Where For Art Thou Pineapple?

Often we’ve ventured forth with gluttony in our eyes/belly (where exactly DOES gluttony reside?) and researched for our adoring public certain food styles or items.  This usually requires a “thought process” – and we use that term lightly given what we’re about to share – that looks something like this:

Dan or  H-J

“This _________ is amazing.”

“Mmm…maybe we should try ALL of the _______ [insert food item] in ________ [insert city or country] and see which is the best.”

“Totally!  And then we could blog about it.”

“Yeah!  Let’s do it!!!”

Rough discussion usually follows where we talk about all the places we could sample said delight…and this is where things get messy.  You see, instead of then aiming to complete the task casually over a period of time – a restaurant here, a restaurant there…

“Right.  So what day should we do it?”

“Well, we don’t have anything planned on Sunday.”

“Cool.  We’ll go to 74 restaurants and try their __________ on Sunday then.”

Often it leads to hilarity.  Sometimes drunkeness.  Almost always (temporary) regret – though we always fight past the mid-point wall.

With our new pauper/parent status firmly entrenched, glorious buffets and epic burger missions are a bit beyond us at the moment.  However, H-J’s new favourite thing as a Hong Kong Lady-Who-Lunches (maternity leave) is tea sets – the super value food and drink combo served at any self-respecting HK resto between 2.30pm and 6pm every day.  Accordingly, decided to subject the most Hong Kong-y thing we could think of to the w&c process but pace ourselves for once and attempt it over a period of weeks, just whenever opportunities presented themselves.

The object of our attentions – the famous Hong Kong Pineapple Bun (“bo lo bao”).20140731_150741

First, some background.  The name itself is kinda misleading.  Yes, it’s a bun but no, there’s no pineapple.  The name comes solely from the appearance of the crusty top which resembles the pattern of a pineapple.  These buns make appearances all over the show at tea shops, bakeries, dim sum restaurants and rank pretty high on the list of unique foods to try while in Hong Kong.  Funnily enough, they’re not that exciting to eat but there’s something about a pineapple bun with an iced milk tea that really caps off an afternoon.20140731_150211

Composition of a pineapple bun should be a crunchy, sweet crust on top of a fluffy white-bread bun.  They should be eaten warm from the oven.  That’s it, plain and simple.  Oh no, not quite…In a sit-down setting (rather than a bakery purchase) pineapple buns are more often than not served with a cholesterol inducing chunk of butter (“bo lo yau”).  Not a smear.  Not a spread.  Not a gentle slick.  Nope, a chunk.  Basically, you should be able to see corners on the wedge of butter poking out of your fresh, hopefully warm bun.

There are a number of “best” pineapple buns in Hong Kong to be sampled and sample we did.  WE even tried many of the not best ones.  It seemed only fair to make our sample relative.  In the spirit of our desire to learn as much about local food as we can we have concluded our pineapple bun research with attempting to make them at home and including for y’all a recipe so you too can try this creation!  Woot.  We’re so dedicated.

In all their glory, pineapple buns from around Hong Kong.

The Worst: Green River – North Point branch


The poor bun was served cold 😦 It was very soft with a topping neither sweet nor crunchy; in fact, it was kind of like a standard dinner roll with dandruff.  Butter was warm but not in a “I’ve been put into a deliciously warm bun” kinda way but more a “I’ve been sitting in a hot kitchen on the bench” kinda way…

The Best: Kam Wah – Prince Edward20140731_145434 20140731_150124 20140731_150759

The only entrant we could be bothered leaving our neighbourhood for, the King of Pineapple Buns, these ones are warm with melty hot butter, not sweaty kitchen butter.  The topping forms a whole separate layer of perfectly crunchy, sweetness as a compliment to the squidgy bun.  Perfection!

The Most Unique: Yamazaki Bakery – Various locations20140727_213401

A huge bun, with a much more croissant-like texture and a crunchy sweet topping.  No butter in these puppies but the texture is definitely a nice change from the still kinda-weird bun type that prevails.

Honourable Mentions: Nga Yuen Cake Shop – North Point 2014-07-26 21.28.42

This tiny bakery has very soft, light bready buns with a lovely crunchy but not very sweet topping.  No butter in these ones which was a welcome relief.

