London celebrations

London’s Chinese bakery where people come from all over the world to try the delicious pastries

On the corner of Brick Lane, a Chinese and Malaysian bakery has captured the hearts of locals as well as customers from all over the world.

Currently a pop-up store, the family-owned Ong Ong Buns in Shoreditch sells pastries so delicious they have left people ‘fearing it will close one day’.

One reviewer said, “Friendliest staff and delicious Chinese/Malay pastries. It says pop-up and I dread the day they close shop!

READ MORE: ‘I tried the Korean hot dog that people line up on the street for even though it costs more than a McDonald’s’

The family business involves – left, mom (Yuk Ying), middle, Aaron and right, Icy

Hong Kong-born owner Aaron Mo opened the shop on lockdown after his Malaysian wife, Icy, arrived in London in January 2020 and couldn’t find authentic pastries she grew up with.

The 39-year-old who was born and raised in Ealing said: “My wife is from Malaysia, she moved to England just before the lockdown and she’s never lived in London before so her taste buds are very Asian .

“One thing we’ve noticed walking around locked-out London is that most of the food doesn’t really suit his tastes.

“There are no kinds of Asian buns, all buns are too sweet for her, so there was a void in the market.

“So the idea was germinating and Icy’s cooking was getting better and better because she had to cook the food she loved.

“Then my family was like you have to sell this food because it’s really good.

“I quit my job in research and didn’t want to continue, I had a lot of time to think about confinement, if I wanted to stay in cycles of doom, so I finally looked for loans and I got the loan from the British Business Bank for £25,000.”

The custard and coconut filled bread is one of their bestsellers
The custard and coconut filled bread is one of their bestsellers

The loan helped launch the business, with Aaron’s mother also coming on board to help with the cooking.

Opening the shop really allowed Aaron and Icy to explain each item and the ingredients to customers.

But most importantly, Aaron says, the stores allow him to understand his customers’ taste buds and meet their needs.

He said: “Opening our own shop allows us to talk directly to customers about what things are, it allows people to taste, allows us to change the food and become more nimble – for example, we have introduced items vegan and halal right after talking to people and getting feedback.”

Initially, when the store opened, Aaron expected locals to visit, or those of Chinese or Malaysian descent – but he was surprised to see a different group of people who are now becoming loyal customers.

Ong Ong Buns pastries have become extremely popular
Ong Ong Buns pastries have become extremely popular

He said: “The most interesting to me are those who have lived near Chinatowns, for example Manchester or Birmingham, and they remember those Chinese bakeries – and then there are those from New York and Australia – that are the biggest fans.

“I think that’s why the New York Times included us in their reporting: those who had a Chinatown in their lives and remember those baked goods.”

The interior of the store also grabbed people’s attention with its Instagrammable features, besides that, the unique menu is what attracts people.

Extra pineapple cookies will be prepared for Chinese New Year
Extra pineapple cookies will be prepared for Chinese New Year

“We knew BBQ pork buns would be popular, pineapple bun would be popular, we did an Instagram poll asking people their favorite Chinese bun because we were really good with social media before we started the coffee, we had 500 people following us so we could collect data,” Aaron said.

“We also knew the cookies would sell because they were already selling well in the Chinese supermarket, which gave us some publicity.

“Then we also received feedback on things we tried to bake at home, we were satisfied with the Pandan Coconut Cake which is really very popular, and we thought we could try to sell as we loved at home.”

Aaron thinks the store has become popular because it sells nostalgic foods for people.

He added: “People really appreciate me talking to people because I’m interested in people in general and have a background in research.

“What happens is I learn what people’s tastes are and recommend accordingly to make sure people enjoy our food, so I go above and beyond a normal salesperson.”

Kuih Lapis - a colorful coconut milk dessert
Kuih Lapis – a colorful coconut milk dessert

The family business which is currently a pop-up store as they “didn’t imagine it would be so popular” is now looking for a permanent space.

To concerned customers who have fallen in love with the traditional bakery, Aaron says: “We’re looking around, we’ve bid for one location, and we’re looking for East London to stay with the clientele.

“We will be doing crowdfunding soon to make sure we can stay open and employ staff, it will be live on our instagram page soon.”

As the Chinese New Year approaches, Aaron also subtly ensures that it is celebrated in the Ong Ong Buns way.

The East End is one of the beating hearts of the capital, so here at MyLondon we do our best to ensure you have the latest news, reviews and features in your area.

Now there’s a way to keep up to date with areas that interest you with our free email newsletter.

East London’s newsletter comes out twice a day and sends you the latest stories straight to your inbox.

From Barking to Bow, Canning Town to Canary Wharf, we’ll make sure you get the best every day.

To sign up for the East London newsletter, simply follow this link and select the newsletter that’s right for you.

And to really personalize your news experience on the go, you can download our top-rated free apps for iPhone and Android. Learn more here.

He said: “We will increase our production of cookies as we expect them to sell out quickly, they were made for Chinese New Year.

“We also do a lot of decorations, in fact we change decorations all the time and it’s going slowly at the moment – we have more red things and we will add things later too.”

You can visit Ong Ong Buns at 122 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 6DG.

Do you have a restaurant you think we should try? If so, email [email protected]

Want more MyLondon? Sign up to our daily newsletters for all the latest and greatest from London here.