HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >


Sun Say Kai - my official replacement for Mei Lai Wah

  • l

Off a chound tip, I've found my official replacement for Mei Lai Wah cha siu bao (pork buns). I stopped in there before heading to dim sum go go and was very pleasantly surprised. I got 1 steamed cha siu bao for $0.80. It's good size, the bread is very fluffy and soft, the sauce is the brown more savory sauce that I really like (not the sweeter red one you usually find), the ratio of filling to bread is perfect and the filling is not fatty or too tough. Some may say blasphemy, but my gf and I both thought it was actually better than the avg MLW bun, I've obviously only tried one here, so I don't know if they are consistent or not, but I highly recommend MLW fans try this place.

As far as the coconut bun, it was good, but not MLW good. It's much better, the filling is almost right as its sweeter and less buttery as i like it, but there is too much filling and the bread isn't quite as good. Also, they don't have that crispy sugar on top that I like.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. an address would be nice......

    4 Replies
    1. re: thew

      It's at the intersection of Baxter/Walker/Canal Streets

      Sun Sai Kai

      220 Canal Street

      1. re: fourunder

        yes that is the correct address and cross sts

      2. re: thew

        fourunder came through with the info, but for next time here's a nice option: Try a Places search ... http://www.chow.com/search?search%5Bq...

        Sun Say Gai
        220 Canal St, New York, NY 10013

        1. re: squid kun

          Or a simple Google search for Sun Say Kai New York,if it's not in Places:


      3. Thank you, Lau, for your report. Did they have any baked roast pork buns there?

        3 Replies
        1. re: Miss Needle

          Based on my two visits, both the steamed and baked roast pork buns are remarkably similar in style and preparation to Mei Lai Wah's--but perhaps a bit larger in size, and also in taste--analogous to slightly increasing the contrast and color saturation of a photo. I think that the filling also contains a bit more meat.

          1. re: meatme

            Thanks Meatme. Larger in size and more meat is good news for most people -- except for dieters.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              thats correct, but i didnt try the baked. they are bigger as meatme said

        2. Thanks, Lau. I am happy to have your confirmation on this. Excellent news- I can't wait to get down there.

          1. I tried one of these two weeks ago and thought the bun was tasty, but found the crumb of the bread a bit too coarse and not wet enough to my liking, and the filling a little less fatty than preferable. Hopefully these are symptoms of inconsistency (or better—and solvable by this community—the result of slow turnover).

            The coconut bun at MLW was incredible (it reminded me of Czech kolaches I used to eat in Texas), and it doesn't surprise me that these other places pale in comparison.

            1. i also realized i didnt type that the filling in the coconut bun is much better than the other places i tried (mee sum and chatham as those are too buttery), but the bread isnt as good as chatham

              1. It's ”新世界”. I never tried there, but seems very popular and good location too.

                1 Reply
                1. re: yabadabadaba

                  yeah in chinese the name of the restaurant says xin shi jie cha can ting --> new world tea cafeteria

                  the name printed in english is sun say kai restaurant

                2. Rd 2, i stopped by today at about 5:30, got a steamed cha siu bao...it was delicious, just as good as last time; shaping up to be consistent quality

                  1. SSK is very very good, and I have gone there for many years, but it's just not quite as good as MLW.
                    SSK is: central and convenient location. Spacious. Hot tea in a glass on your table with seconds after you sit down. Excellent shrimp noodle. Delicious. Yummy. Steamed and baked chicken and pork buns. Diligent, dedicated waiters. If your total check breaks $6.00 per person you are a better eater than I. I rarely hit $5.00. There are desserts on trays in the window, including a consciousness-erasing, wipeout coconut gel with a peanut center. And more hot tea. True masochists can also order from the roast pig/roast duck counter, and/or the "main menu." I have not blogged about SSK until now because it has always been 90 percent or more filled up and I was afraid publicity would overwhelm it. Now that the secret is out, let the games begin. The first result is that prices are likely to go up.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: asnet

                      well specifically when im comparing it to MLW, i was comparing the steamed cha siu bao (pork bun), which is one of my all time favorite things (i love anything with steamed buns generally and i usually love them more if they involve pork). I do think SSK's steamed cha siu bao (didnt try the baked) is as good or possibly better than MLW's....cant comment on anything else there besides the coconut bun, which is not nearly as good as MLW's

