Monday, December 19, 2011
Char Siu Bao - Chinese Pork-filled buns
So I have a work colleague who is native Chinese, and drives through lower Manhattan on the way to work. The two of us were on the same project this week, and basically spent the last three working days trapped in the same room all day. He's the guy who typically makes the phone call if we're getting Chinese take-out for lunch- not for reason of stereotype, but because he'll order in chinese, and ends up getting us items that are off-menu, or gets us a free side of dumplings or some such treat. In any case, this week he stopped at a shop he knows in New York's Chinatown, and brought in a treat to share with us- those little-known but very good pork filled sweet rolls called "Siu Bao" - and they certainly are a tasty treat!
I don't actually know which of the many shops in Chinatown he goes to for these (there are many!), and I'm not going to ask him to give up his secrets (as long as he brings me a free one now and then!). These things are just plain good- the bread is a sweet bread similar to a brioche or a challah with a little bit of a sticky glaze on top. The bread is soft and a little chewy on the inside from the steam coming off the flavorful filling inside.
Open one up, and you'll find that they're hollow. The sweet bun hides a pocket filled with bits of roasted pork and onions in a thick reddish-brown sauce that is savory with a little acidic tang to it. When they're warm, you'll get a little burst of fragrant steam as you dig in. They're not too, heavy, not too light (just right?) and everything about them screams "comfort food". I've seen them with other fillings too - the tuna salad Siu Bao sounds strange, but work surprisingly well too.
I've actually had these before I met my current co-worker - I had one at a friend's house back when I was in high school, so they always bring back a few old memories. With any filling, Siu Bao is a welcome treat that pairs well with a cup (or ten) of utility office coffee any day of the week.