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Favorite Chinatown desserts?

Chinatown has so many bakeries in such a concentrated space, I sometimes get so overwhelmed that I forget to try new stuff. What are your favorite desserts from this excellent chow neighborhood?

My two current picks: warm coconut buns from Ho Yuen, and red bean sesame rice balls from Mei Sum.

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  1. Do barbecued pork buns count as dessert? Haha, they're my pick, and I really like the ones at Ho Yuen. I'm not a big dessert fan in general, but I also really dig the silken tofu with honey you can get at dim sum places (and probably elsewhere).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Zatan

      I am addicted to barbecued pork buns! That will be my vote for best dessert!

      1. re: Zatan

        I don't think I can count them as a desert because no matter what I'm picking up, the BBQ Pork Bun will be eaten first for sure!

      2. "warm coconut buns from Ho Yuen" oy yeah...

        3 Replies
        1. re: StriperGuy

          Those were delicious! Not too sweet. Just right!

          1. re: heathermb

            Those coconut buns were awesome.

            I also like the open custard tarts at Hing Shing...and the tarot root with a pork stuffing.

            1. re: 9lives

              I love taro root dumplings, but watch the people at Hing Shing like a hawk. The last two times I went there, I asked for two taro root dumplings and both times I opened my bag to find two hot dog buns... Disappointing to say the least.

        2. Can you describe these coconut buns?? They sound great!

          I think of them as more of a morning snack and less of a dessert, but the cream buns from Eldo are a favorite of mine - gotta get there early for them.

          4 Replies
          1. re: gansu girl

            I love Eldo's coconut buns!!! Never tried Ho Yuen's...are they better???

            1. re: gansu girl

              A coconut bun is a sort of egg bread (I'm actually not sure the dough is made with egg, but it's very moist and a touch sweet), in the shape of a hot dog roll, with a coconut and butter filling. Simple, sweet, salty, and delicious. The going rate is, I believe, 80 cents.

              It's been several years since I've tried Eldo's, but I remember them being excellent as well. At this point, I go to Ho Yuen as much out habit as anything else. Part of the reason I started this thread was to break out of my bakery rut; I'll definitely give Eldo another shot soon.

              1. re: finlero

                so is the filling sweet? the thing they call a "cream bun" at Eldo sounds like it's the same, if the filling on Ho Yuen's is sweetened. the Eldo bun is also only slightly sweet, and it's dusted on the top w/finely shredded coconut. I had only one last weekend and have regretted my restraint all week . . . .

                1. re: gansu girl

                  Ho Yuen's filling is also only slightly sweet, I'd say about a 50/50 sweet/salty balance, and no coconut on top.

              1. re: three of us

                My Chinatown dessert experience is limited to fabulous sponge cake at Eldo. Almost better than my Tante Annie's sponge cake!

              2. Is there a sit-down place serving all those lovely desserts made from---well, I don't know what they are--sweet bean paste? tapioca? jello? There's a place in New York's Chinatown where a whole bunch of us each had a different dish, very different from anything I've had before or since, cool and soothing, pretty colors and surprising textures. Perhaps I should find out what they were before asking if I can find the same thing here!

                2 Replies
                1. re: cassis

                  I don't know the bakeries well because I usually fill up on desserts when I sit down for dim sum. Tapioca pearls in coconut milk, warm tofu pudding, mango pudding, rainbow jelly, coconut balls with chopped peanut inside, lotus paste buns, egg custard buns--and there's always room for those little towers of coconut jelly.

                  I think Empire Garden is the only place that has red bean pancakes.
                  My very favorite are the egg tarts at China Pearl. The bakery tarts all look too big and bland to me.

                  When they first opened, I loved the red bean buns at Bao Bao, but they don't seem quite the same. Still good, but not the same.

                  I'm definitely going to look for that sponge cake at Eldo's.

                  1. re: Baiye

                    I grabbed an egg custard bun as a snack today. Awesome! Bready circular bun with a crunchy top, filled with a sweet, creamy egg custard. I will definitely get it again. Thanks for the tip, Baiye!

                2. I like the sesame balls and the coconut balls at the little bakery (Bao Bao?) on the street that's perpendicular to the one Pho Pasteur is on. On the street that's perpendicular to the one PP is on, there's a bakery that serves this fabulous rubbery, translucent-white, faintly vinegary-tasting rice dessert.

                  1. My favorite Chinatown dessert treat that I get at Ho Yuan is the red bean rice flour bun/pancake. I'm not sure what the actual name of it is -it's about 5 inches in diameter and flat and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It's translucent white in color and inside it is filled with red bean paste and it looks like it's been pan fried on the bottom. I'm always amazed at how cheap everything is in here! It is around a dollar I think.

                    1. I am kinda addicted to the green jello dessert from Lu's. It's got chunks of taro root pudding (maybe?), rice, and cream on top - mix it all up...Yum! (And it's got green jello).

                      I love those red bean sesame rice balls, too.

                      1. Thanks to StriperGuy for turning me onto those warm coconut buns at Ho Yeun. I also really like the egg custard tarts at Hing Shing. I usually stop for the tiny fruit tarts at Bao Boa. Their filling is really great.

                        1. I didn't get any "real" desert on my trek through Chinatown this weekend, but I was able to locate Banana Hi-Chews. For those that haven't tried, Hi-Chews are chewy (duh!) white, individually wrapped candy that fall somewhere between a Starburst and Bonkers... but far greater than the sum of those parts. I've tried a ton of different flavors, but Banana tops them all by a mile. I'm in candy heaven, I wish I'd bought more!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: heWho

                            I'm partial to the lychee and green tea flavors of Hi-Chew myself.

