The origin of Hong Kong’s “Mexico Bun” (墨西哥包)

#MexicoInHK| Canal Hong Kong| Gastronomy

Image title
“Mexico Bun” (墨西哥包)
Photo credit: JOOOw

Do you know how did the famous “Mexico Bun” (墨西哥包) get its name?

Find more about this fascinating story in Christopher DeWolf’s article The Origin of Hong Kong’s Mexico Bun: A History of Exile and Return.

There’s a big hint in the bun’s name, though. The “Mexico Bun” traces its roots to a wave of Chinese Mexicans that passed through Hong Kong in the middle of the 20th century.

In the 19th century, Chinese migrants from Taishan, in southeastern Guangdong, ventured overseas looking for better fortunes and Mexico was one of their destinations. At the time, Mexico’s government encouraged their arrival as a way to make up for low numbers of European immigrants. The culture that Chinese migrants encountered in Mexico was in many ways similar to their own – in which family, marriage, honor, and death played important roles. Extended families were key to social organization, and both peoples honored the dead in homes and public spaces, often times with food. Many of the immigrants married local women, forming bilingual and bicultural families that sometimes sent their sons to China for education and to learn Cantonese and Taishanese.

File:HK Hennessy Road Wan Chai Honolulu Cafe Bakery 菠蘿包 Pineapple Bun.JPG
HK Hennessy Road Wan Chai Honolulu Cafe Bakery 菠蘿包 Pineapple Bun

However, in the 1930’s, amidst the “Great Depression”, millions of Mexicans working in the US returned home. In consequence, Chinese workers in Mexico and their families returned to China and many settled in Hong Kong and Macau, after life in their ancestral villages proved too difficult to endure.

According to a number of sources, the “Mexico Bun” was created by one of these families, the Ng’s who in 1946 opened a bing sutt on Shanghai Street. It is believed they created the pastry as a tribute to conchas (“shells”), a traditional Mexican bun garnished with a sweet crust.

“Mexico Buns” have since become a mainstay of any Hong Kong bakery, but nobody seems to know much about the Ng family or what happened to them. They may have planted roots in Hong Kong – or they may have gone back to Mexico, as some people returned as late as 1980.

Either way, their creation remains, sweet and satisfying, as a testament to a little known chapter in Hong Kong’s history.

File:Pineapple buns.jpg
By Party Lin – 香港, CC BY 2.0

Source: DeWolf, Christopher. “The Origin of Hong Kong’s Mexico Bun: A Story of Exile and Return”. Zolima City Mag, March 13, 2019. Additional reporting by Zabrina Lo.