Walk down Broadway in Chinatown—or, perhaps, a strip mall in the SGV—and you'll likely be hit with the scent of sweet bread baking. At Chinese bakeries around Los Angeles, shelves are stocked to the brim with pillowy buns, loaves and tarts, some filled with red bean paste, others shining golden with egg custard. There's usually a method to the madness: grab a tray, fill it with individually-wrapped desserts and then head to the register (where you'll probably have to pay in cash, as many of these bakeries require a minimum to use a card). Not sure where to start? Check out our favorite Chinese bakeries for something sweet to get you through the day.
L.A.'s best Chinese bakeries
Located on the outskirts of a small shopping complex in Monterey Park—and, ironically, right next to an L.A. Fitness—Jim's Bakery offers some of the best egg tarts in the San Gabriel Valley. Light, flaky and luxuriously creamy, they come in at a reasonable $1.35 (read: stock up on a bunch). The Po tart, short for Portuguese tart, is just as decadent, with a brûléed top and an even sweeter center. Shelves inside the compact bakery hold packaged breads and cookies, along with Jim's signature honey walnut tarts. Snag a Muay thai mango smoothie to go along with your haul of carbs (and be aware that there's an $8 minimum on cards).
Known for its mooncakes, Kee Wah Bakery is a prime destination for those wanting to stock up on the traditional egg yolk cakes when Chinese New Year rolls around. Another favorite? The crispy pineapple bun, which flies off the shelves as soon as Kee Wah opens its doors. There are plenty of Chinese pastries to snag here—coconut cream buns, red bean cakes and an entire hot cake filled with egg tarts—as well as a few European pastries, too. Tin boxes are stacked up in the middle of the bakery that are filled with cookies, making them a great gift.
A long-standing Chinatown staple that bridges China and Europe through pastries, this is a great bakery to stock up on almond cookies, shredded pork bread and sweet, steamed Mandarin buns. Browse the Western-style pastry display for gussied-up fudge brownies topped with cream and a cherry, tiramisu and multi-layered, chocolate Vienna cake. To take home, loaves of sliced sandwich bread beckon from the shelves, with interesting incorporations such as red bean paste, taro and coconut raisin. There's coffee, too, but it's a little weak—stick to the baked goods.
Stepping into Oh My Pan bakery (both the Pasadena and San Gabriel locations) is like walking into a carb-laden wonderland, a sugar haven where shelves are stocked with buns and breads, both sweet and savory. Indulge in treats like pineapple buns and matcha mochi, green onion hot dogs and spicy seaweed sausage. But their just as well known for their teas, which come in a slew of flavors both cold and hot. Choose from fresh teas like guava iced tea, honey oolong tea or yogurt iced green tea, along with milk teas that range from lychee rose to honey matcha. And yes, there's definitely boba.
Walk into KBC on any morning and you'll find a group of men reading their paper, shooting the shit and drinking copious amounts of 75-cent coffee as they enjoy pastries and rice noodles for breakfast. The staff may be a little gruff at times, but power through it as you order sub-$1 treats like egg custards, fried taro cake and custard buns. KBC has lo mai gai as well—sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf—which they dub "the Chinese tamale."
Phoenix Bakery is known primarily for its cakes, whether you're celebrating a birthday, wedding or anniversary. Founded in 1938 by the Chan family, the bakery attracts sweet-toothed fans looking for their famous strawberry whipped cream cake, which is available daily by the slice (order 24 hours in advance for a whole pie). You'll also find traditional Chinese pastries (ask for the almond cookies!) and a selection of European goods, like eclairs, fruit tarts and cream horns.
Two words: mango cake. This Temple City Chinese bakery has acquired fans from all over the city due to its incredibly refreshing mango cake, made with hefty chunks of mango and pillowy sponge cake. Pre-order a whole cake or pick up a slice in the store—just know that you might inhale it in one sitting. Olympic Bakery also offers fruit tarts, almond cookies, pineapple cake and egg tarts, along with loaves of sweet and savory breads.
Taro loaves, pork buns, egg tarts, brioches, cheesecake, iced coffee and bubble tea are staples at this popular Asian bakery, with multiple locations across Los Angeles. While some may argue that the breads here are not as fresh as other Chinese bakeries, the lines don't lie: hungry snackers love 85º. Aim to show up earlier in the day, when you can move your way through the shelves stocked with goodies before ordering some tea at the counter.