Whenever I go to a Hong Kong-style diner, it's mostly because I want this:
Yup, a simple egg sandwich. Usually a folded omelet-thing or mass of semi-scrambled egg in between square slices of plain ol' white bread with the crusts cut off. Sitting on a menu next to more interesting items like salt and pepper squid or baked ham and chicken in cream sauce with spaghetti, it doesn't scream, "ORDER ME!" to the casual eater. It's a weenie snack of a sandwich that provides two textures: egg-soft and bread-soft. (Sometimes the bread is toasted, in which case you've got some crispness in there too, but it's mostly soft.)
But damn, how I love that soft-on-soft. Out of all the kinds of egg sandwiches in the world, this one is my favorite. That sort of buttery, fluffy scrambled egg mass on soft, squishy Chinese white bread. Sans crusts. That's important. There's no reason five-year-olds and tea sandwiches should get all the joys of a crust-less existence.
My attachment to these egg sandwiches may be sentimental—when I was a kid my mom made me egg sandwiches the way other moms made their kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—but ignoring my plaintive-grasping-of-childhood thing, I'm pretty sure these sandwiches taste awesome. Besides, my mom's egg sandwiches weren't very good. (She knows it's true. The whole wheat bread she used was the antithesis of Chinese white bread. And she sure as hell didn't slice the crusts off.)
If you think the egg sandwich ($1.75) pictured above from Cha Chan Tang (the Cantonese name for Hong Kong-style diners) looks boring, check out the gold-star version from Australian Dairy Company in Hong Kong at The Ulterior Epicure. A beautiful example of fluffy egg mass on thick white bread.
I don't mean to knock Cha Chang Tang; it's become my go-to when an egg sandwich craving hits. While I can't say it's the best—I haven't tried all the Hong Kong-style restaurants in Chinatown* to know, nor do I have any point of reference since I've never been to Hong Kong—it stands out for having a leg-up (wait, did I make a pun...I DIDN'T MEAN TO) in the decor department compared to other restaurants in the neighborhood.
It also helps that their menu includes the almighty buttered bolo bao ($2.25). A bolo bao, or pineapple bun, is a beautiful thing when done well: mildly sweet, bready, soft-n-squishy, with a crumbly cookie-like top crust.
But it's even better when warmed up, sliced through its belly, and given a good slathering of butter. Why have naked bread pores when you can have butter-soaked bread pores? The answer is, [blank stare, mouth slightly agape, tumbleweed], because there is no answer. I wouldn't want to put much else in the center of a pineapple bun—I like them because they're simple—but a hit of butter-derived moisture is always welcome in my book. And by book I mean mouth.
...Okay, I lied; I'd want to put ice cream in a pineapple bun. (Hey, it works for brioche!)
...And I guess I lied about it always being welcome in my mouth. That would've been valid before starting my asthmatic's diet. Oh well. Go enjoy it for me!
Cha Chang Tang
45 Mott Street, New York, 10013 (map)