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Long Live Hong Kong’s Purveyors Of Crustless Milk Toast


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Jessie Watterson



Welcome to the vibrant and captivating world of food travel in Hong Kong, where culinary traditions meet modern innovations. Amongst the myriad of delectable treats that you can explore, there is one dish that stands out for its simplicity and unique flavors – crustless milk toast. This iconic dish has been enchanting locals and visitors alike for generations, and its rich history is intertwined with the cultural fabric of Hong Kong.


Hong Kong is renowned for its diverse food scene, which spans from traditional Cantonese dim sum to international fusion cuisine. However, crustless milk toast holds a special place in the hearts of many, as it embodies the comforting simplicity and nostalgic flavors that are deeply ingrained in the city’s food culture.


Crustless milk toast, also known as “nai chaan toast” in Cantonese, is a humble yet delightful creation that essentially comprises slices of thick, fluffy bread soaked in a sweet and creamy mixture of condensed milk and evaporated milk. This dish is typically served with a generous slab of butter, making it the perfect indulgence for breakfast, a midday snack, or an evening treat.


What sets crustless milk toast apart from other popular dishes is its unique texture and taste. The use of thick bread allows it to absorb the milk mixture, creating a soft and moist interior while maintaining a lightly toasted crust. This combination of contrasting textures, along with the sweet and creamy flavors, creates a harmonious blend that is truly satisfying to the palate.


Crustless milk toast has a long-standing tradition in Hong Kong, with many local eateries and tea houses specializing in this beloved dish. Over the years, it has become a symbol of comfort food and a taste of home for Hong Kong residents, evoking memories of simpler times and cherished family gatherings.


In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the history of crustless milk toast, explore the art of making this delightful treat, discover the popular variations that have emerged over time, and uncover the secret ingredients that make it so special. We will also discuss the rise and fall of crustless milk toast shops in Hong Kong and the recent revival of this beloved dish in the modern food scene.


The Tradition of Crustless Milk Toast in Hong Kong

The tradition of crustless milk toast in Hong Kong dates back to the early 20th century when the city was a bustling British colony. It was during this time that Western culinary influences began to merge with local Cantonese cuisine, giving rise to a unique fusion of flavors.


The origins of crustless milk toast can be traced to the traditional British dish called “bread and milk,” which consists of bread soaked in warm milk and sugar. When this dish made its way to Hong Kong, it underwent some modifications to suit the local taste preferences.


In Hong Kong, crustless milk toast became a popular breakfast or teatime snack option in local cha chaan tengs (Hong Kong-style diners) and cha chaan tasthops (traditional tea houses). These establishments were known for serving simple yet satisfying meals that catered to the fast-paced lifestyle of the city’s residents.


The simplicity of crustless milk toast quickly captured the hearts of Hong Kong people. It became a staple comfort food, especially for those seeking a quick and affordable meal. It was also a favorite among students and working-class individuals who needed an energy boost during their daily routines.


Moreover, crustless milk toast became an integral part of Hong Kong’s morning culture. Oftentimes, people would visit their local cha chaan teng or cha chaan tasthop for a cup of hot milk tea accompanied by a plate of crustless milk toast, enjoying the simple pleasure of dipping the soft, creamy slices into their tea.


Throughout the years, crustless milk toast has remained a beloved dish in Hong Kong, retaining its traditional charm while adapting to the changing tastes and preferences of the modern era. Today, it continues to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, offering a delightful and nostalgic culinary experience.


In the next sections, we will explore the art of making crustless milk toast and discover the popular variations that have emerged over time. Join us on this delicious journey through the heart of Hong Kong’s food culture!


The Art of Making Crustless Milk Toast

While crustless milk toast may seem like a simple dish, there is an art to crafting the perfect slice. A skilled chef knows how to strike the delicate balance between the soft, moist interior and the lightly toasted crust, creating a symphony of flavors and textures.


The first step in creating crustless milk toast is selecting the right type of bread. In Hong Kong, thick slices of white bread, similar to Japanese milk bread or Texas toast, are commonly used. The thickness allows for optimal absorption of the milk mixture, resulting in a moist and indulgent interior.


