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#OnlyInHongKong: What kind of Hong Kong pastry are you?

By Jen Paolini 20 September 2019

Hongkongers big or small will be hard-pressed to deny the alluring scents of a local bakery. We get nostalgic just thinking about it: the sight of bread bins stacked wall to wall, the morning rush of office workers and school kids using plastic tongs to grab straight-out-of-the-oven pastries, biting into a piping hot sausage bun as we step out of the shop... But have you ever considered taking your love for Hong Kong pastry to the next level? Ramp up your intimate relationship with Hong Kong’s favourite baked goods and find out which one speaks to you the most.

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Photo credit: Kirbie Cravings

Egglet: The hypebeast

Egglets, you know who you are. Just like Hong Kong’s star street snack, you’re Instagram royalty, bedecked in a different, extravagant outfit every time we see you, surrounded by a horde of adoring, cooing fans. You go well with any flavour, any colour, any setting—you’re just that versatile. Your penchant to be game for anything new at any given time wins you many favours, and you know just how to fit in. As a tried-and-tested crowd favourite, people simply love bringing you along to parties—you’re an instant hit!

Wife cake: The sensible sweetheart

No-nonsense and practical Hongkongers will see themselves reflected in the utilitarian nature of the wife cake. It’s not that pretty, and it’s not got any trendy flavours to boast of, but it’s a darling that has long remained a favourite amongst discerning locals. While the origin of the name is unclear, a popular (and grim) story tells of a woman who sold herself to the landlord to pay her family’s rent. Her husband then began making and selling pastries to earn enough money to bring her home—hence the name. Although you may not go to the same extremes, you also make extra efforts to put your family and friends first, valuing their comforts and happiness above your own. Your generous, self-sacrificing nature endears you to those around, cementing you as the undeniable sweetheart of your crew.

Photo credit: The Portmanteau Press

Egg tart: The stubborn grouch

We know not to argue with you, egg tart, because you’re as old guard as it comes. With a history as rich as its custard filling, the egg tart plays a well-established, essential role in a Hong Kong bakery’s repertoire, and you too bear the same traditional values. You’re not easy to please, and it takes a lot to impress you. People may try to come at you with innovative, novel ideas—like the variations of chocolate tarts and green tea-flavoured fillings—but you are a tenacious one. You know what you like and you’re not budging on it, thank you very much. Like this Hong Kong pastry, we know not to mess with you; you’re both perfectly good just the way you are. We know that you’re a gooey softie at heart.

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Photo credit: Sorted

Pineapple bun: The phony

Listen, pineapple bun, you may have some people fooled, but we know your sugary top crust is just a honeyed attraction to lure us in. Your insides tell a different story; some pineapple buns may come with a thick pat of silky-smooth butter or even a slice of refreshing tomato, but take that away and we’re back to all looks and no substance. The pineapple bun’s misleading name should be the first warning sign, but it still takes a couple of tries to figure out that your only attraction is on the exterior. Although we don’t see the appeal, people devotedly swear by you as the crème de la crème of Hong Kong pastries. Go figure.

Photo credit: Rojak Daily

Mooncake: The weird cousin

We hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’re probably the distant relative that comes around to family gatherings once a year that, well, no one really likes. Sadly, you’re just not for everyone. You have that peculiar edge and acquired taste that doesn’t appeal to most people, and you’re a bit hard to swallow. But don’t despair—you always show up well-packaged and coiffed, and you know you’ll always have that one auntie backing your corner who gets what you’re all about.

Photo credit: Temptations Cakes

Swiss roll: The Hong Kong-born expat

A Swiss roll is a little bit Western, a little bit Hong Kong, and a whole lot of all over the place—just like you. But not to worry—you’ve successfully combined all of these traits into the creamy, spongy, and delicious cake that you are. You have lots of love to give, just like the Swiss roll, divvied up into perfect sharing portions. Although the Swiss roll’s origins can be traced back to Europe, it has been lovingly adopted by Hong Kong palates, and is considered one of our most iconic cakes. Similarly, you may not have originated in Hong Kong, but it’s the place you call home.

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Photo credit: Melissa Tse

Almond biscuit: The scatterbrain

Almond biscuits are flaky, kind of dry, and crumble under pressure—that’s you! Not everyone can get on board with your scatterbrained personality or your proclivity to bail on weekend plans (because, well, you honestly just forgot!), but those selective few who love you the most appreciate you for your dry humour. Chances are, you’re kind of clumsy too, dropping bits and pieces here and there, just like the powdery Hong Kong pastry.

Photo credit: Nom Nom Panda

Egg roll: The summer flirt

Ah, the egg roll, our annual indulgence that likes to make a particularly pronounced appearance around Chinese New Year. Sound familiar, summer flirt? Like the Hong Kong pastry, you may not make much of a fuss during the rest of the year, but when summer gets into full swing, there’s just that touch of romance in the air that sets you off. You like to dabble for a bit here and there until things start to become a bit bland and you get bored of the monotonous flavour. No matter which brand—or short-lived partner—you try, they all eventually blend into one. As the season comes to a close, you eventually, slowly drift from our minds and settle back into your regular routine. Until next year, summer fling.

Photo credit: Brand Hong Kong

Cocktail bun: The introvert

People don’t often think about the cocktail bun, a sweet-style pastry with a shredded coconut filling. But this under-the-radar treat is a smash hit when it makes an unexpected appearance. Similar to the quiet and unassuming cocktail bun, you don’t usually find yourself the centre of attention. But once in a while we’ll hear a quip from you that makes us chuckle and go, “Hey, the cocktail bun’s kind of funny.” There is so much more to you than meets the eye, but the people around you will only discover that if they make some effort to dig a little deeper. Soft and meek on the outside, but rich and complex within, there’s something mysterious about you, cocktail bun.

Photo credit: Daniel Food Diary

Gai pie: The faithful friend

Gai pie, our city’s very own version of the pervasive chicken pot pie beloved in U.K. kitchens, is a childhood favourite for many Hongkongers. It’s easy-going, down-to-earth, and a reliable choice for a companion—hey, that sounds just like you, doesn’t it? Gai pie fills us with warmth and probably scoops us up from the bars after we’ve had one too many drinks. Yes, gai pie, you’re the designed driver, but you have no problem with that. Just like this Hong Kong pastry with its rich filling of chicken, ham, mushroom, onions, and Cantonese béchamel sauce, you always pick us up when we’re feeling down.

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Jen Paolini

Content director

Born in Hong Kong, raised in Germany, and educated in the U.S., Jen is an award-winning creative with a background in illustration, communication design, art direction, and content creation. When she’s not getting lost in a good book, you’ll find her doing crosswords, eating dim sum, covering all sides of a “Hamilton” number, and taking naps.