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Jan 19, 2008 01:19 AM

Where can I find steamed Chinese buns?

Now that I discover May May bakery is closed, does anybody know where I can find those steamed Chinese buns -- like the ones Momofuku used for his pork buns? I've been making my own version and am devastated that the bakery closed down.

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  1. Mei Lai Wah at about 64 Bayard Street. No number on the front but it is diagonal from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory at # 65. They have the steamed BBQ pork buns and best baked BBQ pork buns at .75 each and a super deluxe bun stuffed with chicken and egg at $1.00.

    1 Reply
    1. re: scoopG

      Yes....Mei Lai Wah is THE BEST! The large buns are known as Cha Show Bao. This place has the very best steamed I've tried from all over the world. Baked is good too but easier to find good ones all over. I waited 45 mins in line last week. Afternoons are the height as people have them as a snack with coffee. And many come and order as many as 6 dozen to take out and they simply run out and you have to wait as they make more!

    2. If you mean just plain buns w/out stuffing, you can buy them frozen at most Chinese grocery stores. For example, Kam Man on Canal street. Also, I've seen them in many of the other Chinese bakeries packed in bags of 5 or 6. They're not flattened like the ones at Momofuku, but perhaps you could slice them open and stuff them that way.

      36 Replies
      1. re: chowmeow

        Thanks, I think I know what you're talking about -- but those buns are too fluffy for my purposes. I think it's the dairy that was in May May's buns that gave it a totally different texture.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          Just wanted to let you know that I was in C-town during the weekend and picked up some buns at the market on Hester and Elizabeth (Dynasty?). I tried two different brands -- one from the freezer and one in the refrigerated section. I tried them side by side tonight. The freezer one was actually closer to the original from May May but still not the same.

          They didn't have these at Kam Man for some reason.

          These buns will do for now but I am still on the hunt for those Momofuku-style buns.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            Sorry I haven't been to Momofuku so I don't know exactly what you are looking for. However, from the way you are describing the bun, it seems almost like a Chinese "Man-Tou" to me. (i.e. A steamed "bread" that has no filling.)

            I would have thought Kam Man would have it. You might have to search a few other grocery stores near Chinatown. One place I would recommend is "Deluxe Food Market" (Name "Der Chang" in Mandarin Chinese) at 79 Elizabeth Street. It's a big market that has multiple stalls selling meats, seafood, desserts, sushi, Chinese BBQ, etc. You might be able to find some steamed bun /bun-like items in the refrigerator /freezer section in the middle of the store (I vaguely remember seeing buns there but I am not 100% sure). This market has 2 entrances, one on Elizabeth Street and the other on Mott street so it occupies across a large area. You can check it out next time you are in Chinatown. Maybe they will have the buns you are looking for. Wish you good luck!

            1. re: bearmi

              Kam Man did have plain steamed buns. However, for the Momofuku style pork buns, I was looking for the steamed buns that have a pocket to put the filling in. I did find something close, but it was a bit too large and fluffy compared with what I used to get at May May.

              Here's a pic of momofuku's pork buns:

              1. re: Miss Needle

                What you're looking for is called "He2 Ye4 Bao1" (first word is more like HER without the R sound), and should be in the same section as the refrigerated sections of larger Chinese grocery stores, usually near the bean curd sections for some reason.

                He2 Ye4 Bao1 means Water Lily pad wrap. They are for wrapping peking duck, Honey ham, Taiwanese Hamburger.. and so forth. A regular Mantou (steamed bread) would be too tough and hard, not to mention too thick.

                1. re: HLing

                  I thought in Taiwan (and maybe in China too) it's popular to use Man-Tou to make sandwiches, in which the Mantou is sliced in the middle and filled with eggs or other items.

                  I understand He Ye Bao is something different but Mantou Hamburgers/Sandwiches are not unheard of in Taiwan.
                  I have not eaten at Momofuku so I have not seen their "Pork Bun" until Ms Needle posted the photo. For the longest time, I kept thinking it's a Cantonese BBQ Pork Bun we see at Dim Sum restaurants. Guess I need to get out more.. haha.

