Kam Wah Cafe: My favorite pineapple bun in Hong Kong

Kam Wah Cafe in Hong Kong
Kam Wah Cafe in Hong Kong

Kam Wah Cafe is a no-frills, old-school Hong Kong-style breakfast spot, or cha chaan teng, famous for its pineapple bun (ba lo bao). Since 1973, this institution in Hong Kong has been serving what some consider the best pineapple bun in Hong Kong.

A pineapple bun is a sweet bun popular in Hong Kong and Asian bakeries worldwide. Ironically, it does not contain pineapple. The name comes from the bun’s appearance, which resembles a pineapple.

After World War II, Portuguese culture played an important role in Hong Kong. As residents returned, they aimed to blend their local cuisine with the Western influences they encountered while away from home. This is how the pineapple bun came to be.

In the 1940s, Tai Tung Bakery made the first pineapple buns in Hong Kong. While Tai Tung Bakery closed in 2022, its legacy lives on, thanks partly to the Hong Kong government adding the pineapple bun to its intangible cultural heritage list.

Though jetlagged and tired, I made Kam Wah Cafe my first stop on my recent visit to Hong Kong to try the famous pineapple buns. I knew I had to try the place out for myself.

What is a pineapple bun?

So you might be wondering, what is a pineapple bun? A pineapple bun (ba lo bao) is a popular Chinese sweet bun often filled with butter. Despite the name, these buns contain no pineapple. The name refers to the look of the bun which resembles a pineapple.

Interior of Kam Wah Cafe

Busy interior of the restaurant, Kam Wah Cafe, Hong Kong
Busy interior of the restaurant

Since I was jetlagged and hungry, I arrived at Kam Wah Cafe at the opening, around 6:30 AM. Even this early, the place was busy with both locals and tourists. Out front was a large group of people coming in and out.

Fresh pineapple buns
Fresh pineapple buns

It was a hot morning in Hong Kong, so I appreciated the air conditioning when I walked inside the dining room. While walking to my table, I passed by the preparation area where freshly baked pineapple buns were coming out of the oven.

Open, cozy dining room
Open, cozy dining room

The dining room was cozy and narrow but bright and clean. Its décor was simple, thanks to white walls with red tiles. The menu and awards won by the restaurant were on the wall. I knew right away that food was the focus, not the décor, and I was OK with this.

Kam Wah Cafe Menu

The breakfast menu at Kam Wah Cafe, Hong Kong
The breakfast menu at Kam Wah Cafe

While some staff spoke English, the language barrier made ordering from their Chinese menu difficult. Thankfully, they had an English menu.

The menu at Kam Wah Cafe, printed on simple white paper, had more options than I expected.

There were six columns: Hot Beverages, Cold Beverages/Frappe, Snacks, Soup Noodles, Rice, and Fried Noodles/Vermicelli.

You had coffee, tea, cocoa, and sweet milk for hot beverages. Cold beverages included soft drinks, iced coffee, and iced tea.

The most popular items, including the pineapple bun and egg tart, are under Snacks. Soup noodle options included beef, ham, BBQ pork, and shredded pork in soup noodle. You could also get rice with either luncheon meat and eggs, sausage and eggs, beef, or ham.

Finally, you had fried noodle/vermicelli options, including stir-fried noodle with soya sauce, fried noodle with diced pork, and Singapore-style fried vermicelli.

Like many restaurants in Hong Kong, the servers wanted me to order quickly and move on. While this can seem rude, it is common. I recommend knowing what you want to order before you visit.

Since many consider Kam Wah Cafe as serving the best pineapple bun in Hong Kong, I knew what to order.

Pineapple Bun

This could be the best Pineapple Bun in Hong Kong, Kam Wah Cafe
This could be the best Pineapple Bun in Hong Kong

Since I wasn’t too worried about calories that day, I went for the Pineapple Bun with Butter (HKD 10 or about $1.28)

My favorite part of the bun would have to be the golden-brown top which resembled a pineapple. I enjoyed its thick, crunchy texture and sweet flavor, almost like a crispy cookie.

The main part of the bun, underneath the top, was dense yet soft and fluffy. I enjoyed how the doughy inside complemented the crunchy top. The texture of the bread was soft and fluffy, similar to simple white bread, just much sweeter.

You might have already noticed, stuffed inside the bun was an unhealthy amount of butter. As it slowly melted, the thick piece of salty and rich butter soaked into the bun. The flavor of the butter complemented the otherwise sweet bun.

If you don’t like butter, you can order a pineapple bun without it (HKD 6 or about $0.77).

Egg Tart

The simple Egg Tart
The simple Egg Tart

Just as delicious, maybe even more in my opinion, was the Egg Tart (HKD 5 or about $0.64). The egg tart might have looked simple, but it was flavorful.

The crust was so flaky and light yet crispy at the same time. Each bite of the crust just melted in my mouth.

In the middle, the custard was fluffy and moist, like a sweet scrambled egg pie. I enjoyed the soft, smooth texture of the custard.

While simple, the contrasts of flavors and textures made this egg tart delicious.

Service at Kam Wah Cafe

While the service and rushed servers can be intimidating for first-time travelers, no trip to Hong Kong is complete without visiting a cha chaan teng.

Though some might find the rushed service rude at Kam Wah Cafe, it is common in Hong Kong. With such a busy restaurant, the servers want customers to eat, pay, and move on so that other customers do not have to wait long for a table.

I enjoy this type of experience, eating like a local, having a quick meal, and then moving on, starting my day off right.

Conclusion

In recent years, many of Hong Kong’s cha chaan teng, or traditional cafes, have closed, including Tai Tung Bakery, which baked the first pineapple buns in the city.

While the service can be intimidating, the experience of visiting one of these cafes, such as Kam Wah Cafe, is a must on any visit to Hong Kong, especially when many of them have closed.

I enjoyed dining in a busy restaurant, sitting shoulder to shoulder with locals, and enjoying coffee and a pineapple bun. And I enjoyed the fluffy and delicious pineapple bun stuffed with a thick slice of butter.

Thanks to the experience, food, and history, I recommend visiting Kam Wah Cafe to try some of my favorite pineapple buns in Hong Kong.

Pros

  • Fluffy, golden-brown pineapple bun
  • Affordable
  • While menu was small, it had a lot of great options

Cons

  • Rushed service
  • Busy dining room

Hours

Monday - Sunday: 6:30 AM - 9:00 PM

Address

45-47 Bute St, Mong Kok, Hong Kong
GPS Coordinates: 22.32227,114.16972

Map



Last Updated on May 2, 2024

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Anthony
My name is Anthony and I am addicted to traveling all around the world experiencing new people, cultures, and foods. These are some of my stories.