Random restaurant – North Point20140802_141225 20140802_141917

A good standard bun, with a mildly sweet topping but good crunch.  Butter had the rather sweaty, sour taste though…

Hong Kong Canteen – North Point2014-07-27 16.13.4220140808_120628 20140808_120634

An excellent takeaway version with good crust to bun ratio and still some crunch in the topping, rather than the often sogginess caused by being in a glass cabinet awaiting purchase.

The “Homemade”: Fort Street, North Point20140823_150409

In the spirit of true adventure, we trialed our own pineapple bun baking session at home.  20140823_153213

The verdict?!  The colour was way different to the ones we’ve bought around and about, ours being much less yellow/golden and way more just like a standard white bun.  The texture of the bun was fantastic when warm but tasted kinda stale when they got cold.  Crust was exceptional – way more caramel tasting than the norm and slightly chewy as well as crunchy.  20140823_214425

Epic. Especially when served with a milk tea on the side!

So was this a better process to embark on. eating our way politely through a range of buns, over days and weeks, rather than stuffing ourselves thoroughly in a single day, dragging our feet and stomachs to “victory”?

Nah.  Back to more regular programming and adventuring soon.


Categories: Food, HK Food Tour, Hong Kong, TravelTags: , , , , , , ,


  1. That first one looked so tragic! 🙂 Looks like an OK treat – but good that you cleared up the pineapple thing. Could have been disappointing otherwise!

  2. Glad to see you’re both enjoying life. I showed our youngest son your blog today. He said he is coming to visit which is fine with us. Just don’t send him back for a while if he does. 😀

  3. I think I’m going to need the recipe.

  4. As I hong konger I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never tried Kam Wah’s pineapple buns! Will definitely go check them out soon 🙂


  5. You’ve done it again, I’m hungry and with classes starting again tomorrow I don’t expect to have time to find tea buns but then…..

  6. Coincidentally tried my first one this afternoon at Kam Fung in Wan Chai. No barometer yet compared to others, but it was nice and crispy on top! The cold milk tea is also quite nice :). Will have to try your other suggestions, thx for sharing!

  7. I always learn something new when I come here! I wondered why they were called pineapple buns even though there is not a trace of pineapple in them. Also, ‘sweaty kitchen butter’ might be my new favourite description.. made me laugh SO hard.

  8. Look what I found- http://foodismylife.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/polo-buns/
    My ovens not working right (and its too hot here for me to worry about fixing it so the search goes on) 🙂

    • Awesome! It’s interesting how the ingredients in the toppings vary so much from recipe to recipe. I’ve included one here too (see link in the page or at the top of the screen under “recipes”) so if you decide to do some comparison baking when your oven is fixed, let us know which one you prefer!

  9. These were new to me – love the idea of them! I adore butter but try not to eat it too often…but when I do I like a good “slab” of butter so I know I’d enjoy the way they’re served!

  10. Great blog.been trying to get hold of you guys. I hope everything is good. Give us a text.tel 61093932

  11. There’s Pineapple Buns aplenty in Vancouver + I’ve always been very confused by them! Thanks for clearing this culinary mystery for me! I’m going to buy some when we leave Alberta, warm them up + put a fat slab of butter in the middle. And have Langdon watch me devour it. Fat baby.

  12. Yo homie – all hail the bo lo bao. I technically don’t eat wheat unless I’m out but I swear to god, reading this post nearly saw me run out this morning to get a pineapple bun…Only the fact that most people would be closed today prevented that. Keep it real in North Point yo

  13. Oh man, truly the most delicious thing…I fell in love with these suckers while there. Mouth completely watering now!!
    At this point I’d take the cold and disappointing one at the top with the giant slab of butter – not sure if it’s the low carb diet talking or what, but that would rock my world right about now!!
    ~ Andrea ❤

  14. Yummm, I remember there used to be a small grimy place in Happy Valley that did REALLY good pineapple buns and egg tarts. But this was over ten years ago so it probably won’t even be there anymore 😦 Happily, there are enough HK bakeries here in Syd that do a great job too! 😀

  15. Hi, can we have your permission to feature a part of your post in our site? Will add in your blog post link to the feature. Hope to hear from you soon!

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