The sweet bun is a popular breakfast dish in China’s Hong Kong region
The idea of buns wasn’t very uncommon in China in the olden days. Baos are proof of the same. However, the idea of a sweet bun for breakfast was a result of Western influence. Pineapple buns became the ultimate breakfast bread for their milk tea. For the unversed, the pineapple bun is made with only four ingredients, sugar, flour, oil and eggs and is a sweet breakfast item that is savoured across Hong Kong today, not just for breakfast but afternoon tea too.
Interestingly, the journey of pineapple buns hasn’t been a smooth sailing boat. Some even refer to them as Mexico buns because of the Mexican influence they are believed to have incorporated. Little did we know that the history of the Hong Kong’s pineapple bun is linked to the connection between China and Mexico. Back in the 19th century, large-scale migration took place from China’s Guangdong region to countries like the US and Canada. However, a few of them even decided to start a life in Mexico in search of better work opportunities.
While the Mexicans started to find connections with the Chinese culture and draw similarities to co-exist with one another, in the first half of the 19th century, Mexicans began to be deported out of US. This came in the wake of the bans on immigrations. As Mexicans returned to their homeland, the Chinese in the country were forced to flee back home too. Most settled in Macau and Hong Kong and that’s when the pineapple bun was born.
After their return, the migrants found a strong influence of Portugal in the region. In order to create something that resembled the Western culture but also adapted to local flavours, the Mexico bun was introduced. A family called the Ng family was among those to be deported. They started their own restaurant in Hong Kong in 1946. While the Mexico bun is traditionally made with concha, they created one that was slightly different and it came to be known as pineapple buns or Ba Lo Bao. What made the pineapple buns even more interesting is the fact they are not made with pineapple.
The four ingredients used in making the bun are a symbol of cultural heritage that is highly adored in Hong Kong. Due to the Mexican connection of Chinese, the pineapple buns were created as a tribute to their culture. However, the name pineapple bun doesn’t come from any pineapple additions to the bun but its shape. The crusty sweet outer layer of the bun appears like a chequerboard which reminds one of the skin of a pineapple. The soft interiors and crusty exteriors made with minimum ingredients makes the pineapple buns an affordable breakfast for most locals, to be dipped in milk tea and enjoyed.