Next comes the preparation of the milk mixture. A combination of condensed milk and evaporated milk is used to achieve the sweet and creamy flavor that defines crustless milk toast. The proportions may vary depending on personal taste preferences, but a balance of sweetness and richness is key.


Once the bread is sliced and the milk mixture is ready, it’s time to soak the bread. Each slice is carefully dipped into the milk mixture, ensuring that both sides are thoroughly coated. The bread should soak for just the right amount of time to allow it to absorb the flavors without becoming too mushy.


After soaking, the bread is placed on a hot griddle or skillet. It is important to achieve the perfect balance of heat and timing to toast the bread to a light golden brown, while still maintaining the softness of the interior. This step requires precision and skill, as overcooking can result in a dry and brittle texture.


Once the crustless milk toast is cooked to perfection, it is traditionally served with a slab of butter on top. The butter adds a creamy richness and enhances the overall flavor profile of the dish.


Enjoying crustless milk toast is a delightful experience that engages all the senses. The warm, fragrant aroma wafts through the air as you take your first bite, revealing the soft, moist interior with hints of sweetness and a slight toasty crunch from the crust.


The art of making crustless milk toast has been passed down through generations, with expert chefs dedicated to preserving the traditional techniques while also adding their own creative twists. Whether it’s a classic rendition or a modern interpretation, the craftsmanship and attention to detail shine through in every slice.


Now that we’ve explored the art of making crustless milk toast, let’s dive into the popular variations that have emerged over time, offering unique flavors and takes on this beloved dish.


Popular Variations of Crustless Milk Toast

While the classic version of crustless milk toast remains a beloved staple in Hong Kong, inventive variations of this delightful treat have emerged over the years. These variations offer exciting flavor combinations and modern twists, enticing both locals and visitors to explore the diverse world of crustless milk toast.


One popular variation is the addition of toppings. Chefs have started experimenting with different ingredients to enhance the flavors and textures of the dish. For example, fresh fruits such as strawberries, bananas, or mangoes are often added to create a refreshing and fruity twist. The sweetness of the fruits complements the creamy milk mixture, providing a burst of flavor with every bite.


Another popular variation is the inclusion of fillings. Alongside the creamy milk mixture, a layer of peanut butter, Nutella, or even custard may be spread between the slices of bread. This adds a delightful richness and new dimensions to the dish, taking it to the next level of indulgence.


For those seeking a savory twist, savory crustless milk toast variations have gained popularity. Instead of sweet fillings, ingredients such as ham, cheese, or scrambled eggs are added between the slices. This transforms the dish into a savory delight, perfect for those who prefer a more savory breakfast or snack.


In recent years, food entrepreneurs have also taken crustless milk toast to the next level by incorporating unique flavors and textures. Matcha (green tea) crustless milk toast has become a hit among matcha enthusiasts, offering a subtle earthy flavor that pairs perfectly with the creamy sweetness of the milk mixture.


Another inventive variation is the use of flavored bread. Instead of traditional white bread, chefs have started using bread infused with flavors like pandan, taro, or even chocolate. These flavorful breads add an extra layer of complexity to the dish, creating a delightful fusion of tastes.


Additionally, some eateries have adopted a DIY approach to crustless milk toast. They provide a customizable experience, allowing diners to choose their own toppings and fillings. This interactive twist adds a fun and personalized touch to the dining experience, inviting creativity while preserving the essence of crustless milk toast.


Whether you prefer the classic version or enjoy exploring the innovative variations, crustless milk toast offers a wide array of options to cater to different tastes and preferences. The popularity of these variations continues to grow, showcasing the versatility and adaptability of this timeless dish.


Now that we’ve explored the popular variations of crustless milk toast, let’s uncover the secret ingredients that make this dish so unique and delicious.


The Secret Ingredients of Crustless Milk Toast

While the process of making crustless milk toast may seem straightforward, it is the secret ingredients that elevate this dish to new heights of deliciousness. These carefully chosen additions enhance the flavors, textures, and overall experience of indulging in a slice of crustless milk toast.


One of the key ingredients in crustless milk toast is condensed milk. This thick and sweet dairy product adds a luscious richness and sweetness to the milk mixture. Its smooth and velvety texture ensures that every bite of crustless milk toast is infused with a delightful creaminess.