                  Check out these links.... I hope you can see photos.. (sometimes doesn't load) .. This kind of illustrates how I had initially (and incorrectly) envisioned the "pork bun" Ms Needle was talking about,,,






                  1. re: bearmi

                    Mantou are really a northern Chinese bing - I know they are found in Taiwan but the Taiwanese have discovered the merits of white bread and numerous ma-pa breakfast spots in Taipei use white bread for their delicious western style breakfast sandwiches (i.e. fried egg with ham and cucumber.) Tai Hong Lau at 70 Mott Street serves a type of mantou (vaguely!) for their Peking Duck which I don't recommend. Miss Needle, is that pork at Momofuko delicious? It looks like too much meat for too little bun!

                    1. re: bearmi

                      Bearmi, In Taiwan or not, we use all kinds of "bread" for sandwiches, just as in the US you have sandwiches made with bread from the soft and fluffy Wonder Bread to the chewy (we hope) bagel. There really isn't a rule somewhere saying that Mantou has to be the sole bread for anything Chinese, or in China, or in Taiwan....what have you.

                      In a pinch, Wonder Bread with the crust cut off are used for dishes like honey glazed ham because the texture is better for it. I had this long ago in a Chinese restaurant somewhere in New Jersey.

                      The term "Taiwanese Hamburger" is really not a good description (but some of the restaurants here in the US uses it on their menu), because it's with Pork Belly, not beef. Like Bigjeff and Lau were saying, they are called "Gua Bao" in Taiwanese. Other than that, yes, there are all sorts of western style eats (like Hamburgers) co-existing peacefully with the Chinese snacks in Taiwan.

                      1. re: HLing

                        I totally understand that Mantou is not the only "bread" that can be used to make a "sandwich". In fact, being Taiwanese, the first thing I though of was a "Gua Bao" when Ms Needle was looking for "buns". However, I didn't think Momofuku would be serving something like that because I have never been there (pardon my ignorance) so I asked her if "mantou" is what she was looking for.

                        What I was trying to say is that it is "possible" to make a sandwich out of Mantou. You have previously stated that "A regular Mantou (steamed bread) would be too tough and hard, not to mention too thick.". I had interpreted it as you not believing it's possible to make sandwiches out of "mantou" so I was tried show you a few pics. (Maybe I misunderstood you in this case!) However, like you have said, Wonder Bread, He Ye Bao/Gua Bao, Shao Bing, etc.. or even rice ("Rice Burgers" from MOS Burger). can all be used to make "sandwiches" in one form or another. You were 100% right with that one!

                        1. re: bearmi

                          Actually, the dish Momofuku serves is a Gua Bao, though they call it something else.

                          1. re: chowmeow

                            Yes I know. From the various postings above I gathered it is a Gua Bao. I was trying to explain my incorrect thought process of concluding that it's a Mantou. It's good that I learnd that it's a Gua Bao/He Ye Bao served at Momofuku. I probably won't be going there any time soon but at least I know they are been innovative!

                    2. re: HLing

                      mmmmm, taiwanese hamburger . . . . . they also call those breads "gua-bao", right?

                      and incidentally, I had a tong-po pork once (shanghainese restaurant in edison, NJ) that served, instead of a fluffy bun, more like miniature pocket "sau-bing" (sesame-studded flaky pastry that usually encloses you-tiao for the ultimate fried carbo-bomb) with an open top, and we scooped the meat into these deliciously crusty pockets. so friggin' good. anyone know of a place that serves that? I think this place has closed already.

                      1. re: bigjeff

                        well the "taiwanese hamburger" itself is called gua bao...i posted once trying to find it in flushing, but the only place that served it that i know of no longer does (it was one of the stands in the flushing mall)

                        as far as one serving it in a shao bing, i haven't seen that here (although plenty of places serve shao bing)

                        1. re: Lau

                          Red Chopstick in Flushing does decent version of gua bao but their stink tofu is what i go for there -- totally the best in nyc.

