Sunday 3 April 2016

Polo bun adventures in Hong Kong ~ Tsui Wah, Honolulu Cafe, Kam Fung Cafe

Polo bun, bo lo bau or pineapple bun by any other name sounds equally sweet and delicious. Having no actual pineapple in its ingredients, the pineapple bun gained its name from the cracked and crusty topping which resembles a pineapple as said by the Hong Kongers or a melon, thought by the Japanese creator of the melon pan.

I on the other hand see no resemblance of these soft fluffy buns with the hard-skinned fruit and had all intention of seeking out as many Hong Kong native polo buns as I could.

Tsui Wah Restaurant
G/F, 84-86 Des Voeux Road
Monday to Sunday: 7 am to 2 am

When we first walked by Tsui Wah, we were dismayed to find their takeaway counter cleaned out of pineapple buns but as luck would have it, we passed the restaurant twice that day and the second time was a charm.

Sitting under a warm lamp, there it was - a beautiful pineapple bun in all its glory.

It turned out to be the best polo bun we ever had. A crumbly and butter top enveloped a soft plain bun which sinks when you bite into it. Perfectly warm and fragrant, Tsui Wah's pineapple bun would have been the ultimate sin served as a bo lo yau, a pineapple bun split in half with a thick slab of butter sandwiched in between. We were unfortunate to only eat it once and the Tsui Wah Restaurant at the airport does not serve polo buns. To add to the disappointment, the airport branch had a queue so long that it would beat every queue for food in KL hands-down.

Reviews are available at Daniel Food Diary, The Hungry Geek and Nomss

Honolulu Cafe
176-178 Hennessy Road
Wan Chai
Monday to Saturday: 7 am to 2 am
Sunday: 7 am to 12 midnight

On another day, we dropped by a highly-recommended Honolulu Cafe which also features a takeaway counter for pastries. Take the train to Wan Chai station, exit at A4, turn right and the cafe is a minute walk away.

It was a large shop occupying 2 shoplots with a funky smell probably from the floor cleaning agent used. Watch your step as the floors are slippery and you could crash into a grumpy, middle-age waiter which acknowledges your order with grunts instead of actual words. They're definitely not mute though as they were spotted congregating at a corner for some laughs.

Excited that there we got to sit down, I ordered a bo lo yau. The bun was cold and the butter cold too creating a rather icky combination with a jelak factor off the charts. The butter didn't soften even after efforts to spread it out so this was the worst we had.

The polo bun itself was dense with a crumbly top that was neither buttery or fragrant. To make matters worse, the yin yong tasted like it had been steeped for too long resulting in a sour flavor that left us feeling quite sick.

Reviews are available at Motormouth from Ipoh, KBCG and  Kumory

Kam Fung Cafe
41 Spring Garden Lane, Wan Chai
Monday to Sunday: 6:45 am to 7:00 pm

Undeterred by our failure at Honolulu Cafe, we set out to look for another pineapple bun on my list, Kam Fung Cafe. I had trouble looking for the shop as the name is written right to left on the signboard and for the non-Chinese reader that was me, I was momentarily confused. However, if I can get here, so can you.

The shop was small with about 20 seats available at one time. We were relieved that there was no toxic smell here or we were merely lucky that it wasn't cleaning time yet.

Slightly warm, the polo bun was quite dense as well but it was so much softer than the piece of tough sponge Honolulu served us. The crust was thicker and more buttery too.

I read that the chicken pie is recommended here and I wholeheartedly agree, it was amazing! Our local Tong Kee's got nothing on Kam Fung!

With a creamy and savory filling of diced chicken and ham enveloped in the most perfect buttery crust, the chicken pie blew our socks off.

So soft and crumbly it was that the one we took away looked like mush when we got home but apparently still tasted good. Unfortunately, we can't say the same for the egg tart's crust which severely lacked butter. The egg custard was not too sweet and overall, LC commented that it tasted like a healthy egg tart sans sugar and butter.

Kam Fung has a drink policy that each diner is required to have a drink each regardless of how many items you order. My Milk tea was perfectly bitter and sweet - finally we had a good milk tea in Hong Kong. Didn't it originate from here in the first place? Don't get ticked off by the carton it's poured out of though. It tastes much better than it looks. LC was out of luck again with the yin yong of unbalanced flavors. I'm starting to think that the famous HK Yin Yong is not agreeable with the Malaysian palate. Adding sugar made it worse.

The menu is placed at the door for those who want to takeaway and the cashier speaks enough English that a Eurasian-looking girl managed to pick up a few items with little effort.

Reviews are available at Motormouth from IpohThat Food Cray and Super Fine Feline

Lesson learned from referencing other food blogs on where to eat in Hong Kong. Honolulu Cafe came highly recommended but turned out most disappointing. Fortunately, the general opinion on Kam Fung's chicken pie was the same as mine. Oh well, you win some, you lose some so go forth and make your own conclusions!