Indulge in fluffy pineapple buns this Lunar New Year

By Evan Kleiman

Freshly baked pineapple buns. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

What’s flaky and crumbly and fluffy all at once? The Hong Kong Cantonese snack known as a pineapple bun (bo lo bao). They’re made from a special milk bread dough that’s enriched with butter, sugar, and eggs. The dough is made using a tangzhong, which is a cooked mixture of flour and water. Tangzhong is like a bread superpower. Once it’s cooked then cooled and worked into the rest of the dough, it adds the ability to hold on to moisture, which gives the final baked result its pleasing texture.

The bun is topped with a thin disc of cookie dough to give it additional texture and sweetness, which makes it look a little like the Mexican concha. But it's the design etched into the cookie dough top before baking that gives it the name. Its signature look, like the outside of a pineapple, is created by scoring the dough. But there is almost never pineapple in pineapple buns, although exceptions do exist. 

The buns can be cut in half and served with a chilled pat of salted butter sandwiched inside, or stuffed with a savory or sweet filling. Dim sum restaurants tend to have mini buns with a greater variety of fillings, while bakeries have full-sized buns, most often unfilled. Some fillings in buns around town are the lava mini pineapple tarts filled with salted duck egg yolk custard from Atlantic Seafood.

The pineapple buns from Ixlb Dimsum Eats in Hollywood actually have pineapple in the filling. Photo by Evan Kleiman.

If you want to make your own pineapple buns, turn to Kristina Cho, the author of a wonderful book on Chinese baking called Mooncakes and Milkbread. She has many ways to use the milk bread dough. Here’s her recipe for pineapple buns.

Ixlb Dimsum Eats
-Filled with custard with pineapple pieces

Delicious Food Corner
Rowland Heights, Arcadia, Monterey Park, West Covina, Irvine, Chino Hills

Liu’s Cafe
-Traditional unfilled bun

Hong Kong Dimsum House
San Gabriel, South El Monte

Tam’s Noodle House
San Gabriel, Rowland Heights
-Hong Kong style with a pat of butter