While sipping a Thai ice tea this afternoon, I was reminded of another tea using condensed milk that hasn’t quite made it to the US. On my last visit to Hong Kong, my uncle, a self-professed connossieur of Hong Kong-style cuisine, brought me to a tiny restaurant in Central to see how "silk stocking milk tea" is made.
To call this restaurant a "hole-in-the-wall" would be enhancing it. It was pretty much a corrugated metal shack in the middle of a busy market. To enter the restaurant we walked through plastic flaps. There were about 5 or 6 fold-out tables in the entire place, with backless stools as seats. The food, simple macaroni soups in light Chinese broths, were typical of the fusion that naturally developed because of Western influence. (My uncle explained that over the past hundred years or so, Hong Kongers incorporated the nonperishable staples of Western settlers, like condensed milk and canned ham, into Cantonese cuisine. I’ve found upscale restaurants specializing in steak smothered in a sauce reminiscent of Cantonese beef with tomato.)
The restaurant’s main draw, however, is the "silk stocking milk tea" (also called Hong Kong-style milk tea). In a corner of the small shack, a man was holding up a pantyhose-like sack full of black tea over a teapot. The pantyhose is used to filter the tea leaves, and supposedly produces a darker color due to lengthy steeping and a creamier consistency. Condensed milk is then added.
The end result does seem creamier than tea that hadn’t been pulled through the ringer (pun fully intended.) The macaroni-and-ham soup also tastes better than it sounds. More evidence that "fusion" cuisine usually works when it develops naturally over time, rather than when it chases a trend.
Lan Fong Yuen (蘭芳園)
2 Gage Street, Central (also a newer branch down the street)
2544 3895/ 2854 0731