WelcomingHK (@welcominghk) / X

 Author: Joyce Chiang, Communications Manager of Welcoming Committee for Hong Kongers


When I first heard about ‘Uncle E Bakery’, I imagined a friendly chap by the name of Eric, or maybe Ernie, kneading dough with his hands. However, as Kelvin and Andy of Uncle E explained to me, it’s actually a kind of Cantonese pun based on the old tale of Ah-Mau, a baker from Guangzhou.

Uncle E at one of the pop up markets (source: Uncle E facebook)

The story goes that Ah-Mau was a hard-working baker from Guangzhou who, at the end of every day, would check his store to see what cakes were nearly sold out, and then head back to the kitchen to cook another batch. In colloquial Cantonese, 阿茂整餅 Amau Jing Bang, or ‘to bake like Ah-Mau’, means to be engaged in busy work, or else to be looking for something to do. So it’s quite common to hear Cantonese bakers self-deprecatingly refer to themselves as an Ah-Mau!

But why the E? That’s because 茂 mau is, in traditional culture, the fifth of the Ten Heavenly Stems, a numerical system used in astronomy, religious ceremonies, and divination practices such as those found in the I Ching. So as ‘E’ is the fifth letter of the alphabet, it’s a kind of English equivalent of mau.

But back to baking. These ‘uncles’ had experience running a food and beverage business back in Hong Kong. Kelvin worked with his family at a booking-only restaurant serving fusion cuisine, while Andy ran a Chinese restaurant. Kelvin and Andy knew each other from their university days studying engineering, so when they learned that they were both about to move to the UK, they knew the time was right to go into business together bringing Hong Kong food and culture to the locals.

As experienced business owners in this field, both of them knew the difficulties they were likely to encounter. ‘Hong Kong is relatively small and it is easy for people to travel around and hunt for the restaurants that have good reputation on the internet. However, it is more difficult for many people to do the same in the UK, especially when our potential customers may be scattered in different cities. Running a booking-only restaurant may be quite difficult to sustain,’ said Kelvin. Consequently, the two started thinking about how to make products that could overcome the geographical boundaries.

Wife cakes by Uncle E (source: Uncle E facebook)

When Kelvin and Andy ran their restaurants back in Hong Kong, pineapple cake (shortbread) and cashew biscuits were staple items on the menu. They can store for a long time, making it easier for delivery and reach to different parts in the UK. So, Uncle E started with these two products, with the flaky pastry known as ‘wife cake’ coming soon afterwards. ‘It was a suggestion from my wife: she can make tasty wife cakes,’ said Andy. ‘So our “wife cake” story coincides with the stories of how the wife cake came from, haha!’.

Uncle E is passionate about bringing high quality Hong Kong foods to UK customers. After conducting a set of trials to ensure their ‘wife cakes’ were tasty and long-lasting, they brought them to market in Glasgow. ‘On the first day we sold out our products, including the wife cake, already - we kindly of expected as there were quite a lot Hong Kongers in that market. But all in a sudden, on the second day, many locals came to our booth and asked for wife cake! It was one of the customers who tried on the first day, shared their review in the local network - then many locals were attracted to our booth’,

The two also support those in need. ‘Once when we were in another pop-up market, we saw a Hong Konger youngster looking at their wife cake, tempted, but we were told that they only got less than 5 quid in his pocket. We just treat them some wife cakes’. They were later told by the youngster that the wife cake had soothed his homesickness, giving him energy to move on to tackle the various challenges in settling in the UK.

Uncle E dedicated to introduce Hong Kong culture to everyone in the UK. (source: Uncle E facebook)