Top 5 must-try classic Hong Kong buns
If you want to eat like a true Hong Kong local, it’s time to throw prejudice out the window, refresh your palate, and try something new – here are our top picks!
Overshadowed by dim sum, roast duck and congee, bread in Hong Kong is victim to international culinary neglect. But if you want to eat like a true Hong Kong local, it’s time to throw prejudice out the window, refresh your palate, and try something new.
Introducing, the Hong Kong baau. Or bread bun in Cantonese.
Not to be confused with the Shanghainese xiao long bao or the fusion hipster ‘taco’ bao often served with coleslaw and how-ever-many-hours slow cooked pork belly, the Hong Kong baaus are a breed of their own.
Popular as a snack, meal, dessert, and even houseguest gift, these doughy delights not only attest the evolution of Canton-meets-West cuisine, but they have also kneaded their way into the Hong Kong staple diet. Buoyed by consistent low prices (think loose change) and a baked-in-house philosophy, they continue to receive a whole lot of local love.
But with over 20 variations to choose from, how do you separate the tasty from the questionable? Top tip: start with the classics.
Here are the top 5 Hong Kong baaus to try next time you’re in the city:
1) Pineapple Bun菠蘿包bo lo baau
Like a baker is not without his bread, a Hong Kong bread shop is not without its pineapple bun. Made famous by its signature golden checkered top crust baked to resemble a pineapple, this fruit-free bun is the reigning local favourite. By adding milk and often milk or custard powder to the dough, the buttery shell and soft bread base forms the perfect balance of light and crumbly.
Fancy a flavour (and fat) upgrade? Join the locals at the cha chaan teng (Hong Kong café), and order the bo lo jau. Served warm, the pineapple bun will come with a generous slab of cold butter sandwiched in the centre. Disclaimer: not for the lactose intolerant.
Best place to buy: Kam Wah Café, 47 Bute Street, Prince Edward (3-min walk from Exit B2, Prince Edward MTR Station)
2) Cocktail Bun雞尾包 gai mei baau
The cocktail bun may come alcohol-free, but it will certainly pack a punch. The literal translation of ‘cocktail’ in Chinese is ‘chicken-tail’, which makes as much (none)sense as cocktail, or pineapple in pineapple bun. But naming aside, the flavour combination makes absolute sense.
Shaped like a small baguette, the cocktail bun comes with a final-egg-washed golden brown crown, two strips of frosting, one on each end, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds on top. The filling is undoubtedly the hero. Shredded coconut married to sugar and butter creates a rich, creamy, and sweet surprise. For that extra OMG moment, heat the bun up for 10 seconds and enjoy the warm filling-ooze.
Best place to buy: Cherry Cake Shop, multiple stores around Hong Kong
3) Baked BBQ Pork Bun叉燒餐廳包cha siu chāan baau
Arguably the most celebrated bun outside of Hong Kong, the BBQ pork bun is often referred to as the ‘white buns served in a bamboo steamer at yum cha’. But lo and behold, a twin exists – the unsung yet equally delicious baked pork bun. Sharing the same filling of slow-roasted pork tenderloin, the dough when baked comes glazed and browned, while the dough when steamed creates a slightly dense snowy exterior thanks to the added cornstarch and baking powder.
If you’re ever in a rush and craving pork buns, the baked version is your go-to. And don’t worry, it will still have the perfect ratio of meat and carbs, as well as the beloved explosion of cha siu flavour.
Best place to buy: Tim Ho Wan, multiple stores around Hong Kong
4) Sausage Bun腸仔包cheong zai baau
The sausage bun may share the same concept as an American hotdog, but its look, taste and cooking method proves different. Look: the dough is kneaded into long ropes, and then wrapped around a (often Frankfurt) sausage. Sesame seeds are sprinkled on top for a bit of upscale touch. Taste: the dough is slightly sweet to enhance the flavour of the sausage. Cooking method: the whole bun is baked for at least 20 minutes.
With its compact size and ability to satisfy the average appetite, the sausage bun is a popular on-the-go mess-free meal substitute, and a common Hong Kong childhood favourite.
Best place to buy: Maxim’s Cake Shop, multiple stores around Hong Kong
5) Coconut Cream Bun 椰絲奶油包je si naai jau baau
Cream and bun – a combination that naturally steers you to think, cake. And you’re on the right track. With desiccated coconut peppered on top and either light butter or whipped cream pipped along a middle incision of a sweet hotdog-shaped bun, you’ll be sure to get your sugar fix. Often eaten as a snack or dessert, this one is definitely the prettier of the bun bunch.
Best place to buy: Happy Cake Shop, No. 106 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai