[Update as 0f 28 May 2020:
Do note that the address of the cafe has changed - we've updated the address stated at the end of the article]
Halal local snacks in Hong Kong are not easy to come by. When we heard that Chrisly Café has a halal-certified bakery specializing in yummy local bakes like the iconic egg tarts, we jumped at the chance to try the snacks! While we were there, we had the opportunity to speak to the co-owner of Chrisly Café, Martin Khan. The Hong Kong-born Muslim introduced us to his bakery’s wide array of yummy and authentic local snacks.
We also took the chance to discover Hong Kong through a local’s perspective. Read on to learn more about Martin’s halal bakery and his story as a Muslim in Hong Kong!
*Please note that the bakery section is part of the cafe. However, only the bakery is halal-certified.
The start of Chrisly Café’s halal bakery1. Tell us more about how you started the halal bakery
There’s so much good food in Hong Kong but what truly represents us is the egg tart, pineapple buns and milk tea. We wanted a traditional Hong Kong bakery, that my father, myself or my relatives can buy, take home and enjoy. Our bakery is true to the Hong Kong style where people can just come to the bakery and grab and go for their breakfast.
It took us almost a year to learn how to substitute lard in the snacks. The taste of Hong Kong snacks has not changed, even as long as 40 years ago. Traditional Hong Kong snacks like the egg tart usually contains pork oil (lard), but not ours. We substituted it with peanut oil and vegetarian oil. Non-Muslims say the taste is similar to the original egg tarts. It’s healthy though, because we don’t use lard!
2. What are some of the other challenges you faced?
The challenge is spreading the information that we are a halal bakery, as our target market is both the Muslims and the general public. We can only rely on word of mouth, so it takes time for people to know we are here. Actually, the general public (in Hong Kong) does not know what being a Muslim is like, and what halal means. Most of the general public do not really taste the difference between our halal snacks and the non-halal ones.
The only person who recognizes the difference is our master chef, as he has been working in the bakery business for 40 years and already has the mindset that it’s different (without lard).
Up close and personal with Martin Khan3. What is your favourite Hong Kong snack, and why?
The egg tart! You’d want it fresh and hot, right from the oven. It smells so good. I love the sweetness of the egg and the crispy and flaky crust. An egg tart is not something a machine can make well, it really depends on the skills of the baker! I’d recommend the sticky rice cake with red bean paste too. It also truly represents Hong Kong. The beef goulash is not a snack, but it’s so good!
P.S. Savour the beef goulash and other yummy local delights here
4. Describe Hong Kong’s food in 3 words.
Fast, quality, tasty. Try it for yourself
5. What is it like growing up as a Muslim in Hong Kong?
The older generation in Martin’s family
It feels special because people would be really curious. They would want to talk and ask questions. They would ask if I knew how to speak Cantonese! I always speak in Cantonese but they would speak to me in English. They are also curious about how I came to settle in Hong Kong. Little do they know, I’m actually born here!
6. What is the biggest challenge you face as a Chinese Muslim here?
Food. You need to be careful of what you eat, even after verifying the ingredients with the stall owners. But it’s better these days as you can find halal food, like chicken wings, frozen meat and even steak, in wet markets and normal supermarkets. We have to spend more on halal meat as it is (about) 20% more expensive than non-halal meat.
7. Do you think there are more Muslims in Hong Kong now?
I think the number of local Muslims in Hong Kong is more or less the same. But the number of Muslim travellers coming here are more! Whether you’re on the streets, in the mosques or even in my shop, you’ll see many Muslim tourists around.
8. What is one thing you would like Muslims to know about Hong Kong?
Efficient, fast, and high quality. Also, one of the good things about Hong Kong is that nature is just next to you - within walking distance!
9. If you have 24 hours left in Hong Kong, what would you do?
I will visit Victoria Harbour, either on the Central side or the Tsim Sha Tsui side. They have seats at the Star Ferry area. It’s very nice, especially at night!
There’s no doubt that a visit to Chrisly Café is a must when you’re in Hong Kong! Since the cafe has moved to Trademart Drive in Kowloon Bay, here’s more information to help plan your visit to the café:
7am to 7pm daily
Shop 10, 2/F, Emax, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay
Note: Interview answers have been slightly edited for clarity purposes. We’d also like to highlight that the cafe itself is not halal (only the bakery is halal-certified). Do dine at your own discretion, and check with the café staff if you’re unsure!
This article was brought to you by Hong Kong Tourism Board.