HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >

Discussion

The Great Char Siu Bao Debate

OK-in my pursuit of the best char siu bao in the naked city (second only to the the search for the best banh mi, pizza, hot dog, burger, oysters, etc. ,etc.) I need help. First of all, let's set the parameters. We are only talking pork buns, not hot dog, pineapple, coconut, mystery meat, etc. For me, it's gotta be baked not steamed. Now here's where it gets interesting. The Board hailed the reopening of Mei Li Wah on Pell along with the return of their char siu bao with almost as much enthusiasm as I had celebrating the reopening of the 2nd Ave. Deli. While they certainly have the freshest buns (no doubt owing to the tremendous turnover) I do not find their baked pork buns superior to other bakeries. Now I prefer the filling to be Chinese roast pork with the sweet Chinese barbecue sauce. Red coloring is optional but a good indicator of my preference. Mei Li Wah, although very good, is more the pork belly or perhaps pork shoulder variety, more onions and no sweet sauce. In fact, my criticism was that the pork often has a harder chewy bit of fat in it as compared to many other buns I've had. I don't have an absolute favorite bakery, particularly since they are often cold or stale depending upon timing. Lately I've liked Carriage House just south of Canal on Essex. Thank God I have a forum where the important things in life can be discussed rather than the economy, politics, etc., etc. And at an average price of $0.80 per bun, I am doing my bit to stave off starvation during the current depression and corrupt administration.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. i think the problem you're facing is that the board (and myself) has generally been looking for the exact opposite of your taste. When people are talking about MLW as being the best, they are a) referrring to the steamed bao and b) prefer a more savory sauce as opposed to sweet sauce. That said, I prefer Sun Say Kai's bao slightly to MLW's b/c their meat quality is better.

    I'm not a huge fan of the baked version at either place. I dont think ive had an outstanding baked cha siu bao in NY. I'd love to hear if u find one though

    10 Replies
    1. re: Lau

      Hi Lau,

      I think when people mentioned about MLW having the best pork bun, they are referring to the baked buns and not steamed. I have tried both and the steamed buns were just mediocre. The dough was too thick and not fluffy at all. While the baked pork buns had poor fillings (I agree with GG in this case), the baked bun itself was slightly sweet and very much to my liking.

      1. re: kobetobiko

        Hi kobetobiko - im pretty sure people are talking about the steamed ones, but any which way i generally think their steamed bread is better than the other places in ctown although that isn't saying much alot of times and the few times i tried the baked ones, i was uninspired.

        I also agree with you about the point in the post below that most of these places dont make their own cha siu unlike HK...and now that you mentioned it, i dont think ive ever had a cha siu bao in a bakery in HK (one of those things that u never even realize until you think about it). Which i guess is my issue at the end of the day with MLW's bao...their filling is that it has too many chunks of fat in it and SSK's doesn't really have that problem

        all that said, i still do like SSK and MLW quite a bit as cha siu bao has always been one of my favorite things ever (any type of fatty pork in a steamed bun is a huge favorite of mine)

        and one thing u just reminded me of was last time i went to SSK they gave me a steamed bao, but the bread was different instead of being a totally closed bao where the bread is smooth on top it was the kind where the top is slightly open so u can see the filling...it was not good at all, the bread was way too doughy and the ratio of bread to meat was way off (way too much bread making it somewhat dry), i was disappointed...make sure to specify if u go there

      2. re: Lau

        I tried steamed cha siu bao at Mee Sum a small hole in the wall cafe on Pell St. It was fresh, on wax paper, no hole on top,tasted good, but underfilled. They did have overstuffed lo may gai ,, and other sticky rice in lotus leaf i.e. peanut, pork , green bean for $1.75, they were smaller sized. The Lo May Gai was $4.50.
        down the street was what once was Hong Gung 30 pell. is now Delight at 28 Pell. They do their own baking and the baked cha siu bao was very good. with wax paper.
        I will try the dim sum again, as (HongGung)30 pell IMHO was the best dim sum in Chinatown for many years.

