitterness.
Wing Kee, Shop A & B, 12 Yuk Wah Crescent, Tsz Wan Shan | (+852) 2328 9232
Share the satay noodle love with a couple of pals at Fong Wing Kee, a long-standing da bin lo (打邊爐; hotpot) restaurant in Kowloon City. This old-school restaurant offers a few different soups, but the satay soup base ($100) is the most popular by far—and the hotpot format means that people who love toppings and proteins can customise their noodles with an array of ingredients.
The hand-sliced beef ($298) and instant noodles ($15) are a must, of course, but the local “black” pork ($78), fresh prawns ($68 each), and deep-fried fish skin ($40) are great additions, too.
Fong Wing Kee (方榮記), 85–87 Hau Wong Road, Kowloon City | (+852) 2382 1788
Though Kwong Wing Kee’s been around for a while, they have been experiencing something of a renaissance in Hong Kong foodie groups thanks to two newly-introduced dishes: sizzling satay beef claypot noodles with raw egg ($46) and “coriander explosion” fatty beef claypot noodles ($46).
True to form, the satay noodles come piping hot and bubbling, and the raw egg—which comes to you as a whole egg you crack directly into the pot yourself—adds a little interactive element, as well as extra richness and depth of flavour. The popular dish is only available at some Kwong Wing Kee branches, so make sure to check ahead if your local outlet offers it.
Despite being the newest restaurant on the list—and not having had decades to perfect their satay recipes—Café Seasons, a modern cha chaan teng in Central, does a mean bowl of extra rich satay beef instant noodles ($48).
The broth here is notably thinner than some of the other entries on this list, but still packs a punch in the flavour department—and the additional crushed peanuts help to add a welcome textural contrast to the tender beef and al dente instant noodles. The eatery is especially popular at lunchtime, when you can score a complimentary serving of Café Seasons’ famous scrambled egg toast with your meal.
Café Seasons, 88 Des Voeux Road Central, Central | (+852) 3594 6612