Cold Butter Turns Hong Kong's Boh Loh Yau Into A Rich Breakfast Sandwich

You step into A+ Hong Kong Kitchen, a bustling Hong Kong-style café in the heart of Seattle's International District. Amidst the clatter of cups and the rich aroma of wok hei, you order a classic boh loh yau (菠蘿油) and velvety, hot Hong Kong milk tea. The boh loh yau arrives, a classic pineapple bun sandwiching a cold slab of butter. Boh loh yau means pineapple oil in Cantonese but, contrary to its name, the bun contains no pineapple, and the oil refers to the butter. The pineapple describes the bun crust's scored and cracked, golden appearance, reminiscent of a pineapple's texture.

Boh loh yau is a rich breakfast sandwich and a culinary emblem of Hong Kong's vibrant food culture. You may wonder why the butter is so boldly wedged within, and if you attempt to spread the butter, don't. Savor it in its solid, cold form, contrasting the warm and soft bread. Each bite offers a blend of textures — the crispness of the golden cookie crust against the yielding softness of the milk bread bun and the velvety butter that slowly melts in your mouth.

Each bite is heavenly; you'll wonder where this breakfast sandwich has been all your life. If the butter feels a bit rich for you, pair this sandwich with Hong Kong milk tea, a robust, full-bodied, and strong drink with slightly bitter notes. Hong Kong milk tea helps cut through the buttery richness of the sandwich, making this pairing golden and harmonious.

A taste of Hong Kong in one versatile bun

Boh loh yau, while a decadent choice for breakfast, shines just as brightly as a mid-afternoon or midnight treat (siu yeh, or 宵夜, in Hong Kong parlance). While the classic bolo bao (菠蘿包 or pineapple bun) with its cold butter slab is a perennial favorite, the versatility of bolo bao invites creativity and experimentation. You might choose a bolo bao filled with spam and egg for a delightful blend of sweet, salty, and umami. Alternatively, a bolo bao stuffed with char siu, or Chinese BBQ pork, offers a succulent, savory twist.

Bolo bao's adaptability extends beyond savory options. You can switch out the traditional butter for peanut butter, black sesame paste, custard, red bean paste, or jam, each adding a unique dimension to the bun's flavor profile. Yet, for many (especially the bun purists) bolo bao is pure perfection in its simplest form, devoid of any fillings or spreads. Its contrasting textures alone speak volumes.

However, our favorite version of the bolo bao for breakfast remains the boh loh yau, a rich and luxurious sandwich and comforting staple emblematic of Hong Kong's dynamic culinary scene. Paired with a bold cup of Hong Kong milk tea, boh loh yau is a must-try for any food enthusiast and fan of decadent breakfast sandwiches.