It’s sweet, it’s crunchy, sometimes even savoury. It’s better than your usual breakfast rolls. It’s the Hong Kong favourite bakery classic, the pineapple bun.
You probably heard this the very first time you picked up a pineapple bun: there’s not a single ounce of pineapple in that dome-shaped loaf. Far from it. In fact, there’s no fruit in it at all. Instead it’s just your regular old bun made with eggs, flour and yeast, plus a golden-yellow crispy, caramelised top that happens to crack open like the cratered surface of an actual pineapple.
Nonetheless, it has garnered status as an enduring favourite across the city, an early-morning breakfast staple or an afternoon treat, served nearly everywhere — from bakeries to cha chaan tengs to dim sum houses. As with dishes that are also iconic throughout the city, you’ll find various iterations from different eateries, but only the best hit the mark of the two most important qualities: a crunchy crust and a fluffy bounce-back in the bread. No to anything that’s filled with too much air — as opposed to bread — or when sugar crust slides off the top. These below are some of the best.
Hong Kong’s best pineapple buns:
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Once upon a time a humble hole-in-the-wall known only to attentive locals, Sai Kung Café & Bakery, just a couple steps away from Sai Kung Bus Terminus, is now a must-visit attraction should you find yourself at the seaside town. If it’s not the snaking queues that give its location away, then it’s the sweet aroma of fresh baked breads and pastries wafting through the air, including one of pineapple bun. Severed larger and rounder than usual, this straight-out-the-oven bake glistens with a golden-brown caramelised crust that sandier than the typical cratered cracks, a texture that’s perfectly smooth, soft and complementary to the chilled butter slab tucked in-between.
Image courtesy of @cathlife_yum/Instagram
As a seven-decade Happy Valley stalwart, Cheung Hing Coffee Shop is well-known for its extensive — and very traditional — range of Cantonese bakery favourites. One of which, of course, involves the sweet pineapple bun. A sizeable serve with a soft, fluffy bite, the pineapple buns here come out of the oven with the signature crackled crust, but are baked with a considered balance between the crumbly, too. Get it on its own, with a chunk of chilled butter or any preferred savoury breakfast accompaniments: fried egg, spam or a whole-fried pork chop, if that’s more your Breakfast for Champions.
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You know you’ll get a fantastic fix of pineapple bun at Kam Wah Cafe & Bakery; time after time it’s been named Hong Kong’s best, if not a first recommendation to anyone who’s looking for a local bing sutt to spend their weekend mornings. As for the pineapple buns, skip queues and get your order straight from the takeaway counter out the front, but a full experience entails a sit-down at the old-school eatery with a steaming cup of Hong Kong-style milk tea. The crackly caramelised crust on the pineapple bun is a thick, crunchy contrast to the steaming hot, airy centre — the perfect premise for a melty slab of chilled salted butter.
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Kam Fung Cafe has been a part of the Wan Chai landscape since 1957, serving a nostalgic menu of consummate Hong Kong-style favourites, including the pineapple bun, which has gained reputation as an enduring staple of the venue. The long never-ending queues are indication of the tasty make you’ll find here, prepared with a traditional recipe by an in-house baker. It’s a crispy, crunchy, crumbly delight with a generous crust set over a soft, airy base — the ideal balance. They usually sell out by 5pm, so we suggest you jump in and start queueing.
Image courtesy of @philiphlwan/Instagram
At Wa So Cafe, the unmistakably Hong-Kong style menu is not complete without an order of the signature pineapple bun, which has earned praises since the restaurant’s first opened in Yuen Long. While the buns are not baked on site, they’re prepared according to a specific recipe from Wa So, so rest assured it’s the same sweet, fluffy bake with an exemplary crackly crust. Maybe even crispier than others. Should you need extra reassurance, they sell out nearly by 3 in the afternoon and counts celebrities, including Chow Yun Fat, as loyal patrons.
Image courtesy of @anctnlife/ Instagram
No stranger within the local cha chaan teng lexicon, Men Wah Bing Teng first opened during the ’70s and has since expanded into many more locations in many more neighbourhoods. A household name that’s also a reliable constant, Men Wah serves a nostalgic menu of comfortably familiar favourites, including the pineapple bun. A crumbly make with uniformly caramelised casing, it has all the classic components — the crispy crust; the fluffy interior — which makes the pineapple bun so easy to love.
Image courtesy of @bakingmamato/Instagram
Lim Kee Bing Sutt serves a simple, straight forward make of the pineapple bun. Their no fuss, no frills recipe might not mean a staggering crispy crust or a generously sized dome, but they do check all the boxes for a traditional pineapple bun, including the golden-brown caramelised crust and a soft, fluffy interior. Oftentimes during afternoon tea hours, they might throw in an extra slab of butter for free. All this for just HK$7 — exactly how the pineapple bun should be.