Food and drink

Cha chaan teng as fine dining? David Ko reinvents Hong Kong’s iconic dishes

The acclaimed chef presents an innovative twist on local meals at a Test Kitchen pop-up. By KATY WONG

Hong Kong’s cha chaan teng restaurants are known as much for the frantic service and noisy crowds as the food.

Now, one young Hong Kong chef is hoping to bring a touch of luxury to this otherwise utilitarian dining experience. David Ko, formerly of L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong and Rockpool and Movida in Sydney, is popping up at Hong Kong’s Test Kitchen with an eight-course menu from August 16-19.

“I hope the diners who come to this pop-up will realise that what seems to be ordinary cha chaan teng food could be as good as any traditional rustic dishes similar to what French or Nordic cuisine is doing,” Ko says. “And more importantly it’s about honouring our own culture.”

You can book here: testkitchen.com.hk/davidko

Ko’s menu will include dishes such as uni and deep fried egg, eel char siu, tea smoked aged pigeon and egg tart and milk tea, an iconic Hong Kong staple that Ko is serving “with a quenelle of milk tea ice cream, truly comforting!”

While Ko laments the high rental prices in his home city, he still thinks it’s one of the most exciting places to be a chef. And a diner.

“In terms of international cuisine, there’s huge variety, from South American to Nordic cuisine and the rise of the mid-range priced restaurant ($400-600 per person) is a good trend. Some restaurant groups are also trying to modernize the look of the traditional Chinese eatery, like Cantonese barbecue.”

David Ko Test kitchen Hong Kong 2

We asked him to name his top eating spots in Hong Kong, so you know where to head once his Test Kitchen stint ends.

Little Bao (Happy Paradise & Second Draft)

May Chow and her team of chefs including Sam and Ah Man are working very hard to come up with dishes that play on traditional Chinese flavours in a fun way. I always bring my friends to one of her restaurants.

little-bao.com

VEA

Run by Vicky Cheng, a super talented chef since the first day I worked for him back in Liberty Private Works II. He combines French and Chinese flavours in a fine-dining manner. If budget is not a concern definitely book a table here.

vea.hk

Fish School

Chris Ma, a quiet but hard-working chef, has a lot of knowledge about foraging locally and is friends with a lot of local farmers. If you’re looking for some Hong Kong local ingredients, head to Fish School.

fishschool.hk

Mak Man Kee / Mak Ming Kee

Mak Man Kee is known for its prawn wonton, and Mak Ming Kee for me serves the best wonton noodles in Hong Kong.

Sun Kwai Heung BBQ food

Located in Chai Wan, this is one of the best Char Siu if not the best in Hong Kong. The fat and meat proportion is just right, the sweet and salt flavours are well balanced, and those sticky burnt ends just divine.

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