In addition to condensed milk, evaporated milk is also crucial. Evaporated milk is made by removing about 60% of the water content from fresh milk, resulting in a concentrated and slightly caramelized flavor. Its robust taste complements the sweetness of the condensed milk, creating a balance of flavors that is essential to the dish.


Another secret ingredient is the quality of the bread. While simple white bread is commonly used, the choice of a high-quality loaf can make a significant difference. Thick slices of soft and fluffy bread with a slightly chewy texture are ideal for absorbing the milk mixture while retaining their shape during cooking.


Butter, although not a traditional ingredient in crustless milk toast, has found its way into many variations of the dish. The addition of a slab of butter on top of the hot, toasted slices adds a luxurious richness and a velvety smoothness. It melts slightly, blending with the creamy milk mixture to create a gratifying flavor combination.


Some chefs also add a touch of salt to their crustless milk toast, either in the milk mixture or as a sprinkle on the buttered slices. The saltiness helps to balance the sweetness, enhancing the overall taste profile and preventing the dish from becoming overly cloying.


While these are the key secret ingredients, some chefs may also choose to incorporate their own unique twists. From a dash of vanilla extract to a sprinkle of cinnamon or a pinch of nutmeg, these additional flavors can transform the dish into something truly exceptional.


With the right blend of condensed milk, evaporated milk, high-quality bread, butter, and perhaps a hint of salt or other flavorings, crustless milk toast becomes an irresistible treat that satisfies both the palate and the soul.


Now that we’ve uncovered the secret ingredients of crustless milk toast, let’s delve into the rise and fall of crustless milk toast shops in Hong Kong, and the recent resurgence of this beloved dish in the modern food scene.


The Rise and Fall of Crustless Milk Toast Shops in Hong Kong

For many decades, crustless milk toast shops were an integral part of Hong Kong’s culinary landscape. These quaint establishments specialized in serving this beloved dish, attracting locals and tourists alike with their comforting flavors and nostalgic charm.


During the mid to late 20th century, crustless milk toast shops flourished in Hong Kong. They were often small, family-owned businesses that had been passed down through generations. These shops became neighborhood institutions, offering a warm and welcoming atmosphere where people could gather to enjoy a simple yet satisfying meal.


As the popularity of crustless milk toast grew, the shops themselves started to evolve. Many began to expand their menus, incorporating other popular Hong Kong-style comfort foods such as egg sandwiches, macaroni soup, and Hong Kong-style French toast. This diversification allowed them to cater to a wider customer base and remain relevant in a changing culinary landscape.


However, with the passage of time and the rise of a more modern and fast-paced food culture, the popularity of crustless milk toast shops began to wane. The younger generation became more drawn to international food trends and Western-style cafes, seeking out new and exciting flavors.


Moreover, the rising costs of rent and ingredients put additional strain on these traditional shops. It became increasingly challenging for them to compete with larger chains and international franchises that offered a wider variety of menu options at affordable prices.


Unfortunately, as a result, many crustless milk toast shops either closed their doors or had to adapt their business models. Some transitioned into more modern cafes, incorporating Western influences into their menus to attract a younger and more diverse clientele.


The decline of crustless milk toast shops marked the end of an era in Hong Kong’s culinary history. Many locals mourned the loss of these beloved establishments and the unique flavors and nostalgic experiences they provided.


However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional and nostalgic foods. People are rediscovering the joy of simple and comforting dishes that remind them of their cultural heritage. This revival has sparked a renewed appreciation for crustless milk toast, prompting the emergence of new establishments dedicated to preserving this unique culinary tradition.


Today, you can find a handful of specialty shops and cafes that have embraced crustless milk toast, bringing it back into the spotlight. These modern interpretations of the classic dish not only pay homage to the traditional flavors but also infuse it with innovative twists and contemporary presentation.


The rise and fall of crustless milk toast shops in Hong Kong is a testament to the ever-changing culinary landscape and the resilience of traditional food cultures. While the nostalgic shops may have diminished, the spirit and flavors of crustless milk toast continue to captivate the hearts of food enthusiasts, ensuring its legacy lives on.


As the popularity of crustless milk toast sees a resurgence, let’s explore how this beloved dish has made a comeback in the modern food scene.


The Revival of Crustless Milk Toast in the Modern Food Scene

Despite the decline of traditional crustless milk toast shops in Hong Kong, this beloved dish has experienced a remarkable revival in the modern food scene. Thanks to a combination of nostalgia, innovation, and the growing appreciation for traditional flavors, crustless milk toast has reclaimed its place as a sought-after culinary delight.


In recent years, a new wave of entrepreneurs and chefs have recognized the timeless appeal of crustless milk toast and have introduced it to a wider audience in the form of trendy cafes and specialty dessert shops.


These establishments have breathed new life into the dish by infusing it with creativity and modern flair. They have taken the classic flavors and textures of crustless milk toast and added unique twists, incorporating premium ingredients and innovative toppings.


One trend in this revival is the use of premium bread. Artisanal bakeries and specialty cafes are now crafting their own versions of the bread used in crustless milk toast, using high-quality ingredients and traditional baking methods to achieve exceptional textures and flavors.


Another aspect of the revival is the incorporation of gourmet toppings and fillings. From homemade jams to artisanal spreads, these establishments have elevated crustless milk toast to a more luxurious and indulgent experience. Toppings such as fresh berries, caramelized bananas, or even artisanal ice cream have taken this simple dish to new heights.


Additionally, the resurgence of crustless milk toast has been driven by social media and food influencers. Captivating photos of beautifully plated slices of crustless milk toast, intricately garnished and presented, have flooded social media platforms, sparking the curiosity and cravings of food enthusiasts.


The younger generation, in particular, has embraced the revival of crustless milk toast. They appreciate the blend of traditional flavors with modern presentation, finding comfort in the nostalgic elements while enjoying the visual appeal and the opportunity to share their experiences on social media.


Furthermore, the revival of crustless milk toast has become intertwined with the wider trend of nostalgic and comforting foods. People are seeking out dishes that provide a sense of familiarity and evoke fond memories of their childhood. Crustless milk toast, with its simple yet satisfying flavors, fits perfectly into this trend.


As a result of these factors, crustless milk toast has become a popular dessert or snack option in many foodie hotspots in Hong Kong. It is no longer limited to traditional tea houses or niche crustless milk toast shops. You can now find it on the menus of trendy cafes, dessert parlors, and even upscale restaurants, attracting a diverse range of patrons.


The revival of crustless milk toast is a testament to the enduring appeal of this beloved dish. It showcases the ability of traditional and nostalgic foods to transcend time and capture the hearts and taste buds of a new generation.


As we conclude our exploration of the revival of crustless milk toast in the modern food scene, let’s reflect on the enduring charm and significance of this iconic dish in Hong Kong’s culinary landscape.



Crustless milk toast holds a special place in the hearts and palates of those who have experienced its comforting flavors and nostalgic charm. This humble yet delightful dish has stood the test of time, evolving from a traditional British recipe to becoming an iconic part of Hong Kong’s culinary heritage.


From its simple beginnings in local tea houses and cha chaan tengs, crustless milk toast has captivated the taste buds of generations, offering a comforting and indulgent experience. Its unique combination of soft, moist bread soaked in a sweet and creamy milk mixture, often served with a slab of butter, creates a harmonious blend of textures and flavors that continue to enchant both locals and visitors alike.


While crustless milk toast shops experienced a decline in popularity in Hong Kong’s rapidly changing food landscape, the revival of this beloved dish in the modern food scene demonstrates its enduring appeal. Entrepreneurs and chefs have embraced crustless milk toast, infusing it with innovative twists and premium ingredients to cater to the evolving tastes of a new generation.


The resurgence of crustless milk toast showcases the resilience of traditional foods and the power of nostalgia in the culinary world. It also highlights the importance of preserving cultural heritage and celebrating unique flavors that have shaped the culinary landscape of a city like Hong Kong.


As you explore the vibrant food scene of Hong Kong, be sure to indulge in a slice of crustless milk toast and experience the comforting flavors that have delighted locals for decades. Whether you opt for the classic version or try one of the modern variations, crustless milk toast is a delightful treat that offers a taste of tradition and a glimpse into the rich gastronomic tapestry of this captivating city.


So, embrace the tradition, savor the flavors, and let the nostalgia take you on a culinary journey as you discover the magic of crustless milk toast in the vibrant streets of Hong Kong.