Toast of the town: nutritionist’s healthier recipe for Hong Kong-style French toast, staple of city’s cha chaan teng

  • The decadent dish – deep-fried bread topped with condensed milk and butter – is great as occasional treat, but it’s not the best choice for breakfast
  • Every week, Talking Points gives you a worksheet to practise your reading comprehension with questions and exercises about the story we’ve written
Doris Wai |

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When you’re craving this tasty treat, try making your own at home. Photo: Shutterstock

Thick slices of fluffy milk bread are fried to perfection and topped with sweet condensed milk and butter. The Hong Kong-style French toast, also known as 西多士, or sai-do-si, is a staple in the city’s cha chaan teng.

Like many other mouthwatering snacks in Hong Kong, it is a unique combination of East and West. The popular Western snack, French toast, is made by dipping bread in a mixture of egg and milk before cooking it in a pan. Local shops made their own version by smearing peanut butter between the slices of milk bread before deep-frying it.

Some Hongkongers smear soft butter between the layers of creamy peanut butter for extra ooze when slicing through the crispy toast. Others prefer topping it with honey or syrup instead of condensed milk.

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Nutrition in deep-fried toast

While Hong Kong-style French toast might satisfy your cravings, it is not the healthiest of snacks.

Kathy Ng Yiu-fan, a senior nutritionist at Kat-Spirit Nutrition Centre in Hong Kong cautions against regularly eating this decadent dish. It contains high amounts of saturated fat because of the ingredients used and how it is prepared.

“This leads to a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and even cancer, and not surprisingly, other weight issues,” she said.

“One 200-gram serving of Hong Kong-style French toast contains 528 calories, 27.8 grams of fat, 53.4 grams of carbohydrates and 15.3 grams of protein.”

Kathy Ng is a senior nutritionist at Kat-Spirit Nutrition Centre in Hong Kong. Photo: Handout

Ng added: “While this is comparable to a simple breakfast of two slices of white bread with peanut butter and scrambled eggs in terms of nutrition, the latter [that isn’t deep-fried] is much more preferred.”

For a balanced breakfast, Ng suggested having two slices of wholemeal bread with one teaspoon of peanut butter without palm oil or added salt, together with an egg for extra protein. She said Hong Kong-style French toast would be better as an occasional treat. Instead of heading to a cha chaan teng when you crave it, prepare it at home using a recipe recommended by Ng.

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Wholesome Hong Kong-style French toast

Ingredients (serves one)

  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread (1-inch thick), preferably a few days old

  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter without added sugar, salt and oil

  • ¾ cup of skimmed milk

  • 2 large eggs

  • pinch of salt

  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon of low-fat condensed milk


  1. Trim the crust off the bread, if you like, and cut the bread slices in half so that you have two triangles. Spread the peanut butter inside each piece of bread.

  2. In a shallow bowl, whisk to combine milk, eggs and salt. Soak the peanut butter-stuffed bread in the mixture for two minutes on each side.

  3. While the bread is soaking, add oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the soaked bread to the pan and cook until golden brown for about two to three minutes. Flip the bread and cook the other side until golden brown for another two to three minutes.

  4. Serve the French toast with condensed milk drizzled over it.

Click here for a printable worksheet and interactive exercises about this story.

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