Ode: The Hong Kong Style French Toast at Hong Kong Station
The question is whether to order it as a starter or wait and save it for dessert.
It’s sticky and gooey and melty and sweet and a little savory. It comes with a fat slice of butter melting on its crispy surface, and if you’re quick enough, you can use a knife to smear it all over the top slice of bread.
I once spent a long weekend in Hong Kong — one of my favorite street food cities in the world — but never did I see French toast on a menu. Thank goodness, because the normal breakfast staple would have been ruined once I’d taken a bite of this beauty.
At Hong Kong Station in south Denver, this signature item is one of the many unique and fucking tasty dishes you’ll find. The fresh shrimp toast is another delight — and both fall under the “special snacks” category on their big plastic menus. Special snacks indeed.
But this plate of deliciously unhealthy ingredients is one I think about more often than I should, and I ponder making up reasons to drive south for another go. Maybe I need a new dish scrubber from Ikea. Or, like, yet another flannel shirt jacket from Sierra. Hell, I’ll wander the aisles for some kitchen item I don’t need from the Home Goods store if that’ll get me close enough to the restaurant to, you know, stop in while we’re in the neighborhood.
The dish is served sizzling hot — deep-fried after two slices of milk bread are smashed together with a dollop of peanut butter in the middle and slathered into some sort of egg batter. Condensed milk is involved in the situation, but don’t ask me how. As that fat pat of butter melts over the top, you smear it around a bit and then cut yourself a slice — knife and fork essential (I don’t know how you’d use chopsticks in this situation) — being sure to get some of that liquified peanut butter into your bite. The crispy caramelized bits on the edges are prime real estate, so get in there before someone else does.
Consuming that first slab of sweet goodness is a delicate situation if you’re set on not burning the roof of your mouth and making the rest of the meal a potent mix of pleasure and pain. You crunch through the crust into the chewy, eggy milky puffiness of the bread, and then you get that peanut butter pop and the whole world makes sense for that one perfect moment.
Your half (or quarter or third) of the dish is gone before you even realize it, and you longingly slather your fork tines into the last of the sweet stickiness on the plate.
But reader, don’t worry. After you’ve made your way through the lo mein, the veggie combinations, a chicken dish, something something fried rice, and even that shrimp toast, you can finish off the meal with another round — your to-go boxes sitting on the table because you over-ordered entrees — getting one last nibble at the thing that started the meal.
Appetizer or dessert? The answer is both.