Welcome to Lai Chi Kok.
Lai Chi Kok is an industrial neighborhood in Hong Kong filled with a diverse mix of factory buildings, converted offices, and lots of local Hong Kong restaurants and shops. It's also a budding area for local artists and fashion designers.
Finally, it's where I work at my day job.
To be perfectly honest, it's been a bit of a challenge for me to really find restaurants I enjoy in this neighborhood. Factory buildings are prevalent, and most restaurants that operate within these factories are designed to serve the masses, churning out low cost, high volume food that satisfies the appetite but not often the palate.
However, there are some gems.
A Hidden Gem . . .
Hidden within a factory building amongst this sea of mediocre restaurants is a friendly Taiwanese no-frills "canteen" that's always jam-packed with people. Filled with long rows of tables and folding chairs, diners shares tables with strangers while slurping away on large bowls of beef noodle soup, savoring oyster pancakes, or enjoying Taiwanese "bento" 便當 biàn dāng rice-filled lunchboxes served in metal tins.
It's not easy finding Cheng Banzhang Taiwanese Delicacy. First of all, there's no sign. Second of all, in order to find it, you have to enter this unmarked factory building, take a huge industrial sized service elevator up to the 1st floor, and then wander around until you see the line of people.
And there will be a line.
In fact, in the summer of 2018 the hungry crowd outside the restaurant got so large that the restaurant had to shut down for two weeks in order to install air conditioning inside an adjoining room in order to provide a safer waiting area.
Inside, it's always packed. Expect to share a table, especially during peak lunchtime. Turnover is fast, thankfully. I don't think I've waited more than 20 minutes for a seat.
Unlike the rest of Lai Chi Kok where Cantonese is the de-facto language, Taiwan-accented Mandarin is the working language inside this restaurant. The workers are Taiwanese and they are genuinely warm and friendly. It immediately feels different from the distant, sometimes brusque, and efficient demeanor seen at a typical Hong Kong casual lunch spot.
Taiwanese Comfort Food
Chen Banzhang Taiwanese Delicacy serves the food of my childhood and I love it. The fresh, thick chewy noodles are excellent and the beef noodle soup is definitely one of the most popular dishes. The broth is rich and flavorful, the meat is super tender, and the noodles are thick and "Q" (chewy with that perfect bounce). You can also opt for thin noodles, or even glass noodles, but I think the thick noodles are the most special.
I personally like to get the lunch box with Taiwanese meat sauce (滷肉飯). It is my comfort food and reminds me of home.
The oyster pancakes are authentic and pretty good, though they don't really compare to the best I've had in Taiwan.
The restaurant sells frozen versions of a lot of their food so that you can enjoy it at home. I have a colleague who always stocks up on various frozen meats every time she visits Cheng Banzhang Taiwanese Delicacy.
General Thoughts - Chen Banzhang Taiwanese Delicacy
Is this place amazing? In Taiwan, it would be very good but wouldn't necessarily stand out. However, in Hong Kong, especially in Lai Chi Kok, it's a diamond in the ruff. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for Taiwanese places. Even though I was born in the US, I think my Taiwanese heritage steers me towards comfort foods with flavor profiles that slant towards Taiwanese favorites such as Taiwanese meat sauce over rice, "bawan" (meat filled glutinous rice dumplings), and Taiwanese grilled corn.
This is one of the best homestyle Taiwanese restaurants I've visited here in Hong Kong. It totally hits the spot for those yearning after Taiwanese comfort food. It's not just the food, but the friendly atmosphere and even the use of Taiwanese Mandarin that add to the "comfort" feeling. Of course, the food is delicious, which explains why it's actually extremely popular not just with Taiwanese folks living in Hong Kong, but actually with native Hong Kongers as well.
Chen Banzhang Taiwanese Delicacy
1/F Unit 102, Elite Industrial Centre
883 Cheung Sha Wan Rd, Cheung Sha Wan