In a world where phone cameras are ever-present, bad behavior, particularly by high-profile companies, rarely goes unpunished.
Hong Kong’s King Bakery discovered this to its cost last week when a member of its staff was seen on the city’s overcrowded public transport rail network, the MTR, carrying uncovered trays of egg tarts, exposing them to a variety of germs and potential contamination. .
Images of the errant egg treats immediately surfaced on social media, raising concerns about hygiene, a matter the company says it takes seriously.
No wonder netizens had a meltdown, egg tarts are a Hong Kong culinary icon.
On its website, King Bakery boasts that all its branches are hygienic certified by the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency.
Within days of the social media storm breaking, the bakery, which was founded in 1993 and has 21 locations in the city, issued an apology, vowed to improve hygiene standards and better train its staff.
The delicate puff pastry tartlets filled with wobbly egg custard are so ingrained in the gastronomic culture of the city that in 2014 the way in which they are produced was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Kam Fung restaurant in the bustling Wan Chai district on Hong Kong Island is one of many places where they can be found.
Established in 1956, it is one of the last of the old school in town cha chaan tengs which literally translates to ‘tea restaurant’, and an example of Hong Kong’s East-West culture.
“We sell about 400 a day,” said co-owner Michael Yu, who inherited the business from his mother.
“They’re popular with milk tea,” he said, adding that the secret is fresh ingredients like eggs and butter.
known as daan tat In Cantonese, egg tart is a popular dessert after dim sum in Hong Kong and throughout southern China.
However, the origins of the egg tart lie elsewhere, although where exactly is a mystery.
Some say they are a variation on British custard tarts, brought to southern China in the 1920s and adopted by Chinese chefs using dim sum pastry skills before the sweets arrived in Hong Kong at the end of World War II. World.
Others claim they are of Portuguese origin, deriving from the similar flaky-crusted pastel de nata tarts that are widely available in Macau, the former Portuguese enclave an hour’s ferry ride from Hong Kong.
Macau’s egg tarts have a caramelized golden top similar to crème brulee, unlike its Hong Kong neighbor’s smooth and shiny version. This incarnation of egg tart is believed to have been made by monks in the 13th century.
One of Hong Kong’s oldest and most popular purveyors of this delicacy is Tai Cheong Bakery. It made headlines in the 1990s when one of its outlets was visited by then Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten.
“They have the best egg tarts in town!” Patten said at the time, spawning a tart to make in his honor: Fei Pang, or Fat Patten Egg Tart.”
The high-calorie dessert not only stuck to Patten’s waistline, it stuck as his nickname until he left Hong Kong in 1997 as the city’s last colonial governor.
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This article was first published in the South China Morning Post.