In the Hong Kong tea cafes (茶餐廳), this is an inexpensive and quick breakfast. It includes Hong Kong’s preferred Doll brand of instant ramen (the brand, gong zai mein, 公仔面, is synonymous with instant noodles in HK), a sunny side up egg, and a couple pieces of crispy Spam.
This no-frills, salt-filled, protein-packed, and MSG-laden breakfast of champions doesn’t seem particularly special, and we’re generally not big proponents of processed foods, but trust me when I say it is SO GOOD. There’s a reason why simple dishes like this endure!
If instant noodles and Spam aren’t you’re thing, we’re documenting this not just as a recipe, but as a cultural post. Read on just to learn more about this Hong Kong tradition.
Hong Kong Cafe Culture
Hong Kong tea cafes are a go-to for Hongkongers looking for something fast, economical, and filling. The menus were influenced not just by Southern Chinese cooking traditions, but also by British colonizers.
You’ll find specialties like ketchup-tinged spaghetti with meat sauce and copious amounts of melted cheese, baked pork chops, egg custard tarts, pineapple buns with giant slabs of butter, and Hong-Kong-style French toast (condensed milk is involved), all washed down with the all important Hong Kong Milk Tea.
You’ll also find this breakfast of eggs and Spam in a hot bowl of gong zai mein.
(If you like, you can add a few leaves of romaine lettuce or any other Chinese leafy greens. But I’d be lying if I said it’s better with vegetables.)
Finding the Original Doll Brand Instant Ramen
The name of the dish has the brand of ramen baked right in. Gong Zai Mein is actually the brand name. Like we said earlier, it’s synonymous with Instant Noodles in Hong Kong. That’s how ubiquitous it is!
That said, it’s a little bit tougher to find here in the U.S. We looked online and paid a premium on Amazon!
However, this endorsement from the Ramen Rater rings true. As strong beef flavor diehards, we rarely opt for chicken flavor, but this is definitely the best chicken ramen we’ve ever tasted. Plus, we think the chicken flavor goes really nicely with the eggs and Spam.
Now, we DO realize that the package says “artificial Chicken flavor,” and that Instant Ramen and Spam both contain a ton of sodium!
But while our blog focuses on recipes using whole foods and fresh ingredients, it’s not to say that we can’t enjoy a little junk food every so often. Feel free to enjoy this post simply as a cultural piece, and if you do want to try it, be sure to enjoy it in moderation!
A Final Note
You’ll see that there’s just the smallest pinch of finely chopped scallion in the final dish. This was a subtle but important part of the recipe that my mom pointed out to me. The scallion should be in the dish just as an occasional flavor note. Resist the urge to put in a giant fistful of roughly chopped scallions!
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot.
Fry the Spam in a pan until it’s golden brown around the edges. Turn off the heat, leaving it in the pan to keep it warm. Also start frying an egg sunny side up. Cover with a lid, and cook until the white is no longer runny, but the egg yolk is still soft.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles. Things will move quickly, so keep an eye on your egg to make sure it does not overcook. Stir the seasoning packets into the water, followed by the noodles, and cook for 2 ½ minutes, stirring to break them up. (At some point, you may need to take your egg off the heat to avoid overcooking.)
Pour the noodles and into your serving bowl, and arrange the spam and the egg over the top. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve immediately.