Walk down Broadway in Chinatown—or any 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
Phoenix Bakery is known primarily for its cakes, whether you’re celebrating a birthday, wedding or anniversary—any occasion that calls for some strawberries, quite honestly. 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 (or 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.
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 $1.60 (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 coffee or a mango smoothie to go along with your haul of carbs (and be aware that there’s a $12 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 treats 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 and savories, too. Tin boxes are stacked up in the middle of the bakery that are filled with cookies, making for 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 tiramisu, multi-layered chocolate Vienna cake and gussied-up fudge brownies topped with cream and a cherry. To take home, loaves of sliced sandwich bread beckon from the shelves, with delectable incorporations such as red bean paste, taro and coconut with raisin. There's coffee, too, but it's a little weak—stick to the baked goods.
Stepping into Oh My Pan bakery—both in Pasadena and San Gabriel—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 they’re just as well known for their teas, which come in a slew of flavors both cold and hot: Choose from fresh brews 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 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 $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.”
Taro loaves, pork buns, egg tarts, brioches, cheesecake, iced coffee and boba are staples at this popular Asian bakery with multiple locations across Los Angeles. While some may argue that the breads here arn’t 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 and foam-topped coffee at the counter.
At Long’s, the price is more than right: fluffy custard buns, eggy sponge cakes, baked BBQ buns and slices of lemon cake can all be found for around $1 apiece, but this Chinatown go-to does much more than baked goods. There’s not a focus on large and artful cakes or fancy pastries here, but you’d better believe you’ll find some of the most affordable dim sum in town. Shumai, har gow, turnip cakes, Chinese tamales and BBQ pork rice rolls are usually all on offer, some for as little as 59 cents. A cool $20 can buy you the feast of a limetime—and this cash-only spot will be needing that in bill form, thank you very much—and you can grab your no-frills styrofoam-container feast to-go, or enjoy it in the dining room with plenty of other happy customers who know a good deal when they taste it.
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.