Pineapple Buns are a well-known traditional Hong Kong style delicatessen and is available in many Hong Kong-style cafés and bakeries, having tourists queue up for a taste whenever they set foot in Asia’s World City.
How did such a popular deli come into being in the first place? Hong Kong-style cafés started to flourish in the 1940’s, however, it was difficult to make enough profit by just selling Hong Kong-style milk tea. This was why many café owners set up their own bakeries to make cakes and breads, but still, this wasn’t enough as they were similar products. Bakers therefore were eager to make bread out of a special recipe to stay ahead in the fierce competition.
The bakers realized most Hongkongers had a sweet tooth, which is why those sweetened Chinese cakes were in demand. They then created a sweet bun, with a crust on top made of lard, ammonium carbonate, and butter, among other ingredients. After being heated in the oven, the crust would crack open to look like the outer peel of pineapples, thus, being named Pineapple Bun.
Once it was introduced to the market, the pineapple buns have become a favored specialty in people’s everyday breakfast and afternoon tea. The pineapple bun is best served freshly baked, and the best-made ones have a crunchy but easy-to-fall-off crust. On the other hand, however, once they are dampened, the taste will never be the same.
Eventually, pineapple buns even “evolved” into pineapple butter buns – that is, to insert a slice of cold butter in the middle of the hot bun. This special taste of hot and cold put together lured diners to devour one after another.
If you’re wondering where to find the best pineapple buns in Hong Kong, here’s a lowdown on where you can get a hold of them to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings:
Honolulu Coffee Shop
While Honolulu Coffee Shop may be more famous for its egg tarts, its pineapple buns definitely do not disappoint! Founded in the 1940s, Honolulu Coffee Shop is a Hong Kong-style tea restaurant offering both Chinese and Western-style cuisine. Here’s the best part: it’s found its way in the Philippines under the name Honolulu HK Café, in case you want your quick fix of pineapple buns!
Kam Wah Café
Situated in Prince Edward, Kowloon, Kam Wah Café is Hong Kong’s most well-known pineapple bun maker. It has been serving loyal patrons of their famous Bo Lo Yau, which is Cantonese for pineapple bun stuffed with a thick wad of butter, since 1973, with crowds queuing up all day long.
Mrs. Tang Café
Located on the Ping Shan Heritage Trail outside the town of Yuen Long, Mrs. Tang Café is well worth a trip, especially if you will be ordering their pineapple buns stuffed with egg and tomato. It’s of course served with a generous slab of butter, too! Wash it down with a bottle of “champagne” milk tea, which comes chilled rather than diluted with ice.
Sai Kung Café & Bakery
One of the longstanding café-bakeries in Hong Kong, Sai Kung Café & Bakery offers a wide array of classic Hong Kong sweets fresh from the over, to include pineapple buns. Found nowhere else but Sai Kung itself, a stop at this café-bakery is worth it after a stroll along the seafront.
There are different versions of pineapple buns. At the end of the day, it all comes down to accessibility, quality and messy but delightful eat! Have you tried pineapple buns? Let me know in the comments section.