Hong Kong identity is a complicated issue and many different perspectives have to be taken into consideration in order to study this issue. This paper mainly focuses on the cultural perspective of the Hong Kong identity. Hall.S (2000) “identities are never unified and, in late modern times, increasingly fragmented and fractured; never singular but multiply constructed across different, often intersecting and antagonistic, discourses, practices, and positions.” This implies identity is regarded as a shared culture in Hong Kong.
Most Hong Kong people think that ”Cha Chaan Teng” is an important feature of Hong Kong’s lifestyle.
In other words, it is an important part of Hong Kong culture. This paper will be divided into two sections. The first section discusses the important role “Cha Chaan Teng” plays as a part of Hong Kong’s lifestyle and how it reflects and contributes to the Hong Kong identity. In the second section 3 major characteristics of “Cha Chaan Teng”; their affordable prices, high efficiency in serving food and varieties of dishes offered will be discussed.
“Cha Chaan Teng” is a significant icon of Hong Kong lifestyle. Lots of Hong Kong people grew up with “Cha Chaan Teng”.It is a great place to hang out with friends and discuss current events. Furthermore, it is a good place to see the vicissitudes of life. It is true that “Cha Chaan Teng” has an important cultural value in Hong Kong people’s mind. A survey has been conducted by Radio Television Hong Kong (2004) on the internet, 10 most representative elements of Hong Kong among 50 local characteristics.
“Cha Chaan Teng” received 1,930 votes, beating the old tram by 106 votes and gaining its place in top 10. This shows that “Cha Chaan Teng” plays an important role in the cultural heritage of Hong Kong. At the same time, it contributes and reflects to local identity.
The food provided by ”Cha Chaan Teng” are economical. This is strongly related to its important role in early industrialization. It also reflects the characteristics of Hong Kong’s economic development. During early industrialization, most Hong Kong people were not rich and needed to work for a long period of time every day. They need to eat a large amount of food to gain energy for work. In order to attract more customers,”Cha Chaan Teng” started to lower the food price and increase the food portion. These alterations made”Cha Chaan Teng” become popular. Today, during lunch time, construction workers, truck drivers, as well as office staff also eat there because they find the prices are more affordable.
According to the article by Crouch, O (2011) “there are thousands of these diner-style restaurants in Hong Kong and they are a unifying aspect of the island society, popular with all socio-economic backgrounds”. It means that different background of Hong Kong people like to go to this kind of Hong Kong style restaurant. It does not come from no reason. First of all, it is very convenient to the customer because it is easy to find them.
Although “Cha Chaan Teng” has developed almost for 70 years, the uniqueness of the Western and Eastern food style cannot be replaced by other restaurant. As we know, Hong Kong is called “Gourmet Paradise” as the food quality is really high and “Cha Chaan Teng” also contributed to it. Meanwhile, the food prices are reasonably cheap. Therefore, many poverty people love to go there. The “Cha Chaan Teng” continues to play an important role in the development of Hong Kong. It reflects and contributes to a Hong Kong identity.
One of the reasons for the popularity of “Cha Chaan Teng” is its efficiency. During the 1950s and 1960s, “Cha Chaan Teng” became popular with Hong Kong’s booming industry and factory lifestyle, which led to changes in Hong Kong people’s lifestyle and needs. Since Hong Kong needed a large amount of labour force to boost the economy. Many women started to work in factories and the number of housewives decreased a lot. This meant that lots of women were too busy to cook and fewer families ate at home. To satisfy the needs of the general public, “Cha chaan Teng” started to focus on efficiency. Fast paced life-style is one of Hong Kong’s features, Workers often had only one hour lunch time, therefore the efficiency of restaurants is the main concern of workers rather than the taste of the food. So “Cha Chaan Teng” created a perfect system which could improve the efficiency of food preparation. First, it adopts a high degree of division of labor.
