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What Is a Pineapple Bun?

By Lakshmi Sandhana
Updated May 16, 2024
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A pineapple bun is a crunchy, soft, sweet pastry that is very popular in Hong Kong. It doesn't contain any pineapple and gets its name due to the crisscrossed pattern on top of the bun, which resembles the outer surface of a pineapple. Commonly eaten for afternoon tea or breakfast, it can be found in many Chinese bakeries. Why it is the favorite food of many locals is because it is very inexpensive and also a delicious pastry with a mix of textures. While some bakeries may not bother with creating the checkered pineapple-type design on top, it can still be found almost anywhere in Hong Kong.

The Chinese refer to it in Cantonese as bo lo baau where bo lo stands for pineapple and baau stands for a bun-type of food. It's also known as a rocky bun, and its major ingredients are caster sugar, flour, and butter in addition to lard and eggs. Typically baked until the pineapple pattern turns a golden brown color, many people prefer to eat a pineapple bun when it is still hot from the oven because its contrasting textures can be better enjoyed. Its crisp and sugary top makes a delicious contrast to its softer and less-sweet interior. The dough used to make the interior section varies from dough used to make Western-style bread in its sweetness, while the dough used to make the crust is comparable with dough from which sugar cookies are made.

The pastry may also be served sliced with a slab of butter inside, and this type of buttered pineapple bun is called bo lo yau where yau stands for butter. This variant of the pineapple bun can be found in many Hong Kong restaurants where it is halved and served steaming hot with butter in between. The buttered pineapple bun is considered to be one of the most unhealthy snack foods in Hong Kong due to the high amount of calories. It contains high amounts of fat and cholesterol, and in earlier times, it was eaten before weddings where alcohol was served. Guests would eat these buns to delay the aftereffects of consuming large amounts of alcohol.

This Cantonese pastry comes in different sizes and can be found stuffed with different types of fillings, such as shredded coconut, pork, custard cream, or red bean paste. While the traditional version of this bun has no pineapple, it can be found sometimes with a pineapple filling due to non-native bakers misinterpreting the name of the pastry. The pineapple bun is one of the lowest-priced foods to be found in a bakery and may also be used as a sandwich type of snack when served with luncheon meats.

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