Regional Chinese Baked Goods Roundup (SF Bay Area)


Baked Goods:

I honestly have no great idea where to place this category (or if it even really belongs to this blurb), as most traditional style pastries tend to be steamed. However, a lot of the Chinese bakeries (typically Hong Kong/Taiwanese-style) are really an amalgam of Chinese goods and American/European style baking styles (and in the Bay Area even further additions of cultural mixing).

An interesting thing to note is that for some bakeries, a lot of the baked breads use a baking technique called Tangzhong/Water Roux starter. With this technique, the water roux is able to hold more gas during fermentation and keep more moisture in the bread while reducing the hardness, gumminess, and chewiness of the bread. Compared to bread baked without this technique there is no significant difference in cohesiveness and springiness. We also see this technique in Japanese and Korean bakeries in the bay area as well in things like Hokkaido Milk Bread.

Some common steamed buns (note, a lot of steamed buns are probably found in the take home dim sum places than at the bakery):

  • Mantou: Pretty much the basic fluffy steamed bread made of wheat. Typically the mantou are steamed with bleached white flour, but there are whole wheat variants available as well.
  • BBQ pork buns: Steamed bun with bbq pork fillings that appear to have a craggly mountainish appearance.
  • Big bun: A rather large steamed bun filled with pork, eggs, and other ingredients such as shitake mushrooms.
  • Custard buns: Usually a round bun filled with sweet yellow custard.

Some baked goodies:

  • Pineapple bun: This baked bun does not contain any pineapple fruit, rather the cookie crust on top appears like the pineapple rind. At a few bakeries or Hong Kong style cafes, the pineapple bun can be served with an icy block of butter is added to a hot bun giving it a great texture (crackly top, soft warm bun, and buttery notes) and probably even more distress to your doctor…
  • Baked bbq pork buns: These are the baked variant of the steamed bbq pork buns. They look like a brown dinner roll-like exterior with the same bbq pork interior. There are some baked bbq pork buns with a crispy top akin to a pineapple bun/melon pan.
  • Cocktail/Coconut bun: The cocktail bun is an elongated oval bun with a coconut based filling.
  • Mooncakes: Most traditional mooncakes have a thick, tender pastry skin with a sweet, dense filling. The filling may consist of lotus paste, red bean paste, or other variants. Salted egg yolks may be present as well, as the yolk appears as the symbol of the full moon. These pastries are commonly found during the Mid-Autumn festival but can appear year round.
  • Egg tart: This egg custard tart is likely influenced by both the British and Portuguese baking traditions. The tart has two types of outer crust: a cookie/short crust or the flakey, puff pastry crust. The smooth custard filling in the middle is quite eggy. A variant from Macau is the Portuguese tart/pastel de nata that has a carmelized custard in the center.

Where to eat?

San Francisco:

East Bay:

  • Napoleon Bakery
  • Wonder Food Bakery

Other HO Discussions :

Check out all the other topics on the regional Cantonese cuisine


(Gary Soup) #2

I’ve read that the Chinese baking tradition is derived from Russian bakery cafes in Shanghai’s French Concession during the International Settlement days. Russians fleeing the revolution and ending up in Shanghai tended to settle in the more tolerant French Concession and some opened bakeries and cafes there. The Chinese, like the Russians, were treated as an under class in the American and British quarters, and the more sophisticated and mobile of then also favored the French Concession, where the two groups tended to bond. Chinese learned to appreciate, then to recreate, the pastries they encountered in Russian cafes, later bringing this new culinary skill to Hong Kong when fleeing still another revolution.



Huh that sounds pretty interesting. I can see that.

I was just reading this blog here:

And there are some possible mixing there as well. And I didn’t really want to call the thread Cantonese bakeries cause … its such a mix now haha. Look at Paris Baguette and Tous Les Jours, are they French bakeries? Yeah but also Korean. My pastry history knowledge isn’t that great either :confused:

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How about the Hong Kong style chicken pie?

Separately, should this discussion be called Regional Cantonese Baked Goods Roundup if its only focusing on the Cantonese style baked goods? And isn’t Cantonese sufficient (versus Regional Cantonese) since Canton is a region?



There’s also the mini chain Sang Kee, Hong Kong export Kee Wah, etc.



Can some of these foods be identified with a subregions (Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, etc.), and would such a distinction be useful for baked goods?

Are there major differences in Hong Kong and Taiwanese techniques or ingredients (certainly dishes)?

More generally, on other pages in this collection, would further regionalization lend insights, or are the categories of food the last level where the meaning lies?

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The egg tarts are from the Portuguese.



Haha, that’s why I could never really figure out what to title this. A lot of the bakeries are borrowing ideas from one another.

I think you can attribute the Portuguese Tart towards Macau (and yes, its from Portugal cause well Macau was a Portuguese colony) and the Egg Custard towards Hong Kong/Guangzhou though I’m rather hazy on some of the other items’ history.

From what I can tell, the tangzhong method seemed to be popularized from a Taiwanese baker from a book called 65 C something something bread doctor. So probably the same branch, just certain sweetness ratios might differ a bit.

I was hoping someone would have a good answer since I don’t haha.

The pastel de natas definitely!



Oh yes there are variations within Cantonese. Shantou food (Chiu Chow) is different from Shunde food. I was just saying they can all broadly classify under the Cantonese umbrella.