Chinese milk buns

Cantonese sweet tea buns, memories of my friend OuYang

I made some tea buns today.  When I was a little kid these buns were sold in little shops on nearly every street in GuangZhou. We had them mostly for breakfast. The bread was also great for a picnic lunch during school excursions.

Growing up, I didn’t have many close friends in the neighborhood, until I met OuYang in year 3 of primary school.

I grew up in a terrace house on a small lane way. There were always other kids around. During my early childhood years, I often wandered around and watched other kids played. I rarely joined in as most kids were older than me. At pre-school I didn’t quite connect with other kids. I was the odd one who always cried at the front door when my nails were examined for cleanness; the one who went for the old books rather than new toys; and the one that was the fastest on tricycle but never won any competitions.

In primary school, I was one of top students academically. I was ‘appointed’ as the literacy subject ‘leader’ for the class that year. The role of a ‘leader’ was to collect homework, and led the morning reading sessions at the front of the classroom, a proud job for a young girl.

One day, the teacher pulled me aside. She reassigned my literacy ‘leader’ responsibility to a new kid transferred from another school. The teacher said she was excellent in literacy, won awards for her essays, hence deserved to be the literacy ‘leader’. I was told to take on the role for English instead. I didn’t mind, I was good at both subjects. I was looking forward to meet this new kid.

Then I met OuYang, a bright girl with pony tails like ox horns (common those days). We got on straight away and we became best friends. OuYang was open, warm and highly competitive. Our next 3 years were amazing as we shared our love for literacy and appreciation for nature. At break time between classes, we leaned on the railing of the long balcony, chatted about anything and everything. When I spent time at her house, her mum was kind and gentle. It was the first time that I realized that mothers had different parenting style.

For a school excursion we went to the tallest mountains in the city, called the ‘Baiyun Mountain’  (白雲山) or the ‘White Cloud Mountain’. We found some common wild flowers with yellow blossoms. We sat down on the green grass and had our picnic lunch next to the flowers. We named the flowers ‘yellow sun’ and wrote a poem about it.  I still remember my lunch that day were 2 tea buns which I bought from the little convenience store near my house.

At white cloud mountain
A trip to the white cloud mountain, GuangZhou, in late 1970s

As I enjoyed the warm and delicious tea buns I made today, I wished I could reconnect with my long lost friend OuYang again.


  • 10g active yeast
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 tbsp. condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 and 1/2 cup plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • egg white (to brush)


  • In a bowl, place yeast, sugar and warm milk; let the yeast activate for approx. 5 minutes;
  • Kneel the dough with all the ingredients (except for egg white). The dough is ready when it does not stick to the surface or your hands, approximately 10 minutes; I use a mixer which takes about 5 minutes;
  • Place the dough in a bowl at a warm place, covered with a warm towel; let it rise for approx. 1.5 hours (or double in size);
  • Kneel the dough again briefly; roll it into a long snake; cut into 12 pieces;
  • Fold the side of each piece towards the center about a dozen times to form a smooth round ball; place the dough balls on a non-stick baking tray to rise again, approx. 30 minutes;
  • Brush the dough balls with egg white; bake in a pre-heat (180c) oven for approx. 20 minutes;
  • Served warm.
Chinese milk buns
Chinese milk buns


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