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Hidden Hong Kong: History of baked rice, a heartwarming Hong Kong comfort food

By Malin Angell 31 March 2023

Header images courtesy of relghar and Neodymium+Nd (via Wikimedia Commons)

Hong Kong is a culinary city out of the ordinary, filled with Michelin-starred restaurants, exotic foods from all over the world, and traditional Cantonese food. Despite all the choices, there is a dish that promises to steadily live on in Hong Kong—the famous baked rice. 

A hearty favourite among Hongkongers and a comfort food for many, few things beat the smell of fresh-out-of-the-oven baked pork chop rice. Flavourful fried rice meets a sweet and tangy sauce, juicy meat, and, to top it all off, a generous layer of cheese. 

But how did the dish come to life? Where can you find the best one? Here, we go through the history of baked rice in Hong Kong and where you can try it.

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Cha chaan teng in 1983. Photo: Hong Kong Heritage Museum

Rice with Western roots

The history of baked rice dates back to British colonial times. When Hong Kong was under colonial rule, the British brought with them various Western cuisines that took root in the city, with the first few “Western” restaurants opening between the 1950s and 1960s. 

One example of Western influence on the food culture of Hong Kong was pairing tea with sandwiches in hotels (which has evolved into different styles of afternoon teas today) or high-table restaurants. However, these restaurants were too expensive for the local population, and more wallet-friendly options started to appear in the form of the cha chaan teng—these restaurants were more casual and made cheaper versions of Western dishes to give the working people a fast and filling option with a distinct “Western” twist.  

In the beginning, cha chaan tengs only served simple things like baked goods, sandwiches, and a wide variety of hot or cold drinks. As they grew in popularity, other dishes were added, especially dishes containing rice and mixed Western and Eastern ingredients, including macaroni in soup, stir-fried spaghetti, and baked rice. Baked rice has long been a staple in cha chaan tengs and was inspired by Western pasta dishes with an added local touch. While there are unlimited versions of baked rice out there, the most commonly known is the pork chop baked rice. One can see the similarity between baked rice and lasagna or a casserole dish, as it contains tomato sauce, meat, and cheese all in one.

Restaurant in Sha Tin in 1976. Photo: Information Services Department Hong Kong

Breaking down baked rice

Despite being such a flavourful dish, it is a fairly simple one to make. The dish has three main components: the bed of fried rice, the pork chop, and the sauce. The rice is egg-fried and served in a generous amount. Some will add vegetables to the rice, but this is not a necessity. Topping this already delicious base is a crispy, deep-fried pork chop. Finally, rice and pork chop are covered in a simple tomato sauce made with tomatoes, onion, ketchup, tomato paste, and sugar. Some will even add pineapple chunks to the sauce for extra sweetness. The cherry on top in this case is a generous amount of melted cheese. 

Endless possibilities

Despite baked pork chop rice being the most classic option, there are unlimited variations of baked rice out there—only your imagination can stop you. Many restaurants offer the option of swapping out rice for spaghetti, making the dish more like a Bolognese. Others offer a wide selection of sauces to choose from, including a crème sauce, curry, and black pepper sauce. All of these double as standard cha chaan teng sauces that are paired with meat and carbs in other dishes. When it comes to protein, anything can be added to a baked rice. Classics are pork chop and chicken steak, but other options like seafood, ox tongue, beef tenderloin, beef brisket, and plant-based meat are also on the menu.

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Where to find baked rice in Hong Kong

Cheese mushroom sauce baked rice. Photo: Deliveroo

Royal Pantry

Royal Pantry is a small cha chaan teng located in the factory and office district of Kowloon Bay, serving up classic cha chaan teng dishes, such as buns and baked rice. You can customise your baked rice by selecting your preferred protein and sauce. For protein, choose from pork chop, beef, chicken chop, seafood, smoked duck breast, and vegetables. For sauces, Royal Pantry offers a whopping 14 different choices for its baked rice, including the classic tomato, a Portuguese sauce (a Macanese creation where curry is thickened with coconut milk, also popular in Hong Kong), a black pepper sauce, curries, and more.

Royal Pantry, Shop 5, G/F, Exchange Tower, 33 Wang Chiu Road, Kowloon Bay

Photo: Honolulu Café (via Facebook)

Honolulu Café

One of Hong Kong’s oldest restaurants-slash-bakery must be on this list. Honolulu opened in the 1940s and the original branch in Wan Chai is still standing, with several other locations in the city opening and closing throughout the years. Having been around since the beginning of cha chaan teng history, Honolulu today is mostly famous for its egg tarts and other local pastries, but it also serves the iconic and classic baked pork chop rice in its restaurants. The baked rice here is a topped mountain of meat, sauce, veggies, and lots of pineapple. Eating the dish will not only take your taste buds for a ride across the variety of complimentary ingredients, but also for a ride back in time.

Honolulu Café, G/F & M/F, 176–178 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai

Photo: Luen Wah Café (via Wikimedia Commons)

Luen Wah Café

Another classic cha chaan teng is Luen Wah Café, which is said to have one of the most traditional baked pork chop rice in the city. It serves the baked goodness in a metallic dish, which is how it was enjoyed back in the day, and it is made with a darker red sauce with slightly charred cheese on the top. Luen Wah is over 60 years old, and its walls are filled with old promotional posters, menus, and decorations. Its interiors show signs of age with roughened wooden furniture, classic colourful Hong Kong tiles, and plastic tableware.

Luen Wah Café, G/F, 28 Central Street, Sai Ying Pun, Western District

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Photo: Wpcpey (via Wikimedia Commons)

Mido Cafe

Probably one of the most nostalgic restaurants in Hong Kong is Mido Café, located opposite the famous Yau Ma Tei Tin Hau Temple. The café has been featured in several movies and has kept its original interior, which makes stepping into the café feel like stepping into the past. Another thing that did not change is the food. The menu carries every classic cha chaan teng dishes you can think of, including pork chop baked rice, served in a classic metallic dish. If you want to try a classic dish in an iconic location, this is the place to go.

Mido Café, 63 Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei

Photo: Fairwood


Fairwood is one of the easiest and most ubiquitous places to find a baked pork chop rice. The Cantonese-style fast food chain has been serving up the classic dish for decades, and this version is one with pork chop and tomato sauce with pineapple. If tomato sauce is not for you, try the chicken cream sauce baked rice instead. From time to time, Fairwood will launch special limited editions of flavoured baked rice, including the satay beef baked rice, triple cheese baked rice, and even spicy minced meat baked rice.

Fairwood, locations across Hong Kong

Photo: Mian (via Facebook)


This restaurant is nothing like a classic cha chaan teng but they do serve a mean baked rice. Mian is one of the restaurants at The Murray hotel and takes inspiration for its menu from the cuisines of different regions in China, including Hong Kong. Its baked rice dish is a premium version made with organic tomatoes and Kagoshima pork from Japan, served in a beautifully decorated dish. Top it all off with a pan-fried egg.

Mian, The Pavilion, The Murray, 22 Cotton Tree Drive, Central

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Malin Angell


A Norwegian eating her way through Hong Kong, Malin moved to the city to study for her bachelor’s in marketing, fell in love with Hong Kong, and never left. She has a big stomach and gladly tries anything edible. If she is not eating, she will probably be at the gym—her happy place—burning off all those extra calories or wandering the city while listening to her favourite podcasts and thinking about where to eat next.