Also, the ingredients are well prepared before the restaurants open. “Cha Chaan Teng” generally does not take tips, waiters write on the bill after customer order the food and then leaves the bill on the table. Customers only need to wait ten to fifteen minutes for the food and when they are finished, they will take their own bill to the cashier and pay. The whole process is very efficient. Meanwhile, most “Cha Chaan Teng” provides a choice called “fast set”, which usually changes every single day.
The features of these sets are that they are served quicker and at lower price when compared with other sets. This can help customers to save time on thinking what they want to order, ultimately reducing the time spent on waiting for food. Indeed, “Cha Chaan Teng” was strongly influenced by early industrialization of Hong Kong and panders to it. Also, it creates a perfect system which can improve efficiency. In order to attract more customers and survive in the industry market, it continues to improve and prospers as a part of Hong Kong life-style.
The wide variety of food that a “Cha Chaan Teng” offers often shocks its customers. Not only does it provide Western and Chinese food but also fusion of Western and Eastern food. Hong Kong was a colony of Britain. The food culture of Chinese people and Western people are totally different. After World War II, Hong Kong was strongly influenced by Western lifestyle. However, Western food was only served in upper-class restaurants and was very expensive at that time. Only a small amount of Hong Kong people can afford it. Some Hong Kong people came up with an idea to combine the food culture of the East and West.
At that time, “Cha Chaan Teng” appeared. It preserved the food culture of Hong Kong and offered a variety of dishes to customers. The food provided by “Cha Chaan Teng” is diversified; many of them were tailor-made to fit Hong Kong’s unique diet. These food features, in fact, were developed by different curious customers because “Cha Chaan Teng” always adopt customers’ ideas and create these unique diets. Customers can also mix and match to choose the food they want. This allows more flexibility for the customers. That is why “Cha Chaan Teng” can integrate different people’s need. In the past, the foods offered on the “Cha Chaan Teng” menu were only some western or eastern dishes. As it became more popular, it started to develop a unique menu.
The most typical example is milk tea, or in Cantonese naai cha. McLane, D(2008) said “If Hong Kong had an “official” drink, Milk Tea would be it: the thick, intense and creamy brew of black tea and evaporated milk, boiled and then strained through cloth”. It is for sure that many Hong Kong people love it so much. Another contribution to Hong Kong identity is that “Cha Chaan Teng” helps promote tourism all over the world. Since there are some western dishes and unique food provided in “Cha Chaan Teng”, it manages to attract many tourists. Indeed, it becomes a characteristic of Hong Kong and helps to promote Hong Kong’s image as “Food paradise”. Indirectly, the economy of Hong Kong has been improved because of “Cha Chaan Teng”.
The general public visit Hong Kong style restaurants frequently. Indeed, things will change as time passes, and “Cha Chaan Teng” makes no exception. It kept improving to meet modern market demands. The most surprising thing is that it added some new elements while retaining its original flavor. In order to establish the “Cha Chaan Teng” position in the international arena, Hong Kong political party China Democratic National Construction Association (2007) suggested that “Hong Kong style tea restaurant culture” should be declared as a “non-material cultural heritage of mankind” in order to establish Hong Kong’s international brand image and promote tourism development in Hong Kong.
To sum up, “Cha Chaan Teng” contains the collective memories of Hong Kong people and has witnessed the development of Hong Kong. Meanwhile, in order to get higher profit, it keeps changing to fit Hong Kong people’s life style and needs, for example, the design of the restaurant, menus and ingredients. Today, “Cha Chaan Teng” is getting famous all over the world and can be found in many countries.
However, the most traditional and original one still stands in Hong Kong. The “Cha Chaan Teng” has become one of the major visiting spots for tourists. In additional, they are featured in many movies and TV dramas. It is absolutely part of the local populace of the best place to eat and drink. In fact, these restaurant features precisely reflect the spirit of people-orientation and values - faster, to match changes and affordable prices. These are the reasons why “Cha Chaan Teng” still occupy a strong position in Hong Kong after so many years.