                      1. re: Lau

                        I had the baked pork bun at SSK upon rec from this board; they ran out of the steamed one when I went. I did not like the baked one. The bread to filling ratio was bad -- too much bread and I thought the bread was dry. Chatham is still my favorite albeit on the sweeter/gelatinous side. I'll give he steamed one a try next time I'm in Ctown.

                    2. lau,
                      thanks for the tip, us Boston MLW afficionados will definitely try SSK next trip to NYC, but right now, we are saving our pennies to pay for gas fill up for next trip.

                      1. I don't know how many times I've passed by Sun Say Kai through the years without giving it a second thought -- just didn't look clean enough. But based on your recommendations, I tried a steamed roast pork bun and a coconut bun there today. The filling of the steamed roast pork bun was perfect - a little salty, not too greasy or gelatinous; just the way I like it. There could have been more of the filling though; it was a bit too bready. Even so, worth return visits.
                        The coconut bun was ok, but nothing exciting and probably not worth the calories.

                        I also tried a steamed roast pork bun from Lucky King on Grand St. Their bun had the sweeter kind of filling that I don't like. The filling-to-bread ration was better at Lucky King than SSK, but the flavor of SSK's filling was so much superior that SSK's bun was the clear winner.

                        From Mee Sum on Pell St I picked up a coconut bun. This version comes much closer to the way I like them than SSK's. Mee Sum's filling was much less dense (more just a coating of the inner cavity than a filling), a little saltier, and a little more buttery (but not oppressively so).

                        I only had roast pork buns from Mei Lai Wah once and was very underwhelmed, so I can't offer any comparison to the buns from these other shops.

                        1. Thanks Lau for this find. Like others I have passed this place so many times without stopping in. But I did today and sampled their baked cha shao bao. Larger and more expensive than MLW at .90 cents each. While not as good as MLW, it was warm and fresh - a good substitute for my MLW craving none the less. MLW had the perfect bun-to-filling ratio. SSK has a bit too much bun or not enough meat filling. The meat filling was similar to MLW's though. Friendly service to boot. And they are open from 7 am to 9:30 p.m. daily.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: scoopG

                            glad you liked it although like i said i only have tried the steamed one as i like those alot more than the baked ones....if u like the steamed version, definitely try it as its up to par with MLW

                          2. my favorite thing to get at sun say kai is the steamed roll with sticky rice. their version is really phenomenal. i know it sounds weird, carb inside of carb but you must try it. been craving them for over 10+yrs since i discovered them.

                            1. Went in today (finally) and tried the roast pork buns. Overall, excellent. The filling was fantastic, the size and temp and freshness were all just right. One minor hiccup: There could have been a better ratio of meat to dough- the bun started to get a little bit dry as I ate it, and there wasn't quite enough pork to mitigate it.
                              I also tried the baked coconut bun, which I actually like very much. It was very fresh and moist, and just sweet enough. As Lau noted, not too much butter. The dough was nicely glazed and slightly sweet, as well.
                              Finally, the sesame ball. This was the only disappointment. It wasn't bad, just not as interesting as I would have liked. The outer crust was not as crispy as it could have been, and the bean filling was bland. I've gotten better ones at Kam Sen in White Plains, where they are surprisingly delicious.
                              Thanks, all, for the tip.

                              1. Looking forward to trying this place out...though I must admit I'll go in with a bit of a "show me" attitude, having been a big fan of Mei Lai Wah for at least 20 years. MLW will be very, very hard to beat...