The Lineup column explores Richmond businesses that have the longest lineups (or hidden gems), and the stories behind them. Have a tip? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Eva Yeung has proven that an authentic Hong Kong breakfast is very much appreciated in Richmond, even if it’s the most basic food Hong Kongers eat every day.
Since she opened her stand, Cha Kee, at the food court of President Plaza last December, there has been a long lineup every day – sometimes starting even before the shop opens.
People from Richmond and other parts of Metro Vancouver, even the U.S., wait for up to an hour to savour its satay beef noodles or egg sandwiches.
“I was confident in my food but was still surprised by the lineup. At first, I thought it was just around the opening and it has lasted until now,” Yeung told the Richmond News.
“I’m very happy that people like the authentic Hong Kong breakfast we make. Every day we are under the pressure to serve the food as fast as possible because we don’t want our customers to wait for too long.”
One of the people waiting in the long line was Richmond resident Ron Lee, who visits Cha Kee almost every week and said the wait is worth it.
“I lived in Hong Kong for decades and used to go for Hong Kong-style breakfast with my wife or friends - it has an original taste that I can’t explain; it tastes like home,” said Lee.
But some customers, such as Kevin Liu, were drawn here merely by the line-up or recommendations on online forums.
“We didn’t find anything special about it, and the wait time is very long. It’s good to try it out,” said Liu.
Their most popular items are the Hong Kong-style satay beef noodles – typically curly instant noodles or macaroni in a rich broth topped with bite-sized pieces of beef, and scrambled egg sandwich, which is a great takeaway option for those busy, Hong Kong mornings, and is usually enjoyed alongside a cup of Hong Kong milk tea.
Yeung moved to Canada in the 1990s and returned to Hong Kong seven years ago to be with her family. Last year, she and her husband decided to move back to Richmond for a better environment for their children – she also brought back the original Hong Kong taste she loves.
Although Richmond is everything but short of authentic Asian food, Yeung feels that her craving for the basic Hong Kong breakfast that she used to have back home wasn’t satisfied.
“It’s just the most basic, simple breakfast that Hong Kong people have before they go to work,” said Yeung.
“I always like cooking so I wanted to cook it myself and share my food with others.”
For many customers, the price is also a catch – the satay beef noodles with fried egg and toast and milk tea is $11.50, and the creamy thick egg sandwich combo with milk tea is $7.
Hong Kong-style cafes (cha chaan teng) date back to the British colonial time. In the late 1950s, Hong Kong’s growing working class had rising incomes and desire for European-influenced food, so the cha chaan teng was born.
“I believe that if you really cook food with your heart, customers will feel it and appreciate it,” Yeung said.
“My goal is to do my best to reduce the waiting time for our customers, and in the future, open more locations so people far away can also satisfy their cravings for a Hong Kong taste.”