My first authentic Hong Kong food item besides dim sum was a prettily packaged Pineapple Pastry, which I enjoyed with tea in my adopted panda mug at our friends’ house. The oracle Wikipedia tells me it’s actually a Taiwanese thing, but I saw them for sale everywhere so they’re certainly a popular local treat even if not home-grown. The Pineapple Pastry or Shortcake is a cube of sweet shortcrust pastry with a very dense filling of concentrated pineapple jam. The thick pastry and fruity filling made it not unlike a tropical, square, Christmas mince pie. Our friends gave me a whole box of them as part of my birthday present, and I have been enjoying them since our return to Sydney. I no longer have a panda mug, but I do have a stylised Karl Lagerfeld! (He and an Andy Warhol version were from the wonderful Loveramics in Causeway Bay.)
On my list of Hong Kong things I knew I would like was the Pineapple Bun: nothing to do with pineapple, just a fluffy sweet white bun with a pineapple-yellow sugary crust. They are the HK version of Japanese meron pan, which likewise have nothing to do with melons. Zero nutritional content, maximum glycaemic index load, total sugar high!!! I purchased my pineapple bun at our local Happy Valley bakery, King’s, on Min Fat Street – and went for the “min. fat” version without the large pat of butter traditionally popped inside (NB: urge to pun too strong to resist there). I ate it later and sneakily with a Pimm’s at the Pickled Pelican Pub, over the other side of the island at Stanley. I highly recommend the Pimm’s + pineapple bun combination! I had another one the day we went to Lamma Island, with a coconut filling. Also yum.
I kept seeing Wife Cakes in shops and was intrigued. Wikipedia tells various stories about a husband making them in memory of his wife who sold herself into slavery to buy medicine for her father-in-law (?!); or the enslaved wife making them and the husband seeing the familiar treats for sale and thus finding and rescuing her (I like that story more); or less dramatically a chef’s wife making them for his restaurant and him giving her the credit (naming them after her actual name would’ve been a nicer gesture…). I suspect the true origin is closer to “oppressed peasant wifey just makes all the cakes (and all the other foods) all the time”. Anyway, the Wife Cake was as interesting by taste as by name. It comprised flaky unsweetened lard pastry, filled with a sweet paste of candied wintermelon (? still a mystery to me) and sesame seeds, and glazed with egg wash. The wintermelon filling was very chewy, almost like mochi, with crunchy slivers of something, perhaps dried coconut. I really liked it but it was certainly an unusual sweet treat.
And lastly, I learnt on this holiday that the well-known yum cha favourite egg custard tarts have an inadvertently comical name in romanized Cantonese: Darn Tart! Darn or daan or dan means egg, and “darn” is clearly the best spelling option! The authentic HK Darn Tart which I ate, along with the Wife Cake, was from a notable bakery called Tai Cheong, which usually has a queue out the door. And it was the best gosh darn tart I’ve jolly well ever encountered!
And on that sweet note I have come to the end of my Hong Kong food & travel posts. It was a superlative holiday and I absolutely cannot wait to visit again! ☺