Chinese Bakeries in SF. Pineapple Buns. Cocktail Buns

I’ve recently become enamored of Chinese bakery items such as bo lo bao (pineapple bun) and gai mei bao (cocktail bun).

As far as pineapple buns go, I understand the moniker is due to the appearance of the bun. However, it seems like some bakeries will put a filling of pastry cream (or something like that), red bean paste, or char siu. Is it my imagination, or have some bakeries even put a filling of pineapple in said buns?

So far I’ve only had the buns from the bakery at Clement BBQ. Are there others I should try?

I never been FYI but on my to do list is…

Pineapple King at 19th and Irving

They have pineapple buns with cold butter and filled buns.

Mr Bread Bakery at 19th and Taraval

Portuguese/Macau Egg Tarts!!!

@beefnoguy is probably more in the know

I have not tried the pineapple buns from Pineapple King but have heard they are quite decent (if you are not picky and not comparing it to HK).

The addition of filling inside the pineapple bun has been due to variations and attempted innovation or modifying on a classic theme to sell more. For example, putting in BBQ pork and making it a dim sum item as popularized by the likes of Tim Ho Wan and other bandwagon jumpers.

You can find a Taiwanese version of it at Sheng Kee Bakery (sometimes they may have both the TW and the HK versions, but as it has been a long time I have not really tried it).

In San Francisco a majority of bakeries (and master bakers) are not Hong Kong Chinese, mostly southern China (e.g. Toishanese), so their execution comes out different. And then you have Sheng Kee which is Taiwanese style but in a way not close.

I don’t eat HK style baked buns much anymore. But here are my recommendations

Mr Bread as JKB has already mentioned, probably the most well balanced overall of all their offerings. I actually am not too huge on their Macanese baked egg tart, but rather their regular HK style egg tart (dan taat). Their other baked buns are decent. Their egg pie (custard like), a whole one for $7, is surprisingly great. Do try others like pizza bun or tuna.

The baked BBQ pork buns from Lung Fung Bakery are not bad and famous for yelpers, but too large and disproportionate to my liking.

A friend loves Napoleon Super Bakery (Chinatown) for their durian buns. Their other buns are a bit rough around the edges in balance, giving them more of a blue collar rustic feel, but if you are not picky these are of good size and value.

AA Bakery right across the street has some tasty savory buns (I can’t recall which ones I enjoyed). Doesn’t look the best structurally, but good enough.

Cherry Blossom Bakery (Clement Street) was fairly decent in memory but not my favorite.

On Noriega Street, Cafe Bakery and Restaurant has some decent selections and they’re one of few places that does a near proper HK style savory chicken pie (pseudo puff pastry). Beware though, grease and butter overload. There is also a puff pastry that might have some mushrooms in it with meat, or just meat. If you are not on a diet, go for it.


Some of the dim sum restaurants in LA have started to use a pineapple filling in their pineapple buns, which I regard as an inside joke of sorts. I seem to recall bbq pork and chicken filled pineapple buns showing up at the dim sum restaurants about 20 years ago, more frequently with the creamy chicken filling. My guess is that was a way to distinguished a baked chicken bao from the smooth/honey top baked bbq pork buns.

OK. Tastings in progress, and an update on my findings is due. Since I live in the
Richmond district, I will be starting here and spreading out into the Sunset and beyond.

Baked Char Siu Bao

  1. Clement BBQ. I am basing my judgment on memories from over thirty years ago. I moved out of SF then and am now in the process of moving back. The filling is generous and has a bit of onion, adding a component not tasted in other bao. While the filling is on the savoury side, it seemed to me, back then, to have a deeper, more complex flavor profile. But, you know what is said about memory playing tricks…
  2. Lung Fung. Again, big and generous, the filling has a sweeter profile with more depth to the overall flavor, but the sweetness is not out of proportion.
    Rating: toss up. I am a sucker for char siu bao.

Cocktail Buns

  1. Pineapple King. Light and moist dough. The filling seemed the most generous of all three.
  2. Clement BBQ. The dough is not as light.
  3. Lung Fung. The dough in buns is drier and a bit stiffer than the other two.
    Rating: in order as above. The difference in size of the bun or the quality of the filling among all three was negligible.

Pineapple Buns

  1. Pineapple King: Light and moist dough with a pineapple filling that uses a custard base. Yes, I found the holy grail. I’ll be testing their different bo lo bao offerings in the future.
  2. Clement BBQ: Again, the dough is not as light as Pineapple King’s, and this is the basic bun without any filling.
  3. Lung Fung: Once more, the dough of the basic bun is a bit drier and stiffer.
    Rating: in order as above. Clement BBQ’s bun seemed to be the biggest. The topping on Pineapple King’s bun was the most delicate.

Misc: Clement BBQ has a beef curry bun that is the size of a baked char siu bao. It seems to take a trip through the fryer. Nice dough, generous filling, but not enough of the curry, which I prefer. This does sit heavily in the stomach afterwards.

Thanks to all for their replies and insights. More tastings to be done. I’ll let you know when I start the crash diet.