Ever felt overwhelmed from the wide selection of sweet treats at Chinese pastry stores? From almond biscuits, wife cakes to chicken biscuits, here’s your guide to traditional Hong Kong and Chinese pastries so you’ll be able to shop confidently next time you find yourself standing in front of Chinese baked goods.
Photo courtesy of @k.kana11
Almond biscuit (杏仁餅)
Made with ground apricot kernels, the Chinese almond biscuit, known as heng yan beng, is a Cantonese pastry that is popular in Hong Kong and Macau. The biscuit is crumbly—almost powdery when bitten, with little pieces of almond mixed in the batter to create extra texture.
Koi Kei, various locations in Hong Kong
Photo courtesy of @mrspskitchen
Wife cake (老婆餅)
Also known as a sweetheart cake or lo por beng, this is pastry has a thin golden crust with a doughy and chewy filling of winter melon, almond paste or sesame. The origin of the name is unclear, but a popular story is about a woman who sold herself to the landlord to pay the rent. Her husband then started making and selling pastries with winter melon filling to earn enough money to bring his wife home, hence the name “wife cake”.
Photo courtesy of @ghost_stella
Egg rolls (蛋卷)
Originated from Spain, the traditional egg rolls, also known as daan guen, are a cookie-like pastry made with flour, sugar, egg whites and butter. The mixture is rolled out thinly and shaped into a hollow cylinder shape. Nowadays, however, you can find them in all sorts of flavours such as coconut, coffee, seaweed, salted egg yolk and more.
Photo courtesy of @homedine_maria
Ma jai (馬仔)
Ma jai, a.k.a. Chinese sweet crispies, is a traditional Manchu pastry made out of flour, egg, butter and rock sugar. The Cantonese version of it is slightly sweet and has a chewy or crunchy texture.
Photo courtesy of @sweesper_baking_studio
Pineapple cake (鳳梨酥)
So, technically not a Chinese pastry, Pineapple cakes—or fung lei so—are traditional Taiwanese pastries and a crowd-favourite for souvenir gifts on your travels back from Taiwan. The crumbly pastry is made with butter, egg yolk and sugar and filled with a stringy pineapple jam. Nowadays, other flavours such as walnuts, mango, and honeydew melon are also available.
Kee Wah Bakery, various locations in Hong Kong
Photo courtesy of @changshorestaurant
Sesame balls (煎堆)
A yum cha staple, jin dui are deep-fried sesame balls made from glutinous rice flour and coated with sesame seeds. The inside of the pastry is hollow due to the expansion of dough with fillings such as lotus seed, red bean and black bean paste.
Photo courtesy of @courtneywong
Chicken biscuits (雞仔餅)
No, it’s not the kind from America. In fact, there’s no chicken in this pastry at all. Hong Kong’s chicken biscuit, fondly referred to as gai jai beng, has a shiny deep golden crust will lure you in for a bite. Made with bean curd, sesame and sometimes pork fat, chicken biscuits are sweet and savoury.
Read more! Explore the rest of our Food and Drink section for more delicious treats.