How a traditional Chinese bakery managed to survive and thrive

March 19, 2016 08:02
Pat Sin Bakery's Cheung Tsz-wing says he takes delight in serving both big and small customers. Photo: HKEJ

Pat Sin Bakery was initially established in 1966 to serve as a complementary unit to the old Pat Sin Chinese Restaurant in Cheung Sha Wan in Kowloon. 

After the restaurant closed down, the bakery moved to its present location at Nam Cheong Street in Sham Shui Po.

It has been operating as independent entity since 1978, points out Cheung Tsz-wing, the current owner of the bakery who took over the reins from his father in 2006.

Senior Cheung had been a humble and diligent worker at Pat Sin restaurant. Seeing his dedication and hard work, the restaurant's owner invited him to join hands in running a bakery.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, the bakery unit was one of the most profitable entities in the area.

Chinese pastries were popular among the locals, with walnut cookies, century egg cakes and the so-called wife cakes becoming a staple treat for many. On special occasions, people would place orders for wedding cakes and mooncakes in advance.

Cheung assisted his father at Pat Sin restaurant since the age of 15. He used to push around a dim sum trolley at the dining hall early in the morning. During Mid-Autumn Festival season, he was usually called in to help serve the people waiting in long queues for mooncake boxes.

"I learnt how to make all kinds of pastries and cakes from scratch, in the kitchen. I had to do everything, literally. My father would update me as to which ones would be sold out," Cheung recalls.

"People used to think that we were in an employer-employee relationship, but as a matter of fact, we were cooperating and complementing each other," he says.

As decades passed and Hong Kong saw a proliferation of all sorts of eateries and modern food joints, a time came when traditional Chinese bakeries were regarded as a sunset industry.

Cheung said his bakery managed to survive as the shop was owned by the family itself, helping them avoid the problem of skyrocketing rents.

Every cake and pastry is handmade in Pat Sin kitchen, as it is the only way to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed and the dough perfectly kneaded.

Pat Sin Bakery accepts orders from locals no matter how big or small the orders, Cheung says.

"Some of our old customers love giving the cakes to their relatives or to use them as offerings for the gods. We are delighted to cater to all their requests."

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 18.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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The bakery is still very popular in the neighborhood. Every cake and pastry is handmade in the Pat Sin kitchen. Photo: HKEJ

Reporter at Hong Kong Economic Journal