Friday, 13 November 2009

Chinese Bakery

I was first introduced to the delights of Chinese bakery sometime in the last century when my mum would occasionally buy treats from Ho's Bakery in Manchester. By Chinese bakery, I guess I mean the cakes, pastries and buns that were developed by the Cantonese through exposure to western influences in Hong Kong and Macau.

There are couple of places in Chinatown that I go to for Chinese bakery; the first is Wonderful Patisserie on Gerrard Street. The photo below shows a couple of my faves pineapple bun (bolo bao) on the left and baked bbq pork bun (cha siu chaan bao) on the right.

The pineapple bun contains no pineapple and is so called because it has a crispy almost biscuit-like topping that looks like a pineapple. The soft bread in both these buns have a slightly sweet taste which is very moreish.

The baked bbq pork bun should not be confused with the steamed cha siu bao that is served as dim sum although as you can see below the filling is very similar. I could have sworn there was more filling when I was little !

Other faves include banana cake (hong ziu gou) pictured left and wife's cake (lao pao beng) on the right. The banana cake is made of glutinous rice flour, banana and the red bit is red bean paste – it's very fragrant although it is an acquired taste.

The wife's cake is a flaky pastry traditionally with a winter melon and almond paste filling – sounds weird but I love it. There are some faddy versions with red bean paste or lotus seed paste but I'm firmly of the view that you shouldn't mess around with the original.

I sometimes visit the Golden Gate Cake Shop on Macclesfield Road (off Gerrard St) where I sampled their cocktail bun (gai mei bao) and coconut roll. Both consist of the slightly sweet tasting soft bread featured in the bbq pork bun and pineapple bun.

The coconut roll (pictured right) is a new one on me and had a shredded coconut whirl - I was largely indifferent to this roll. The gai mei bao (pictured left) is one of my all-time faves with its dense sweet coconutty filling – the 1st photo below is Golden Gate's version but I prefer Wonderful’s version in the photo below that.

On a recent visit to Wonderful, I sampled a couple of new pastries - sesame red paste pastry (left) and green tea pastry (right). I guess I'm a bit old school and can't say I'd buy either of these pastries again although the green tea pastry was OK.

Of the two places I prefer Wonderful Patisserie as the baking is of a higher quality and the staff are more helpful. Now when writing this post, I thought it was an original idea but I should've known better. After drafting this post, I see that Bellaphon (come back soon old boy!) had already written about Chinese bakery. You can check out his thoughts here - he went to different places and tried some different stuff.

Lastly, I'd love to hear from you about your favourite Chinese cakes, pastries or buns and any tips on where to buy them from. And yes I know I've omitted egg tarts (dan taat) - it's not that I don't like them but these are best served warm as dim sum.


  1. I loooove boloh bao. Also that Chinese-bakery hotdogs too...

  2. Lizzie - pleased to see another fan of Chinese bakery! Although I've not seen it in London, you can get bolo bao that are stuffed with different fillings like cha siu, custard and the coconutty filling from the gai mei bao. A cross between bolo bao and gai mei bao - that'd be heaven!

  3. my favourite bolo bao variety used to be the one stuffed with red bean... mmm... and stick it in the oven to make the top extra crispy!

  4. I love bolo bao but personally I'm not that big a fan of red bean paste. It's one of those things that ends up everywhere in Cantonese desserts.

  5. Has anyone found a place to order these online and have them directly shipped to their home?
    I want them. I want them now...

    Home sick for Taiwan

  6. lorabelle - welcome! I'm not sure if some of the freshly baked stuff are suitable for home-shipping. If you live somewhere with a Chinatown or can get to a Chinese supermarket then you should be able to get your hands on these treats.