Legendary Lan Fong Yuen (蘭芳園) (Hong Kong)
Hong Kong has a wider range of food to experience than even Taiwan because of its massive ex-pat community and the greater disparity in earning capacity, leading to a wide spectrum of delicious cuisine that can cost just pocket change to thousands of HK dollars per head.
At the lower end of the spectrum is the legendary Lan Fong Yuen (蘭芳園), quite literally a hole-in-the-wall kind of place in the Central district. Located at 2 Gage Street, close to the Mid-Levels escalator, it’s the type of place you can completely miss when it is closed, but impossible to miss when it is open because of the long lines you will normally see outside. (If all else fails, look for the 7 Eleven on the corner.)
As the legend goers, Lan Fong Yuen started more than 50 years ago as a roadside stall but eventually developed into a tiny tea cafe serving traditional HK fare such as pork buns, toasts, noodles and milk teas. It’s a fantastic place to sample authentic HK food at low prices and experience the bustling and crowded lifestyle of the locals. The lines might be long at Lan Fong Yuen, but the service and turnover are extremely fast, and you will almost always be forced (especially if you have less than four people) to share tables with others. On the latest visit, there were four groups of two on a table ordinarily suited for four people, so we were literally bumping knees with one another.
The place doesn’t look it, but it’s clean. Well, about as clean as you could hope for. The walls are plastered with news reports recommending the place, though one side is filled with posters of Cantopop veteran Alan Tam. They must really like him.
On this occasion we ordered their pork bun (豬扒包), condensed milk on toasted bread (豬仔包) and dry instant noodle with fried chicken and scallion oil (蔥油雞扒撈丁), plus of course a traditional milk tea. For one of the dishes we ordered a set meal, which means it comes with a fried egg and tomatoes.
Not much to say except that it was sensational. For this price (around about HK$75) you shouldn’t expect too much, and it is rather simple food — but dang it sure is tasty. My favourite was of course the noodles with fried chicken, with the scallions and oil really bringing out the best in the dish. I waxed that plate pretty quickly. I asked for less sugar in the milk tea and it was still pretty sweet, so be warned if you are going the full sugar.
In all, it was a great experience to get down and dirty (in a clean way) with traditional HK tea cafe food. Not the most comfortable place, mind you, but there is a reason why this place has been around for more than half a century and why locals and visitors keep coming back for more.
PS: There are franchises in Shuen Wan and Tsim Sha Tsui, but I hear the original Central store is still the best.
Lan Fong Yuen (蘭芳園)
Address: 2 Gage Street, Central, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2850 8683