Sanchin (山珍) nikuman (steamed buns), Okayama
Before leaving town, my friends decided to show me one of their favorite snacks in Okayama. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall Chinese place called Sanchin, which provides Chinese style bentos for people on the run, a small steam table buffet, but the real specialty of the house is their nikuman (steamed buns). Their standard nikuman looks like this: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/126/318265573_67c1b7f580_o.jpg
Besides the stewed pork, there are chunks of vegetables (takana perhaps), quail egg, and a gentle but deep flavor of a good stew. The stewed meat that fills a Japanese nikuman have a heavier soy sauce base than the standard Chinese versions, and this one took it to a level I hadn’t experienced in a steamed bun form.
Here’s a photo of some of the other nikuman they offer: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/140/318265552_dc8f40ebf7_o.jpg
There are steamed buns filled with mentaiko, ebi-chiri (usually a Szechwan-like spicy shrimp), memma (pickled vegetable), gomatori (sesame chicken is the translation, but not sure what that would mean in this instance), and hotate (scallop). I don’t think this photo captured the case fully, so there were others in there. I think I remember my friends telling me about a duck nikuman. I only got a couple of their house nikuman to take on the train with me. My only regret was not getting a bunch more to have later.
I should say something about nikuman in Japan. While I’m sure there are respectable versions of chiar shu bao around, like the ones you get in Chinatowns in the US, the Japanese have taken the idea of steamed bun and made it something characteristically Japanese. In fact, you can get nikuman at any convenience store. (I tried one from a Lawson or 7-11 in Tokyo since it’s been a while since I’ve had a generic Japanese style nikuman, and with that tasting, it really solidified Sanchin as a vastly superior version).
Some Sanchin info: http://www.sanyo.oni.co.jp/gourmet/gu...