Monday, May 23, 2011

HK Milk Tea at Out the Door

Funny how you never heard of something until you go to a foreign country and discover it. Then you come back and you see it every where. That's the case with Hong Kong milk tea, or lai cha.

I tried this beverage for the first time during my trip to Hong Kong last month, and I loved the simplicity of it but how it was like morning coffee because of its intense flavor and creaminess. My understanding is that lai cha, or HK milk tea, is made with tea and either evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk, which creates a nice caramel-like color to the drink.

Since I've been back, I've spotted HK milk tea at a restaurant in Oakland's Chinatown, and I read about it starting to be served at Out the Door, the casual sibling of the Slanted Door. There's several locations of Out the Door, but I got my lai cha at the counter at the Ferry Building.

When I ordered it, the server made sure that I understood that this was a hot drink, and not the Hong Kong-style bubble tea that people are used to here. I told her I knew it was hot, and she then told me it would take about three minutes to prepare. I ordered a steamed chicken bun ($3) as I waited.

When my HK milk tea arrived, it had the exact same aroma as the one I had in Hong Kong, that slightly floral but smokey fragrance. But this version was sweeter, and I checked later and the server said their version is with sweetened condensed milk. Even though I don't have a sweet tooth, I really liked the authentic flavor of the drink. It wasn't super sweet, but was what I imagined a latte would taste if I were a coffee drinker.

Now, the cost of $3 is probably how much I would pay for a full breakfast and milk tea in Hong Kong, but the memories this drink inspires are worth the price instead of paying for a plane ticket to Hong Kong. So I think I have a new Saturday morning routine: get a steamed bun at Out the Door and sip on a cup of HK milk tea. All I need is a Chinese newspaper and a chirping bird in a bamboo bird cage and I can retire as the Chinese old man.


Anonymous said...

I usually order mine by saying "siu tong" (less sugar) and usually it is less sweet.

Foodhoe said...

I've had it in Chinatown many times, the sweetened Condensed milk reminds me of Thai ice tea but the flavor is more soothing...