Hong Kong-style milk tea is a quintessential staple to every Hong Konger. It really doesn’t get more nostalgic than sipping that ultra-silky milk tea and getting that caffeine hit from the super-rich and strong tea. A good cup of Hong Kong-style milk tea could seriously be stronger than a cup of coffee – that’s the secret to how Hong Kong people endure long working hours! Anyway, with it being so close to every Hong Konger’s heart, it’s no wonder HOKO has gained so much popularity among East Asians in London and even more now with their HK-style French Toast & snacks offerings!
HOKO: Nostalgic Love from Hong Kong to London
HOKO is run by a small team of Hong Kongers who are passionate about bringing a taste of home to London and beyond. They started out by offering just Hong Kong-style Milk Tea, available for London delivery and supplied to a few pop-ups here and there. Soon after, they are stocked at various Asian supermarkets and expanded their drinks menu with traditional Yuen Yeung, i.e. a Hong Kong-style mix of coffee and milk tea together.
HOKO has now found itself a stall to trade in London pop-up food markets and decided to include food on its menu. Continuing the theme of nostalgic Hong Kong food, they’re mainly serving Hong Kong-style French toast and are slowly further expanding the menu with other traditional savoury snacks. You can keep an eye out on their Instagram to find out the exact dates and locations of their pop-up. For our visit, we found them at the Portobello Schoolyard in Notting Hill.
The Food & Drinks: What We Ordered
Date of visit: June 2022
Hong Kong Style Milk Tea (£3.50 or £3 if ordering with food)
Hong Kong Style Milk Tea is brewed with Ceylon Tea and blended with evaporated milk, or sometimes with condensed milk as well. It is typically very strong to taste and features a rich and silky texture. It is nicknamed ‘silk stocking’ milk tea because one of the key techniques is to pour and filter the milk tea through a sackcloth strainer that resembles the shape of a female stocking! Additionally, the milk tea is so silky to taste that it’s as smooth as a stocking too. Hence, the nickname.
The milk tea from HOKO has truly hit the spot. Featuring their own blend of Ceylon tea, house recipe and traditional techniques, the tea was incredibly fragrant and strong to taste. Its silky texture was to die for and smoother than a stocking I’d say! It was really rich but well-balanced. If you like your tea strong, you’d enjoy it!
Hong Kong Style Yuen Yeung (£3.50 or £3 if ordering with food)
What is a Yuen Yeung? It’s a blend of both milk tea and coffee together. You may wonder if that would work at all. Well, if it’s Hong Kong style, it totally works and it’s actually one of my favourite drinks back home! Allegedly, the secret to a good cup of Yuen Yeung is to have three parts of coffee and seven parts of Hong Kong Style Milk Tea. You’d have to nail that balance in order to make it work.
The Yuen Yeung from HOKO certainly didn’t disappoint. Similar to its milk tea, the texture was incredibly smooth and silky. The balance between coffee and tea was impeccable, with the two distinct flavours existing harmoniously in every sip. It’s very rich to taste, giving you all the caffeine hits you need.
Hong Kong-Style Crispy Fried Squid (£8.50)
Before we dive into the highly anticipated Hong Kong-style French Toast, I’d like to start with the crispy fried squid that stole my heart. Fried squid is a popular street food snack in Hong Kong and could come in various styles. These were cooked in a salt & pepper style, garnished with chillies, coriander, and lemon. Lightly crispy on the outside and tinged with a lovely savoury edge, the fried squid was a delight to munch on. I can totally see this being served as a starter dish at a restaurant. It was seriously addictively delicious.
Golden Yolk French Toast (£8.50)
Moving onto the main event, we tried out a couple of Hong Kong-style French Toast flavours. To give you a little bit of background, Hong Kong Style French Toast typically involves two slices of thick crustless bread, traditionally spread with peanut butter, then drenched in egg batter and deep-fried to crispy goldenness. It is then served with a slab of butter and syrup, or sometimes with condensed milk as well. This option is available as the Classic at HOKO.
We didn’t try the Classic but tried out this Golden Yolk French Toast instead. It features a runny salted egg yolk lava as the filling and is topped with cream cheese. This is listed under the savoury section but, really, it should be in the sweet section. Essentially, it’s a rich custard filling, perfectly runny and oozing as we sliced the toast. Using salted egg yolk in custard is a very common thing in Chinese cuisine. You can find it in Custard Buns, Custard Mooncake, etc. It’s a little runnier than we originally expected but the flavours did hit the spot. The cream cheese topping wasn’t very traditional per se but it rounded up the dish nicely!
Dirty Ovaltine French Toast (£7.50)
The Golden Yolk is probably our favourite one among the three French Toasts we tried, closely followed by this Dirty Ovaltine one. It’s got Ovaltine, condensed milk, and Biscoff crumbs with it, and the flavours were absolutely delightful. If you enjoy slightly milky flavours, you’re going to enjoy this one. Whilst described to have buttery milk lava, it wasn’t oozing any like the Golden Yolk one. But that’s merely a very minor thing to point out. Most importantly, the french toast was delicious and, once again, the flavours have hit home.
Choco French Toast (£8)
The reason I’ve got my eyes set on the Choco French Toast is because of the Koko Krunch cereal topping! Just to give you a little background, Koko Krunch is my favourite cereal ever and it was my daily go-to breakfast as a child. Unfortunately for me, it is not available in the UK or Europe. It is available on Amazon but it’s rather expensive. As a result, while people pack fancy stuff from Asia back to the UK, I pack cereal. And it’s still the case today.
So my eyes totally lit up when I saw them and I wanted to get this Choco French Toast so badly just to get my Koko Krunch cravings satisfied. For the Koko Krunch part, yes it did and I was a happy bunny. As for the French Toast itself, the flavour combo was closer to a Western french toast dish than the traditional Hong Kong-style flavours. It’s got Nutella stuffed between, topped with whipped mascarpone, lemon zest, and Koko Krunch. Personally, I wasn’t too sure about the lemon zest & mascarpone combo with Nutella on an HK-style french toast.
Red Bean Ice with Milk (£4)
Last but not least, I tried out their Red Bean Ice Milk at the pop-up. Red Bean Ice Milk is a very popular summer drink at traditional Hong Kong restaurants/canteens. Traditionally, it’s got sweet red beans at the bottom and is topped with iced coconut milk or evaporated milk. Sometimes, it would be topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream too.
This one from HOKO uses regular milk. It’s decent but it wasn’t anything particularly wowing. Compared to its other drinks and dishes, this one didn’t stand out much. I personally think it needed a boost in richness, and using either coconut milk or evaporated milk could really give that extra oomph of flavour.
All in all, I’ve absolutely loved HOKO and am super pleased to have found somewhere that truly honours the traditional flavours of Hong Kong. The milk tea and Yuen Yeung are absolutely stellar and are indisputably the best in London. The French Toasts are not bad either – they mostly hit the spot and I like the slight contemporary take on them without compromising on their authenticity. Additionally, the crispy fried squid was totally a pleasant surprise and it really excites us what other savoury snacks to have in store to launch in the near future. If you are a fellow Hong Konger who is looking for a taste of home or someone who’s a huge fan of the cuisine, HOKO London is the spot.