It’s all about those buns

Bob McLarnon reviews the pastries at Hong Kong Taste

Bakeries are quite possibly where I am happiest on earth. For a few serene seconds, you are bathed in beautiful scents and surrounded by warm colours as you gaze at plump buns, blooming loaves, and tempting desserts. In choice spots, such as Hong Kong Taste on Eden Quay, you can watch the masterful bakers in the back, churning out cake after cake, loaf after loaf, with artistry and finesse. On the left side of the taupe-patterned shop, there is a bubble tea counter, stocked to the brim with glistening tapioca pearls, uranium green apple balls, and anything else bright and colourful that people cooler than I want to slurp up through their inch-thick straws. The right is devoted to baking, with a little fridge for chilled items, tucked behind a display case loaded with buns. 

The green flecks of onion on the bacon and scallion buns are likely to catch your eye. They are fun, although the bacon can be a little tough. The sausage bun is surprisingly wholesome, and the cheap sausage is at home in its bread casing. However their cheesy chicken curry buns are something special. On the top, a thin topping of cheese has been baked, infusing the bread with dark fronds of umami, supplied by the dry cooked cheese. Inside, the bun is filled with a pleasantly warmed chicken curry — not unlike a more refined version of what Centra’s deli calls “chicken tikka”. 

The Bo Luo bun is a more basic delight, it simply shows the prowess of the baking, letting the springiness of the dough speak for itself. The top of the signature bun is criss-crossed with a cream, which crisps upon baking, resulting in a hatched crust that’s dry, sweet and crumbly.

“The Char Siu bun is, in my opinion, the bun to write home about. A simply elegant brioche dome, baked to a golden brown, contains a smoky sweet hit of flavour with each satisfying bite.”

The Char Siu bun is, in my opinion, the bun to write home about. A simply elegant brioche dome, baked to a golden brown, contains a smoky sweet hit of flavour with each satisfying bite. The stew-like filling is packed with sweet smoky umami, with the irresistible sweetness of caramelised onions, making the pork almost a dessert. The soft bread is a bed of comfort. If you are lucky enough to get one while they’re hot — always ask at the counter rather than reach into the display case — the taste is unparalleled. The hot honey-like barbecue liquid steams out, and the gossamer thin crust on the bun tastes like the film on a creme brúle. 

Not everything is perfect however. The Bacon Bun is a well toasted sesame bun with freshly fried bacon, egg and seasoned onion. It is a strong competition for the ubiquitous breakfast roll, but the chef drowns it in ketchup before handing it to you — ask for it without. Skip over the Char Siu Puffs. They are dry, without enough filling to overcome the stodginess of their puff pastry casing, although the sweet glaze varnishing of each puff helps. 

One charmingly unique item is the Red Bean bun. Their trademark bun is filled with a paste of lightly sweet beans, similar to Japanese mochi. It is unmistakable in its beaniness, and perhaps not quite as composed as other items on the menu. For those that like beans, this is a fascinating treat that we rarely see on this little island. Another pleasant oddity that may be new to many here is their egg tart. Somewhat like a Portuguese Pastel de Nata, but instead of caramelising the top, the custard recipe calls for 4 times the egg. I loved all four bites. 

This quaint little shop, which may struggle to grab the attention of the average passersby, is packed with enough potential to become a pilgrimage site for the people of Dublin. How couldn’t it? When most of the staple items on the menu are under €2, with all but their fanciest treats being under €4, you can come back again and again without getting bored or broke.