                          1. re: wadawada

                            ohh interesting, ill have to try it, thx for the rec (gua bao is my all time favorite taiwanese street food and chou dofu is up there as well)

                          2. re: Lau

                            Oh no! I'm sad that the Flushing Mall stand doesn't serve it any more! From another CH thread, I learned about a place called Province (iirc) which is on Church St. south of Canal. They serve "sandwiches" on steamed buns. The pork one is a gua bao, or very close to one, and is delicious.

                            1. re: chowmeow

                              province is terrible and their gua bao isnt even close to a real gua bao, the bread is all wrong and the pork isnt even close...momofuku is closer to the real thing, but still lacking

                              1. re: Lau

                                I agree on Province. Went WAY downhill and really sucks now.

                                >momofuku is closer to the real thing, but still lacking

                                in what sense?

                                1. re: kobetobiko

                                  i guess im being a bit of a snob bc i havent had one done correctly in NY. I think momofuku's is good and very tasty, but its just different than the real thing.

                                  If you go to a good street vendor in taiwan, its just awesome, the bread is so soft, the pork is unbelievably tender and had this great flavor b/c i think its been simmered in some type of soy based sauce for a while, pickled vegetables have such great flavor and they top it off with this sugar powder stuff although i always tell them to go light on it bc it can make it too sweet. In fact, the really good vendors allow to choose how fatty you want the pork.

                          3. re: bigjeff

                            You mean like the breakfast shao bing filled with sliced aromatic beef, but instead with fatty pork? That sounds good, too. With Tong-Po pork though, I tend to want something less greasy to offset the fat and sauce.

                            Too bad the good places always seem to close before we're ready. "only the good die young" , they say :)

                            1. re: bigjeff

                              I don't think shao bing are supposed to be used for tong-po pork! It was probably the restaurant's own take of serving it that way. Authentic tong-po pork is not be served shao bing.

                              In Peking / Shanghaiese restaurant, shao bing are usually served with a plate of stir fry meat - usually pickled mustard green and pork (or beef sometimes), in small dices or juliennes.

                              1. re: kobetobiko

                                ya I can't attest to the authenticity of serving shaobing like that because I'd never seen it before, and I haven't seen it since, but it was the most delicious tongpo pork I ever had. nothing like a sandwich but really, like a pocket, with the shao-bing crisp as can be, seemingly glazed from both the inside and out. I found my old review (11/7/2003) which incidentally, received some backlash because subsequent visits by other CHers weren't as great as mine; the folks I was dining with were in the chinese restaurant business so we really had a first-class "hooked-up" meal.


                            2. re: HLing

                              Thanks, HLing! I'll be in Flushing this weekend (due to the free LIRR service) and will look at some of the larger markets like Hong Kong Supermarket. Hong Kong in Manhattan is really terrible.

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                btw did you try Dynasty supermarket? i could've sworn ive seen them there

                                1. re: Lau

                                  That's where I got my substitutes. They're OK, but about twice the size and a bit thicker than the ones I'm looking for. Good, but no cigar. I know I'm being a bit fastidious trying to get that elusive bun!

                                2. re: Miss Needle

                                  If you saw some in Dynasty and it was not great, I'm not sure you'll have better luck in Flushing, although, you never know. I don't go to Hong Kong from either Chinatown. Usually I got to the one On Kissena blvd, behind and across the street from the library. I'm not sure of the name, but it's pretty big and inclusive.

                                  Also, like the other says, check out different bakeries. Besides the all-borough Taipan, in Flushing there's also Maxim's on 40 rd btw Prince and Main, and then 3 or 4 bakeries on the same block on Roosevelt btw Main and Prince. All of which are not part of a chain, I don't think.

                                  Good luck to you and enjoy!

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    I was in Hong Kong Flushing over the weekend. Unfortunately what I found there was similar to what I got at Dynasty. My quest continues.

