Yolanda Chiu and Andi Chapple, citizen journalists with FoodFutures, met Zeno Chow at his cafe My Home Cafe and talked about his passion to bring the tastes of Hong Kong and Taiwan to Lancaster. 

Zeno Chow likes food and loves cooking. He told us his story of opening a different kind of cafe in this small city with sparkling eyes.

Zeno’s father is from Hong Kong and his mother is Taiwanese, and Zeno has inherited a love of food from both cultures. He grew up in Hong Kong and the UK and loves authentic Hong Kong flavours. Even though he and his young family are thousands of miles away from Asia, he still feels a strong connection to Hong Kong and wanted to create a “home” in Lancaster so as to remind people from Hong Kong and Taiwan of their homelands.

With this vision he left a steady job at the university and entered entrepreneurship. His hard work is paying off and the responses from customers have been overwhelmingly positive. He has tried to make the cafe reflect his perceptions of home, for example choosing the colour scheme to give people a warm feeling.

Zeno believes in preserving the essence of Hong Kong’s diverse culinary heritage. His menu includes street food, dim sum and classic dishes. If necessary, he searches as far as Manchester for equipment and ingredients to ensure an authentic taste. If he can’t get an ingredient needed for a dish, he gets as close as possible to the taste with what you can get. 

Zeno tries to strike a balance between preserving authenticity and catering to the preferences of the local community. For example, the cha chaan teng style mainly involves meat dishes, but he is thinking about vegetarian options while also considering what customers would reliably order.

It’s been easy to get Hong Kong and Taiwanese people to come to the cafe; now Zeno is keen to get people of other backgrounds to come. The restaurant serves as a hub for cultural exchange, using Bruce Lee film posters (Zeno is a fan), other film posters, maps and so on as talking points for explaining Hong Kong and Taiwanese culture. He sees customers of different backgrounds talking to one another, which is rare to see in a cafe or restaurant.

Zeno has found it easy to settle in as he has lived in the North West before – people aren’t rushed and have time to chat. He tells friends new here from Hong Kong, “Don’t just keep to yourselves, mix in.” As Bruce Lee said, “Under heaven there is but one family.”

Have you visited My Home Cafe in Gage Street yet? 

The Hong Kong-style tea cafe, known as “cha chaan teng” (茶餐廳), has been a vibrant part of the city’s culinary culture since the 1950s. These cafes cater to a diverse clientele and are known for their affordable prices, quick service and extensive menu offerings.

Typically, a cha chaan teng menu features a fusion of Chinese and Western dishes, such as Hong Kong-style milk tea (港式奶茶), pineapple buns with butter (菠蘿油), Hong Kong-style French toast (港式西多士), satay and various noodle and rice dishes. The fast-paced environment encourages patrons to enjoy a quick and hearty meal.

Cha chaan tengs often have shared seating, bustling activity and a blend of traditional and modern decor. The open layout fosters a sense of community, making it a common gathering spot for locals and visitors alike. Overall, Hong Kong-style tea cafes are a reflection of the city’s dynamic cultural influences, offering a delightful experience that merges Chinese and Western flavours in a casual and welcoming setting.

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