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Jan 10, 2012 12:31 PM

London - Best Baked Chinese Cha-Siu (Barbecued Pork) Buns at Kowloon Bakery

For the longest time, visitors from Singapore to London would invariably descend upon Kowloon Restaurant's bakery in Chinatown for their luscious, large baked buns filled with the most delicious Chinese BBQ pork (cha-siu) filling ever! I remembered back in the early 1990s when I was a financial accountant in Singapore Airlines - we'd plead for our colleagues who're flying to London to pack boxes of these BBQ pork buns for us. Singapore Airlines air-stewardesses would lug dozens of these BBQ pork buns for their friends & family back home - nothing we had in Singapore, or Hong Kong, tasted like these buns from London Chinatown.

I was back at Kowloon bakery again today, and was really pleased to find that their buns still tasted every bit the same as I remembered them from 2 decades back :-)

Kowloon Restaurant
22 Gerrard St, London W1D, GB

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  1. Interesting. What made/makes them distinctive?

    3 Replies
    1. re: huiray

      The size of it, for one - larger than anything we'd ever seen in local bakeries in S'pore or HK.Then, you have this strong Shaoxing wine flavors emanating from the BBQ pork filling, the delicious unctuous sauce. The bread itself had a soft, moist texture - something you can find these days from Japanese bakery chains but, back in the early 90s, was something rare but which Kowloon bakery did so well. It's like the fore-runner of Maxims or Saint-Honore (HK) or Breadtalk in Singapore, which are Japanese-influenced.

      1. re: klyeoh


        Hmm, would you care to describe some of the other stuff in the second picture? :-)
        I see you char kwai, possibly pigs in a blanket?, curry puffs in between?? What are the other things on the open shelf? Are the cakes "HK style" or "French style" or ?? in taste profile etc?

        1. re: huiray

          They are mainly HK-style pastries, e.g. stuffed with beanpaste, some with century eggs, egg tarts, walnut cookies, almond cookies, peanut cookies, etc. - a bit like those baked goods you get at that nice old bakery in Petaling Street back in KL. Also some old-fashioned sponge cakes with cream icing/filling.

          I wanted to take more photos but the interior was rather cramped and they usually have customers popping in and out.

    2. Kowloon also has fantastic almond cookies. It's the only place I've seen them since moving from NY.

      1. Thanks klyeoh - open one up so I can compare to NYC!

        7 Replies
        1. re: scoopG

          That looked *so* different, scoopG! I'll go back to Kowloon bakery this weekend to get my cha-siu bun fix & a pic for you :-)

          1. re: klyeoh

            Your one's texture looks a bit different but is baked as well, klyeoh! Mine is from the old Mei Lah Wai on Bayard in Chinatown NYC.

            Edit: in NYC they are 52 pence each, or .80 cents! How much in London?

            1. re: scoopG

              Not that cheap here in London, if I recall correctly, scoopG. Kowloon's buns were around GBP1.20 each.

              The bun you had looked to have a more"cotton-ny" texture than Kowloon's - I'd had good baked buns like that from bakeries on Franklin & Webster Streets in Oakland Chinatown in the San Francisco Bay Area.

          2. re: scoopG

            Here it is, scoopG - Kowloon bakery's char-siu bun filling - I got it late this afternoon and it was stil relatively moist. If I'd gotten it first thing in the morning, the filling would be more gooey & trickle out.

            1. re: klyeoh

              uhmm...thanks klyeoh! Looks delicious.

              1. re: scoopG

                So – how does it compare? Inquiring minds want to know!

          3. Have you tried Golden Gate Cake Shop around the corner? I have found Kowloon's pastry frustratingly inconsistent, sometimes overly yeasty or dense. Golden Gate do it a bit better and also have good char siu. They also have kaya and yam fillings, which though not matching the best examples I've ever had still fill a craving!

            3 Replies
            1. re: deansa

              Thanks for the heads-up, deansa! Agree with you on Kowloon's inconsistency - it's almost as if they have different bakers on different days. One more thing with regards to their char-siu buns - get them hot off the ovens in the morning, when they are fresh, soft and moist. The ones you get in the evenings are usually drier and probably need re-heating to experience the full flavors of the caramelly BBQ filling.

              I'll pop into Golden Gate over the weekend.

              1. re: deansa

                Good rec, deansa - I tried Golden Gate's buns this afternoon and must admit that they're even more moist than Kowloon's. But their char-siu filling lacked the "winey" Shaoxing flavor that Kowloon's buns have.

                1. re: deansa

                  Placemark for Golden Gate Bakery in Chinatown:

                  Golden Gate Bakery
                  13 Macclesfield St, London W1D 5BR, GB