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      Miss Needle - next time you are in Chinatown, check out the plain steamed buns (Mantou) at the Good Dumpling House (formerly Sundou) at 214-216 Grand. 8 in a package for $2.50. While they do not look like the ones at Momofuko, they might serve your purpose. The are more recangular in shape than round. Also, I am sure they are not made with any dairy. As you enter Good Dumpling, to your left is a large take-out area. That's where they are.

                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                          Miss Needle, I just saw a brand new batch of Chinese steamed goods at New Kam Man, 200 Canal, including what you're looking for, the He Ye Bao, which is written as such in Chinese, but only "Folded Buns" in English. Go straight to the back and you'll see it: clear plastic bag with bright green color on the front for this particular kind. Other colors for other types of steamed goods, including mini mantou, ones made with milk added, as well as egg added. It's a whole line of goods from Lahambra, California's DK Bakery.

                                          Whether it's good or not you'll have to let us know, but I'm assuming that you will resteam it before eating so that it will be softened.

                                          1. re: HLing

                                            Thanks HLing! Didn't see this post until now. I will give it a shot.

                                3. re: Miss Needle

                                  Ah.. I see the photo now... I walk by Momofuku all the time but I still haven't been inside... should have done it then I would know exactly what you are talking about. If I see this "He Ye Bao" around in Chinatown, I will let you know. I suspect it's possible that Momofuku gets their buns from some special bakery or perhaps they make their own... I agree with you that store bought ones might be too fluffy /wet /soft.

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    Miss Needle, why don't you ask Momofuku where it gets its buns? When I was there last year and asked if the buns were made on premise, I was told "no."

                                    1. re: gloriousfood

                                      I guess I could try that. Sometimes restaurants are hesitant to let their customers know this information.

                                      1. re: gloriousfood

                                        The GQ story on David Chang says "a commercial Chinese bakery makes the buns" BTW.

                                        1. re: kathryn

                                          Yeah, DH subscribes to GQ. I always thought it was May May bakery. Guess I was wrong.

                              1. Wu Liang Ye makes my favorite mini-pork buns. They're fantastic. (Not sure how they compare to Momofuku's, as I've not had their version)


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: LeahBaila

                                  yeah grand sichuan on st marks serves them with their cumin lamb and i always get extra ones, but i always referred to them as "man tou", but my chinese is pretty bad, so i defer to Hling

                                2. Good news! I was at Deluxe Food Market yesterday and saw the "He Yeh Bao" ( "荷葉包" in Chinese). Unfortunately, they are only labeled in Chinese (i.e. as "荷葉包") so there is no English label next to them. But I am sure if you don't know Chinese you can just point at them and the clerk can get them for you. I didn't eat any of the buns so I don't know what the quality is like. The buns were stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator, along with other Chinese buns and steamed cakes, etc. Again, Deluxe Food Market is called "Der Chang" in Mandarin Chinese and the location is at 79 Elizabeth Street (The "Chinese Bun" stall is the first stall on your right if you enter through Elizabeth Street entrance). Hope you will find them ok (or maybe you already have! :)

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: bearmi

                                    Thank you, bearmi! I'll check it out soon!

                                    1. re: bearmi

                                      I just found this thread, eagerly read through the drama of the he ye bao quest, and am so happy that Deluxe Food Market came through--it's one of the main reasons I'm still a big supporter of Manhattan's Chinatown. In fact, I've never even bought frozen dumplings from a dumpling-specific vendor because Deluxe Food Market's are so good.

                                      1. re: bearmi

                                        I was just at this market and also saw the bag of folded style mantou buns in the display case. (Elizabeth Street entrance, immediate right hand side). The receipt for my purchase lists the name "DELUXE MEAT MARKET INC." 81 Elizabeth Street, NY, NY 10013. There's a phone number, but as it is an all Asian staff, there may be a language barrier with no guarantee that they'll be able to interact over the phone. 212-925-5766