Hong Kong French Toast: Brainstorming Beyond the UK Brunch Trend

Taking Hong Kong French Toast and broadening third culture cuisine trends as our starting point, we highlight five innovative dishes that could find favour on UK brunch menus in 2023
Hoko Hong Kong French Toast
Brunch has been a regular moneymaker within UK hospitality for some years now. Across the country, restaurants, cafés and gastropubs are ably harnessing both breakfast and lunch food trends to deliver creative all-day options, from decadent French toasts to the mighty eggs benedict – with boozy brunch trips all the rage.

The stats speak for themselves. Google search interest for “bottomless brunch” has grown by over 955% year-on-year in the UK, with consumer demand for indulgence, comfort and sociable eating scenarios driving innovation.

Among the most on-trend brunch dishes is Hong Kong-style French toast, a classic comfort food from the Chinese region, which first arrived on the UK brunch scene around five years ago. Traditionally enjoyed slathered in butter and drizzled with either honey or golden syrup, the shallow-fried, peanut butter-stuffed, egg-battered French toast sandwich quickly resonated with comfort-craving UK consumers and is now a sweet staple across brunch menus.

Like the Hong Kong-style egg waffle (or bubble waffle), which remains a popular UK snack food trend; Hong Kong-style French Toast was born during the period of Western colonialism from Hong Kong-style Western cuisine (or Canto-Western cuisine) – a merging of both Eastern and Western flavours and dish styles which became widespread via traditional Hong Kong cafés (cha chaan tengs).

What makes the origins of Hong Kong French Toast interesting from a menu development point of view is that it aligns with rising third culture cuisine trends in the UK – a disruptive arena pioneered by chefs and innovators developing dishes driven by unique culinary influences from one culture, made with ingredients and flavours from another, delivering boldly inauthentic, often-indulgent eating experiences.

So, considering potential menu innovation for 2023 (and beyond), what other ‘third culture’ offerings linking to Asia might be worth a look for future UK brunch offerings?

Okonomiyaki BEC
Yo+Shoku, New York
Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake made with wheat flour cooked on a teppan (traditional iron griddle) and served with a variety of toppings.

Versatile, quick to make and with cheap base ingredients, okonomiyaki makes for a great vehicle for a range of brunch-centric offerings, such as yōshoku (Japanese-style Western) restaurant Yo+Shoku’s Okonomiyaki BEC – a layered pancake with yakisoba noodles, bacon, omelette, cheese and cabbage.

Filipino French Toast
Panadera, London
In London, Panadera bakery blends Filipino breakfast classics with UK café culture, with its Filipino-British launch menu last year including Filipino French Toast.

Made with slices of its signature PanaderaLoaf (inspired by pandesal, a traditional Filipino milk bun), dipped in egg batter and fried in butter; the team topped two slices with ube jam and mascarpone cheese blended with coconut.
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Kimchi & Egg Croissant
Cafe Mochiko, Ohio
Another yōshoku-driven operation, Cafe Mochiko offers a range of Japanese-style Western baked goods and large plates, including a homemade kimchi and cheesy egg-topped croissant – a third culture-driven riff on the classic breakfast/brunch pastry that could find favour among younger consumers seeking globally-inspired eating options

Ying Yang Martini
The Darkside, Vancouver
With bottomless brunch booming in the UK, it’s worth considering your alcohol selection, even beyond the ubiquitous prosecco.

New Asian-inspired gastropub The Darkside’s Ying Yang Martini (back right) is a third culture-inspired play on the classic espresso martini, blending elements of Yuenyeung – a popular Hong Kong drink made with both coffee and tea made famous (in part) by cha chaan tengs (Hong Kong-style cafés).

The Ying Yang Martini is made up of Ampersand vodka, Kahlua, espresso, evaporated milk and black tea.

In March, Hong Kong milk tea specialist Hoko launched a café kiosk in Hackney, offering six innovative Hong Kong French Toast flavours.

These include Golden Yolk (salted egg yolk, cream cheese and pork floss); Soy Mochi (rice mochi filling, soy sauce, mirin sake and nori); Matcha (Uji matcha lava and powder with whipped mascarpone); and Yuen Yueng (HK milk tea spread, espresso syrup and condensed milk).

Also on the menu are Hong Kong-style hot dog buns – a classic on-the-go brunch snack in the Chinese region – and sweet bolo buns, (or pineapple buns), a traditional breakfast or afternoon treat.
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