What’s Cooking in…Hong Kong

By Sandra Scott
This item appears on page 59 of the December 2011 issue.
Chef placing pastry ball on waxed paper. Photos: Sandra Scott

Even though Hong Kong is one of the world’s most modern and expensive cities, there are ways to learn about the traditional Chinese culture for free or nearly free. The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) offers a variety of free or nearly free programs for visitors.

When my husband, John, and I deplane in Hong Kong, we stop at one of the HKTB Visitor Centres to sign up for their programs. The visitor centers are located in Buffer Halls A and B, Arrivals Level, Terminal 1. Visitors also can sign up at HKTB’s in-town Visitor Centres, located in Tsim Sha Tsui and on Victoria Peak.

The programs are available only to foreigners, who must sign up in person and each show their passport. In January 2010, John and I signed up for a Chinese cake-making class that was free but which now has a fee of about $4. For more information on the Chinese cake-making class and other offerings, go to www.discoverhongkong.com and click on “Things to do” and then “Cultural Kaleidoscope.”

John and I joined eight others for the class at Wing Wah Cake Shop, at Shop 4, Union Mansion, 25 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, in Kowloon. During the lesson, master chefs Chiu and Fung demonstrated and then helped us make Wife Cakes.

While now men can buy them, they traditionally made Wife Cakes for their wives. It seems that long ago a wife sold herself as a servant to get money to pay for medical treatment for her father-in-law. The husband was impressed by her dedication and wanted his wife back, so he created Wife Cakes and sold them in the market. They became very popular, and he earned enough money to buy her back.

Our class also included the making of egg roll pastry in which any desired filling can be added.

Wing Wah Wife Cakes

1 egg

¼ cup water


¼ cup red bean paste; roll into ½-inch balls


1 egg, beaten


¾ cup flour

¼ vegetable oil


¾ cup flour

¼ cup vegetable oil

Make the pastry mix ahead of time by mixing flour and vegetable oil until smooth. Refrigerate for several hours. To make the crust, spread flour in a circle on a clean work space. In the center, add the vegetable oil and egg. Mix the vegetable oil and egg together, and begin to mix with the flour to form the dough. When the ingredients are well combined, add the water a little at a time, mixing until the dough is soft to the touch.

Divide chilled pastry and crust mix into eight ½-inch balls. Roll a ball of pastry into a five-inch flat circle. Put your forefinger and thumb together to form a circle, then place the pastry on top of your fingers and make an indentation about ½-inch deep. Place a red bean paste ball in the depression. Pinch the edges to enclose the filling.

Roll out crust flat into a five-inch circle. Place crust circle on forefinger and thumb. Make an indentation and insert the ball of pastry that has the filling. Wrap the crust around the ball to enclose it. Place on work table and press flat with your palm until it’s about ½-inch thick. Place on baking sheet sprayed with Pam or greased. Brush on beaten egg. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until golden brown.