Tuesday, May 18, 2010

For The Bun Of It

I am a big fan of street foot, especially ethnic street foot. Especially Asian street food. If it involves soy sauce, sesame oil or rice in any way, chances are I'm going to love it. Recently, a local favorite Chinese restaurant, Yen Ching, which has been a fixture in downtown for as long as I can remember, opened up a bakery right next door to their place. You can walk directly from inside the restaurant into the bakery -- smart!

So what the heck, we'd give it a try. Especially when I read that they'd be featuring one of my favorite Asian street food staples, Cha Siu Bao
, which made me delirious with glee. I was first introduced to these dollops of deliciousness years ago when the family first went out to dim sum in the Bay Area (predictably, I'm also a dim sum junkie).

Good street food is an art form -- it must balance taste, cost and convenience
in a delicate equilibrium. It has to be tasty, but unpretentious. It has to be filling, but not weigh you down. It has to be inexpensive, but not taste cheap. It has to be easily stored and transported, so neither supplier nor consumer has to fuss with it while on the go. Above all, it has to leave you wanting more, so you return. And that's not an easy set of criteria to fill. But Cha Sui Bao, in my opinion, fills them all, without parallel. It's the pinnacle of street food: You can eat it on the go anywhere and with one hand, with no napkin, no mess and it's delicious and varied. Perfect food engineering.

So down we went on Friday to check it out, after lunch at -- no surprise -- Yen Ching. I was delighted to see they produced a variety of bao...yellow curry, red bean, red bean and mochiko, vegetable, and pork (BBQ and plain), in both baked and steamed. A smorgasbord! And they were quite large, too, so we split a couple of them in our samplings. We tried them all, and I instantly fell in love with all of them. Hubby was especially nuts over the curry bun (he adores curry, and this is one potent yellow curry bun!), the vegetable steamed bao, the baked BBQ bao and the steamed plain pork bao (which tasted similar to a giant fantastic pot sticker or dumpling).
Fabulous! And at only $1.50 per bun, you can't beat that with a stick! One is easily a meal.

Now the baked bao is available all week (but watch out -- the curry one sells out quickly each day), but the steamed bao is only made on Sunday, and they sell out by Wednesday most times. So Hubby has a new mission each Monday.
Hubby also snagged a couple of their ham and cheese mini-buns today, so we have yet to try those. I think they'd make a perfect on-the-go breakfast. I also really like some of their other baked goods, such as the Butter milk bun, the coconut cream bun and their outstanding and addictive butter cookies.

Oh gads -- I'm in so much trouble now!
Long live street food!

"Great restaurants are, of course, nothing but mouth-brothels. There is no point going to them if one intends to keep one's belt buckled." ~ Frederic Raphael

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