I think 菠萝包 (Pineapple Bun or Polo Bao) hardly needs any further introduction. Surely you must have seen and eaten it at least once at some point in your life. You haven’t? Well, just head to the nearest Old Town Kopitiam outlet because they actually serve it on the menu. You might think it is nothing to shout about and I do agree with you on that – if only you are talking about the Pineapple Buns we have locally.
As one of the most eaten buns in Hong Kong either as breakfast or snack during tea break, Polo Bun is yet another thing you shouldn’t miss there. But just so you know, these pineapple-skinned-buns in HK are not halal because the top crust usually consists of pork lard.
The best Polo Bun is said to come from Kam Wah Cafe‘s oven. This unassuming-looking ‘char chan teng’ at Bute Street, Mongkok has been featured on countless media with their proudest being able to make it to CNN. I know I haven’t eaten enough Polo Buns to pass any judgement or claim that this is the best out there, the fact is that Kam Wah’s Polo Bun is pretty darn good.
You can have the Polo Bun plain or sandwiched with butter or egg @ $7, with the former being the more popular choice. The salted butter is said to be home made and gives a good contrast of flavor since the Polo Bun’s crust tastes sweet.
Polo Bun aside, Mexican Bun is also a good choice here and also tastes very different (in a good way) from those you get in Malaysia. It has a stronger custard aroma, tastes saltish as opposed to the sweet Polo Bun and I find it easier to finish because the sweetness gets tired quite quickly.
Having one Polo Bun is just nice but anything more than that would be a sweetness overkill. Both buns have similar top crust in terms of texture, which is crispy but won’t crumble easily when pressed using the fork. If you didn’t know yet, the fork is given to compress the soft and fluffy buns into a flatter shape so that it is easier to eat. We only knew this spontaneously when everyone around us was doing the same thing. So as the saying goes, ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do’.
Compared to our teh tarik, HK’s Milk Tea has a stronger tea aroma, smoother on the throat and a lot less sweeter due to the fact that they use more evaporated milk instead of condensed milk. And their favorite brand of evaporated milk is none other than ‘Black and White‘ as shown on the cup. In short, you can say that HK milk tea is actually like our Teh C, not so diabetes-incuding but the trade off is a non-frothy and less creamier body that lacks ooomph.
Half way through the cup, a sweating panda makes a surprise appearance. What it says “正宗奶茶口味，叹足70年” literally means “Authentic milk tea taste, enjoyed fully for 70 years”.
Given the limited seats in most HK ‘char chan teng’, a minimum expenditure is usually imposed. Here, it is $12 per pax, which is easily covered if each of you have a bun and a drink. For some other places you might be required to order more things like for example Yi Shun Milk Company where the minimum expenditure is around $28 per pax if I remembered correctly.
This was taken on a Friday morning, the cafe was buzzing with customers from the working class, elderlies and tourists alike.
For people in a hurry, they can take away the cheap buns and tarts at a counter setup in front of the cafe.
To be honest, before this we actually hesitated whether we should try the Polo Bun since it is after all, just a bun. As it turns out, one bite was all we needed to know we have made the right decision. Otherwise, we would be kicking ourselves silly now for missing it.
Because of this, a whole new standard has been set for Polo Bun and it is going to be hard for us to find another Polo Bun that is capable of matching Kam Wah’s rendition, more over in Malaysia. So if you are going to HK soon and contemplating a Kam Wah Cafe visit, trust me and mark it down as one of the must-visit ‘char chan teng’. You can afford to miss the rest but surely not on this one.
Kam Wah Cafe 金華冰廳
G/F, 47 Bute Street, Prince Edward
Business hours: Mon – Sun (6.30am to 12am)