22 October 2016
Pineapple buns from Sai Kung Café & Bakery have butter slabs inserted from the top. Photos: openrice, HKEJ
Pineapple buns from Sai Kung Café & Bakery have butter slabs inserted from the top. Photos: openrice, HKEJ

Buttered pineapple bun: Something to die for

“Call me a nag, dude, but you have already had two bo lo yau. For goodness sake, can you try to be more health conscious and take care of your body?”

When I got this friendly piece of advice from my companion, I lowered my chin and sought to find out if I could see the tip of my shoes. Quite a relief! My tummy hadn’t yet stuck out way too much to block my sight.

“Hey man, no worries, I am still able to see my toes,” I replied proudly.

“Mind your double chin,” he said coldly.

Well, this ‘delightful’ chat took place two weeks ago when we were at the Sai Kung Café & Bakery.

It was a comfortable morning in the early autumn, making the queuing for a table less tedious. The weather wasn’t exactly very cool, but it was far better than the scorching summer of July and August.

I can still remember one Sunday in the past when it took me more than half an hour to get a table at this outlet, and then another five minutes to be served a freshly-baked pineapple bun — a must-eat Hong Kong local delicacy, also known as bo lo bao, and the buttered variant is called bo lo yau.

Pineapple buns from this café are highly sought-after, and waiting is the norm. After all, the owner pulls out only one tray of six buns at a time.

Yes, you heard me right, a tray of just six buns! But, each bun is guaranteed to be as big as the fist of a strong-built man. Luckily, the bakery is able to produce the buns at a rate of one tray every five or 10 minutes.

Anyway, what this Sai Kung buttered pineapple bun has impressed me most is not its super size, but the way the owner inserts the slab of butter: he cuts it open by scissors from top, instead of doing it from the side, and quickly tucks in a fat slab.

The owner says he won’t claim credit for the innovative method, pointing out simply that it is just the only way he knows of making bo lo yau in a quick, easy and nice manner.

One morning during the 1970s, I tried my very first buttered pineapple bun while I was on my way to school. This variant version was double the price of the original, costing me 20 cents at that time.

But since it came out fresh from the oven and under less than a second the butter melted away and was fully absorbed into the center. It was heavenly!

It was only sometime later that I learnt that the proper way of enjoying a buttered pineapple bun is to put in the butter after the freshly baked bread has slightly cooled down. That will ensure that one can enjoy the mix of warm bread and cool butter inside the sweet crunchy bun in one bite.

Sai Kung Café & Bakery is definitely the outlet that I would rate as having the best bo lo yau. The older I grew, the bigger the buns it seemed. Meanwhile, the average price has jumped from 20 cents to HK$16 each.

But what I consider more costly is the travel time going back and forth between the city and Sai Kung for the delicacy.

Last week, I missed the bun again and rushed to Cheung Hing Coffee Shop in Happy Valley for an afternoon tea of buttered pineapple bun and milk tea.

While the bo lo yau are delightful, I however now think that I should limit the consumption of the buns to once a month as I can’t afford to put on any more weight.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 5.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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