Just as there seem to be an infinite number of cuisines you can taste in Hong Kong, so there is a myriad of sweets and desserts to choose from. Both traditional-style Chinese desserts and western/European style pastries seem to be increasingly in vogue, with dessert places popping up on every street. Whether you want traditional English tea or an egg custard tart, they are easily found.
Some of my favorite places to go are the Chinese bakeries, which offer a dazzling array of Chinese-style breads and buns and western-style cream cakes. Hong Kong people seem to prefer a very soft and fluffy white-flour bun (think barbecued pork buns), and they come with every imaginable filling, from sweet coconut to meat and cheese. Some of the combinations like "sausage mayonnaise" or "corn and tuna" seem rather dubious, but there are also wonderful ones like red bean or curry. And they are ridiculously cheap: usually less than a dollar a bun. So it’s easy to stock up on a variety and see which you like best. You will see many people in the these bakeries picking up some buns for an afternoon snack or for breakfast the next morning.
I have to shamefully admit that I am not much of a bread baker, and I have not attempted to reproduce any of these buns. However, if you are so inclined, there are some very detailed recipes on A La Cuisine and Tigers and Strawberries.
Those same people might also pick up a cake in the bakery for dessert in the evening. The Chinese have adapted the Western ideal of layered cream cakes and interpreted it to satisfy their own tastes. Chinese generally have a less intense sweet tooth, so you will rarely see buttercream or "death by chocolate cakes" – instead, there is a marked preference for fresh fruit, light fruit-flavored mousse fillings, and whipped cream frosting. I am also amazed at how these bakeries produce so many of these elegantly constructed cakes and sell them for so little! Particular flavor favorites in Hong Kong are mango, mixed fruit, and chestnut. Note: even the tiramisu has a light, fluffy texture, and the Japanese-style cheesecake, which is airier and more delicate, is also very popular.
(Note: the prices on the tags are Hong Kong dollars; HK$12 is about US$1.50!!)
Of course, these bakeries will also carry the famous egg custard tart or dan tat. Just like how Parisians will pride themselves on which pâtisserie they purchase their macarons from, so Hong Kong people also have their favored dan tat places. In keeping with Hong Kong’s never-ending appetite for things new and exciting, there are now multiple versions of the dan tat to suit all tastes. My favorite is still the classic egg custard filling in a puff pastry-like crust: the crust is traditionally made with lard, making it extraordinarily light and crisp, and wonderful contrast to the creamy rich custard. Others prefer the more pâte sucrée-like shortcrust. The fillings, too, vary from classic to vanilla to corn-filled, as shown above in center. The version to the right is the Portuguese version, which comes from Macau, a former Portuguese colony. The custard top is sprinkled with sugar and it is broiled, giving it a crème brûlée-like flavor. Eating a fresh, still warm, dan tat is certainly near the top of my list of best experiences in Hong Kong.
I’m woefully behind in chronicling my Hong Kong experiences, I know. Hopefully I’ll get them wrapped up soon!
Tagged with: dessert + Hong Kong + bakery + egg custard tart
Chinese-style breads and buns are awesome. The western-style cream cakes, I could do without. I enjoy the classic buns like red bean, coconut and curry. I agree that some of the new crazy combinations do seem rather dubious. Your post has just made me hungry for buns!
I love the egg custard and order it whenever I go to eat dim sum (or as they call it here in Japan, yum cha).
tess angtuaco says
if anyone has the recipe of cheesecake chinese style (sold in chinese bakeries), i would appreciate getting it. thanks.
chinese bakery is the best in the world, i’d have to say. I lived in Hong Kong for since i was a kid, and the bread is SO FREAKING good. there’s so many kinds they can fit to anyone’s tastes. and you’ve gotta try new stuff! they sell for so cheap too, sometimes like 30cents (usd) for a bun. :3 love them
Goldilocks Bakery says
Oh! those pastries looks so delicious! I also love baking’. Anyway, Wish I can also go there and have a taste of it myself. Thanks for sharing this post. Keep posting!
D Street says
Two of my favorite things, travel and dessert. I’ve never been to Hong Kong but this has moved it up on my list of cities to go to. Thanks for sharing.
Lina Lim says
I like u Page. did u have teaching class who like made the dessert and Hong Kong Dessert. I am from East Malaysia.
Jan. 29 is my mom’s b day and i want to make her a chinese mixed fruit cake sinces she doesn’t much like sweets. I wonder if u can sent me a receipt of it.
thx ( my first time making a cake)
I don’t have a specific recipe for that type of cake, but you may find one with a google search. Good luck!