Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro on Wolf Road in Colonie has become one of my favorite places in the Capital District to order from a dim sum menu. Yes, I still wish we had one of the traditional cart-style dim sum establishments around here, but of course I realize that there’s not enough demand to sustain it on a regular basis. In the meantime, Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro is more than adequate whenever I’m in the mood for some serious dumplings and buns and rice rolls (and even though no one ever likes it but me at the table, the sticky rice cooked in a lotus leaf).
Although I’ve been there a number of times, I always feel like I walk right past the bakery display near the entrance without a second thought. That is, until this weekend when I was in the mood for a roast pork bun but didn’t have anyone else around to partake with me in the gluttonous delight that is dim sum. But I remembered that they sell the buns at the counter as well, so I could just stop in and bring something home to enjoy all by myself.
The roast pork buns are less than two dollars apiece and are sold in individual packaging at the counter. There were also some different varieties that I’ve never tried, like a custard bun, a coconut bun, a red bean bun, and, oddly, a Japanese hot dog bun.
I brought home the roast pork bun, popped it into the toaster oven for a few minutes, and had a nice hearty snack that was just as fresh and warm as if it had been served at the restaurant. Although at first glance the meat filling always looks a little sparse, the ratio of bread to pork is usually spot on once you start eating and the dough is less puffed up.
The thinly sliced chunks of pork are tossed in a thick Asian barbecue sauce with hints of soy sauce. The bread is soft and chewy with sweet undertones. I could just eat that bread by itself every day, so I’m sure that most of the other bun varieties are just as enjoyable as the classic roast pork due to the strength of the bun itself. And if you do find yourself able to sit down for the full dim sum experience, I also recommend trying the steamed pork bun, which has the same filling but a puffier, spongier shell (best fresh at the table – not something that you would be able to bring home, unfortunately).
In addition to an entire display case full of the roast buns, Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro also has a wide variety of Chinese bakery items for sale at the counter. Without much knowledge on any of them, I picked two small pastries that looked interesting to bring home – a taro pastry, and a red bean with egg yolk pastry.
The taro pastry was just so pretty with its crumbly lavender swirls. Underneath the sweet layers of pastry, the filling was a purple ball of mashed taro, a type of root vegetable. The consistency was almost like a very starchy mashed potato, but with a mild touch of sugar. It was kind of strange, but after a few bites I was really sold. It also helped that this pastry was fresh right out of the oven and still a bit warm even by the time I got home.
The red bean pastry had a very dense filling of mashed red beans around a smaller triangle of egg yolk. It also seemed like the outer shell may have been coated in egg yolk before being baked. The bean paste was interesting, but maybe a little too gummy for my liking. I also found the piece of egg yolk to be unexpectedly heavy with a salty taste.
What I found most interesting about the Chinese pastries was how they veered more towards savory flavors instead of being dominated by sugary sweetness. The outer shells had the same flaky pastry feel that you might get from an American baked good, but the fillings were decidedly simpler. In a way, I liked that aspect of them – I could definitely eat a few different things without feeling like I was going to have a major sugar crash afterwards.
I’m glad I finally took a few minutes to check out the bakery counter at Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro instead of only focusing on the (wonderful) dim sum. Next on my list to try: the coconut buns and the melon cookies. And lots more roast pork buns, of course.