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Baked Pork Bun from Kings Bakery in SF’s Mission

Kings Bakery offers up Mexican pan dulce alongside Chinese pastries. In addition the specialty and most popular item seemed to be French bread, baked in rolls of three sizes, judging from the expanse of shelf space allocated to them. Hot bread comes out of the oven at 11am and 4pm Mondays through Saturday and at 11am on Sundays. Signs in Tagalog and Spanish warn to not touch the bread with your hands.

I’m not much of one for conchas, so instead I picked up the pan de queso, the dryish style Mexican cheesecake to try. While I enjoy the usual crumbly texture, the example here went too far toward grainy and dry.

I had better luck with the baked pork bun (char siu bao) I tried. Pretty good size, as it should be for the more than a buck price. This was the old-fashioned kind, made with firmer, non-sweetened dough. The generous roast pork filling was also notably less sweet than the market. The diced leanish meat was dark brown, not dyed red, and tasted really meaty and not just of the seasonings. Approaching the same price as Café Bakery’s, I’m not making a special trip to the Mission to stock up on Kings’ pork buns. But I’d certainly pick up one should I be in the neighborhood and in need of a protein snack.

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Kings Bakery Cafe
2846 Mission St, San Francisco, CA

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  1. Glad to read your report because I just walked in there the other day and thought about going back when I was feeling more adventurous. It's an odd place that at first glance gave me an impression some items might be fresher then others. Odd mix of a lot of stuff I like to eat though.

    Any of those fatty pieces in the bun that you couldn't chew through?

    3 Replies
    1. re: sugartoof

      "Any of those fatty pieces in the bun that you couldn't chew through?"

      No, but I've never found any fat that I couldn't chew through in any pork bun. As far as gristle, I'm not a good person to ask, as some amount of gristle isn't going to bother me. I pay good money for tripe, tendons, and other ligamentous chewy things elsewhere and relish them.

      Again, Kings' is not a revelatory pork bun. I called it out because it's the old-fashioned style. Modern ones are sugared up in the filling to an excess in many cases and use a soft balloon bread sweetened dough with sticky glaze on top. It was refreshing to taste something that was undyed, very savory, and tasted more home-makish.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Speaking of which, I ordered both steamed and baked char sui bao at Fu Lam Mum in Mountain View yesterday. The dim sum lunch service there is quite good - lots of carts, and an upstairs area with lots of deuce tables (and an elevator to bring the carts up).

        I was quite happy with both the baked and the steamed, but the baked were actually "Hey! That's a good bao!". As you mention - dark, lots of dark savory spice (cinnamon / clove / star anise / darker than standard "5 spice") - not overly sweet in the filling, bun, or glaze. The steamed were more forgettable.

        I was quite hungry and ate more than I should have. $25 got me out the door. I still prefer Joy Luck in San Mateo hands down, but further south, this is a good choice.

        1. re: bbulkow

          I'd like to know more about joy luck in san mateo...good baked pork buns? I'd rather not go into the city for them and we're coming from belmont...please read my last post and you'll understand...

    2. earlier today i swung by king's based on your report. i hardly ever eat pork buns because of the overwhelming sweetness, so i was intrigued by these. plus, they're just blocks away from me. i've never found anything i've had at king's to be that notable. i noted that you weren't pushing these as exemplary, and even with my limited experience, i would agree. but they were meaty, not too sweet, with a filling that wasn't a frightening shade of red.

      i've never appreciated the idea of pork as dessert, so this subdued version made me happy. plus it's just down the street. any recs or links to threads about similar (but better) versions in the city? i really don't like those candy sweet ones, but i can see myself popping into kings on the way home from BART or happy hour for a quick snack.

      1. I stopped by Kings Bakery today for a late lunch to try a pork bun and pick up some bread for dinner. The pork bun was good, not excellent, as Melanie stated, but pretty filling for $1.20. Decent quality meat inside and I'm pretty picky about that. The french bread is just OK. It's fresh, but a little on the sweet side, and soft. It'd make a good picnic sandwich. The rolls, which are about 4" long, were a quarter each.

        5 Replies
        1. re: farmersdaughter

          Thanks for letting us know how the french rolls are. Also the price of the pork bun, as I couldn't remember exactly. Have you noticed any other pork buns in the Mission? I did step into another Chinese bakery on Mission St but didn't see anything that was appealing enough to try.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Dragon City Bakery and Grand MIssion Donuts at 2194 Mission are places to check.

            I haven't been inside either personally, but the sign for Grand Mission looks particularly weathered to me, like it's been there a good while, and there's Chinese writing which suggests they might sell more then just the donuts.

            Big Lantern has dim sum.

            1. re: sugartoof

              Dragon City would be a likely suspect, as they own AA Bakery on Stockton St. in Chinatown, known for its mooncakes. Some of AA's goods are actually made at Dragon City.

              1. re: sugartoof

                I did a quick pass through Dragon City during my trial run and didn't see anything particularly appealing. But it was late afternoon and maybe the good and fresh things had already sold out. Didn't seen any mooncakes though most places don't have them after September. Let us know if you find anything worthwhile there.

            2. re: farmersdaughter

              For some reason, the bigger loaves are better in my opinion--they go faster though. It's really a shame there's no great bread bakery in the south part of the mission.

              The cylinder-shaped coconut buns are also worth trying.

            3. 7x7 mentioned the coconut buns as one of the top 100 things to eat in 2010 at King's Bakery, SF.

              web article:
              http://7x7.com/blogs/bits-bites/big-e...