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Bites of Hong Kong: A Tasty Tour of the City’s Reinvented Classic Snacks

Many big cities boast Michelin-starred restaurants and sky-high bars, but to truly get a sense of the local food scene, you have to sample the snacks. And Hong Kong snacks are in a league of their own.

Have you ever bitten into a light, airy egg waffle? Let a velvety custard egg tart melt in your mouth? Felt the refreshing zing of an iced lemon tea in the dog days of summer? It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

If you’re keen to sample the city’s beloved flavors, let us point you in the right direction. From traditional egg tarts to iced lemon tea cocktails, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite snacks, plus where to find modern takes on the classics. 

Pineapple Buns (Bo Lo Bao)

A Hong Kong staple, pineapple buns, or bo lo bao as they’re called in Cantonese, are believed to date back to the early 1940s. During this time, Chinese migrants returned to Hong Kong from the West and started infusing their cuisine with foreign touches.

Using a streusel made from sugar, eggs, flour and lard, local bakeries began to put a crispy, crumbly topping on soft, sweet Hong Kong-style bread, and the pineapple bun was born. But don’t let the name fool you: pineapple buns don’t contain pineapple! The delicious, fluffy rolls got their name from the sugary checkered top, which resembles the fruit, not because of their ingredients.

Keen to try one? Head over to Cheung Hing Coffee Shop. This old-school cha chaan teng (Hong Kong-style café) in Happy Valley, a quiet neighborhood south of Causeway Bay, serves a range of super-traditional baked goods. Enjoy your pineapple bun with spam, eggs, cheese, pork chops, or simply a slab of butter stuffed inside.

Meanwhile, many bakeries have given the buns a modern-day makeover. Cookie experts Cookie DPT created a limited-edition, shortbread-based pineapple bun cookie. Oookie Cookie in Causeway Bay sells a fondant-based pineapple bun cake that is great for birthday parties. Global coffee chain Starbucks has even got in on the act, recently unveiling a chicken fritter and cheese pineapple bun sandwich that ticks the sweet and savory boxes.

Egg tarts (Daan Tat)

With its silky custard filling and buttery shortcrust, the Hong Kong egg tart (or daan tat in Cantonese) is a work of art.

These delicious two-bite snacks emerged in Guangzhou in the early 1900s when Guangzhou (then Canton) was the only port in China open to foreign merchants. While doing business in the city, British traders introduced their favorite foods and recipes, including English custard tarts. Over time, Chinese bakers started making their own version, which skipped hard-to-find ingredients like custard powder. 

After World War II, a wave of immigration from southern China brought the pastry to Hong Kong. It’s worth noting that Hong Kong egg tarts differ from those in neighboring Macao. There, local bakeries riff on the Portuguese pastel de nata, which has a flakier pastry shell, oozier custard filling, and caramelized top.

Over the years, Hongkongers have continued to refine the daan tat recipe and experiment with new flavors and textures. In Wan Chai, for instance, Hashtag B has made limited-edition matcha-flavored egg tarts with local matcha shop Matchali, while Soft Thunder in Wan Chai and Kennedy Town crafts mocha custard tarts.

Better yet, Swiss baker Grégoire Michaud uses his signature sourdough to make the crust at Bakehouse. This secret ingredient gives his egg tarts a subtle tang you won’t find anywhere else. Just want to try the classic version? Head to Honolulu Café in Wan Chai for a taste of tradition.

Iced Lemon Tea (Dong Ling Cha)

If there’s one beverage Hongkonges can’t live without, it has to be iced lemon tea. The refreshing drink is simple and satisfying, comprising strong black Ceylon tea, sugar, and a slice of lemon. How did this staple come to be? During the British colonial era, merchants brought strong black Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka to Hong Kong, where it was served with ice cubes and lemon slices.

If you ask us, a traditional lemon tea is just about perfect, but that hasn’t stopped tea shops and cafés from trying new things. Recently, crushed lemon tea has been all the rage with new cafes like LMM in Mong Kok, which serves up “hand-crushed” lemon teas mixed with unique flavors and fruit, including wampee, a grape-sized citrus fruit in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, One Lemon Tea specializes in highly aromatic iced lemon tea using citrus from its own orchard in mainland China.

Bars love to play around with the drink, too. Ultra-chic restaurant Mott32, beloved for its swanky decor and Peking duck, serves a signature Hong Kong iced tea cocktail that mixes jasmine tea with tequila, Lillet Blanc and black currant juice.

Likewise, Terrible Baby, a cool cocktail bar inside the Eaton hotel in Jordan, makes a refreshing drink using local ingredients. Try the signature Dong Ling Cha cocktail, featuring cold brew-infused dark rum, Campari, grapefruit juice, and Vita Sparkling Lemon Tea.

Egg Waffles (Gai Daan Zai)

Finding a snack as quintessentially Hong Kong as the egg waffle is a tall order. Known locally as gai daan zai or “little eggs,” these irresistible street treats strike a delightful balance between a pancake and a waffle, with crispy bubble-like cells and warm, fluffy interiors.

For years, these addictive bites were served plain and piping hot, straight off the waffle iron. To stand out, hawkers started experimenting with the batter, adding ingredients like chocolate chips, matcha powder, or cheese for an easy twist.

The latest trends elevate the egg waffle into a rolled-up, shawarma-like cone stuffed with a cornucopia of delectable fillings, from fresh fruits and ice cream to sugary syrups, cookies, and candy.

Mammy Pancake, a Michelin-recommended gem in Causeway Bay, is many Hongkongers’ preferred spot for egg waffles. Here, visitors can select from an enticing array of unique flavors – think pork floss and white sesame or coffee – or go for the fully-loaded egg waffle “cone”, overflowing with creamy scoops of ice cream.

For a refined spin, head to Argo, the award-winning cocktail lounge and dining venue inside the Four Seasons in Central. With its Instagram-worthy presentation, Argo pairs the traditional egg waffle with luxurious toppings such as “poires belle hélène” (poached pears draped in chocolate) alongside soy caramel dipping sauce and exquisite Moutai-infused stracciatella gelato.

Want to share your delicious discoveries with friends and family? Set the table with BOMSHBEE’s elegantly minimalist tableware, glasses, and serveware to make your favorite Hong Kong street snacks shine.


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