Since I moved from Sydney in 2022 to Sydney, I’ve committed myself to discovering the city. On one particular weekend, I ventured to the market in Burwood, the multicultural suburb of Sydney’s Inner West.
When I get there, I am sure I see the yellow Hong Kong minibus … in the cafe. I recheck and verify that I’m looking at things that aren’t there. There is a red minibus inside the restaurant known as Kowloon Cafe.
I rethink my plan and head for the market, and slither into a booth right next to the bus.
The menu includes all of the Cha chain teng (Hong Kong style cafe) and tea café) traditional dishes, as well as street food items, such as curry fish balls and steamed rice rolls.
This Burwood location of Kowloon Cafe features a replica of the Hong Kong red minibus.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve dined at a Cha Chaan Teng, and this one draws out all the stops and comes with Hong Kong memorabilia.
There are ads for Eagle Brand condensed milk and nylon blue, white, and red Tarps hanging from the ceilings. The refrigerator is filled with green Spot Orange Juice cartons. There are Plumber King (a famous Hong Kong street art icon) stickers on the wall and an orange bin near the door.
Alongside Cha Chaan Teng’s classics, Kowloon Cafe also serves curry fish balls, as well as various Hong Kong street food staples. Photo: Kowloon Cafe
Green Spot orange juice cartons are in the refrigerator located at the Kowloon Café’s Burwood branch. Photo: Kowloon Cafe
A couple gets up to take pictures by their bus, and behind me, an older man reads his newspaper and is irritated when his wife calls the man to get moving. He stops to vent his frustrations to the attendants in Cantonese.
This isn’t the typical Cha Chaan Teng appears; however, I’m at ease with this recreation from Hong Kong, the city that I was raised in.
Like many others, I have left Hong Kong during the coronavirus epidemic. The mandatory quarantine of three weeks was in effect, and the number of cases was increasing after the city’s zero-Covid policy was lifted.
Hong Kong tea cafe-style booth seats, tiles, and neon at the Kowloon Cafe’s branch located in Eastwood, Sydney. Photo: Kowloon Cafe
Moving to a foreign country is never easy, but having to leave at an uneasy period, a time when travel is difficult, is even more challenging.
There isn’t any guidebook that covers all the cultural nuances and subtleties that you’re supposed to be able to grasp and a reference to how to handle culture shock, establish new friendships, or even the time it takes to feel that ache in your stomach every time you imagine a home is about to disappear.
But food can be a vehicle to transport you anywhere, and even a bowl of noodles could bring me a lot of joy, especially when I’m craving the comfort and warmth from the comforts of my Hong Kong home.
Kowloon Cafe’s Hongkong-style tea dishes are a comfort meal that is suitable for Hong Kong migrants in Sydney. Photo: Kowloon Cafe
I was surprised to discover that, along with many great places to eat Dim sum and roasts in Sydney, There has been increasing demand for Cha chaan teng restaurants places that have put Hong Kong’s popular foodie-friendly culture onto the map.
Most of them are located in suburbs like Burwood, Eastwood, and Chatswood, which cater to a vast number of Hongkongers who live there and create a retro-styled area in Hong Kong.
“I wanted to recreate the era in which I was born,” says Howin Chui, who is the co-owner of Kowloon Cafe. “That was the golden age that was Hong Kong; we were the Hollywood of Asia.
(From left) Kowloon Cafe founders Howin Chui, Howard Lee, and Dick Kwong in the Kowloon Cafe’s Burwood branch. Photo: Kowloon Cafe
“We had the most amazing food, fashion, music and culture. I’m happy to be born and raised in the era of that time. It’s a dying art and I do not want it to be lost I’d like to protect it.”
Chui launched his first Kowloon Cafe in the year 2019 in Haymarket, the heart of Australia’s Chinatown. In addition to the original shop, There are three outlets as well. Chui wanted each to have a distinct style and design.
The Haymarket location is a replica of a typical streetscape of Hong Kong; Burwood features the red minibus. At the most recent Eastwood branch, you are able to dine inside a model of the Hong Kong tram, which was specially designed to accommodate the restaurant. Hong Kong Tramways even sent an official plaque, which Chui has put on the back of the tram.