                            Back on topic, I don't think of dessert when I think Chinese bakeries, though I guess they do always serve the more Westernized pastries too (which I don't find all that good to be honest). Most Chinese bakeries are meant to be sweet snacks or breakfast foods.

                            My favorites are a really warm crumbly top "pineapple bun" from Mei Sum and the warm egg tarts from Crown Bakery. If we're just talking about baos in general, my all time favorite is the ham & egg, and I like Eldo's version with the thick slice of egg vs. the thin egg at all the other bakeries.

                          2. I am extremely partial to some very yellow eggy buns that I pick up on my way home from Hei La Moon. I think the place is called Double Rich Bakery Cafe on Lincoln Street? I wish I knew what the buns were called, but they're like super enriched eggy sweet bun filled with an eggy custardlike substance. They have a little sweet/almondy crust on top. I dream about them.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                              Those are called pineapple buns, which are indeed divine. No, they don't have pineapple in them: supposedly, the crust looks kinda/sorta like the skin of a pineapple.

                              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                Pineapple buns, eh? I guess I can see the resemblance. I could eat them all day long. Thanks for the tip.

                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                  ha! that reminds me somewhat of the odd "ginger cookies" I picked up at super 88 that tasted very strange. They were kind of like a not very sweet, garlic flavored, peanut butter cookie, studded with bits of unsmoked bacon.

                                  In my shock I read the ingredients and indeed, there was no ginger. They did contain plenty of garlic and I think it was the bean curd that had a very strange, almost bacon-like texture.

                                  Pretty good, regardless, but really not what I expected based on the name.

                                2. re: Scruffy The Cat

                                  Pineapple buns are actually plain inside, though they do have that nice crusty top. Gai mei baos do have a sweet yellow filling, but it's more coconut in flavor, and doesn't have a custard like smoothness, so I'm not sure that may be what you had either.

                                  1. re: kobuta

                                    My understanding was that the custard-filled buns with that topping still fall within the umbrella term "pineapple bun" - see, for instance, this Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pineappl...

                                    BTW, inspired by this thread I've been re-exploring my old fondness for coconut tarts. After dinner at New Jumbo last Saturday, we found most of the bakeries closed, but got a couple of decent ones at the place right on the corner of Beach and Harrison - is that Mei Sum? I tried the ones from Yi Soon in Allston a couple of days later. They're at least twice the size of what I'm used to, with a more cookie-like crust (but not at all sweet) and a ton of coconut filling. But so far, at least, I haven't had anything to beat my old favorite, Hing Shing in Chinatown. I will have to try Ho Yuen, though - I rarely go there, but they seem to be quite a favorite on this board.

                                    1. re: Allstonian

                                      Interesting the article refers to more hybrids, but even in HK when I order a bo lo bau, it's always the plain kind. The custard cream, which I know as nai wong bau ("yellow cream bun"; but I see this more often steamed), they describe as nai wong bo lo - so it's a combo of the two, but I don't know if most people would associate just a bo lo bau with something with filling unless you explicity ask for a combo.

                                      1. re: kobuta

                                        Good point - I've learned to ask whether the buns have custard because it's not clear from the topping which type they are. Thanks for the clarification!

                                        1. re: Allstonian

                                          Still trying to get a good grip on the differences of the steamed buns - I regularly get the 'Custard Bun' from Crown Bakery and it is exactly the same as Scruffy describes above.
                                          I've also ordered the 'Coconut Bun' which had just coconut inside, but the same crispy sweet topping, and the 'Cream Bun' which was closer to a split top hotdog bun with a sort of whipped cream layered in.
                                          So if I order a 'Pineapple Bun' do you think I'll get just the warm eggy bread style bun with the crispy topping?
                                          Any other ones that are recommended? I love the warm out of the over effect....

                                          1. re: jdubboston

                                            The problem is I have no idea the english names of the buns, and the bakeries can be "creative" in their naming. The pineapple buns are simpler because the name is translation of the chinese. I'll have to pay more attention to the english signs next time I'm in the bakery.

                                3. Black bean pie pieces and lotus seed pie pieces at Hing Shing.

                                  1. I quite like ABC - which they serve at Penang

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: teaTomE

                                      I second tTE's mention of ABC. Also at Penang is chendol (with the cute bean noodles, sweet red beans, shaved ice and coconut milk), nice in hot weather. In cooler weather the piping hot peanut pancake (really more crepe like) is delicious. For those partial to glutinous rice (me), there is pulit hitam (black glutinous rice with coconut milk), another dessert served warm to hot. Oh Penang, so good from beginning to end!
                                      BobDobalina above mentions Lu's. Lu's various desserts topped with coconut pudding are also fun and yummy in a child-like way--colorful, sweet, variously textured (whole beans, noodles made from beans and tapioca, chunks of taro, corn, glutinous rice, litchees, seaweed, peanuts). They are sold in clear plastic drink containers which provide some nice visuals and allow one to surmise about the contents. IMO much delight for $1.50. Not for sophisticated palates though--they are maybe the Asian equivalent of English nursery food.

                                      1. re: whops

                                        What is ABC, a bakery? Where is it?

                                        1. re: Jeangenie

                                          It's an actual dessert on Penang's menu. It's been a while since I've had it, but if I recall correctly it has colored (flavored?) ice, red beans, corn (!), and assorted jelly like things. Looks and sounds weird, but I remember it being surprisingly good.