        1. re: foodwhisperer

          Now that my go-to place for char siu bao (baked) is gone --- old Hop Shing/Chatham, I've been on the look out for a new place in Chinatown. I tried Mee Sum yesterday - the steam version. It was awful -- low meat to bun ratio and the little bit of filling that was there was minced fat! I've tried both the baked and steamed ones at MLW and the filling is still too fatty for me. I also tried Sun Say Kai and was unimpressed with their steamed char siu bao but their steamed sticky rice bun is very good. I plan to check out Fong Hing, Ah Wong and Manna 2 but are there others worth trying; my preference is a balanced ratio of saucy lean filling in either baked or steamed bun.

          -----
          Mee Sum Cafe
          26 Pell St, New York, NY 10013

          1. re: wadawada

            SSK - it's weird SSK changed their cha siu bao so instead of being the enclosed fluffy bun (like MLW) they now have their cha siu semi open and the bread is much denser. The filling is still good, but the bread has gone downhill. I used to think they were the best in chinatown, but no longer

            Mee Sum - I agree with you, I don't like Mee Sum's cha siu bao.

            MLW - still the best although my issue with them is that the cha siu itself is just decent, sometimes it has chunks of fat (not the good kind of fat that is tasty). The sauce and the bun they use are better than other ctown places though

            1. re: Lau

              I found two satisfactory replacements: For steamed char siu bao, Ah Wong Bakery (42 Mott St. 85 cents) is quite good. Fluffy white bun with a lean, saucy filling. I wanted to make sure I had a bite while it was fresh and ended up eating the whole bun. For the baked version, I found the Manna 2 Bakery (87 E. Broadway, 90 cents) bun to be pretty good. I had it reheated (mic 15 sec) the next day and both the bread and the filling held up to sitting overnight. The meat was pretty lean, with pieces of softened onions, and while not as saucy as Hop Shing, it was flavorful. I wanted to try Fong Hing Bakery (139 Hester St) but it was closed, looks like they are renovating.

              -----
              Fong Hing Bakery
              139 Hester St, New York, NY 10002

              1. re: wadawada

                at ah wong, is the cha siu filling the sweet red one? that is the thing that i like at MLW (and at SSK) they don't have that overly sweet red filling, its much darker and brown colored and it is less sweet and more savoury

                1. re: Lau

                  Yes, Ah Wong's cha siu filling is red and on the sweeter side. The filling at Manna is darker, more savory. I like them both.

                  1. re: wadawada

                    WIll have to check out Manna...I prefer the more savory filling over the red, artificially colored stuff.
                    I do like _some_ fatty bits in the filling though and actually am disappointed when the bao are filled with meat that's totally lean...The fat is a delicacy and including it just seems more 'authentic' (and certainly more flavorful).

                    1. re: The Professor

                      i ate a bun from MLW yesterday and they are still good, i will have to try wadawada's places

      3. "Thank God I have a forum where the important things in life can be discussed rather than the economy, politics, etc., etc."

        Right on. One thing, though: Mei Li Wah's on Bayard, not Pell. (I figured you probably knew this anyway, but I wouldn't want people wandering into Mee Sum Cafe, which is on Pell, thinking that it's MLW) I'm also in Lau's camp regarding the pork in their buns; I lean towards the less-sweet, more porky, more fatty. When MLW's pork buns are on, they're soft and chewy on top, with a nice, charred, crisp bottom. In my experience, no one else, including Sun Say Kay, gets that consistency going in a bun.

        Enjoy your quest.
        P.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Polecat

          Wandering into Mee Sum wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. When the filling ratio is generous, their steamed char siu bao are really good for the 'hood. I've also been more than satisfied by their other dim sum offerings (of which there tend to be more available on the weekends). Next to no English is spoken, so I do a lot of pointing.

        2. I’m certainly not the aficionado that others on this board are, but I very much like the baked buns at Golden Fung bakery on Mott Street almost directly opposite Pell. They’re often out of them by late afternoon, but when they have them I find them a bit sweeter (I like that as well) and less fatty or gristly than many others.

          1. Hi GG,

            I very agreed with your assessment of MLW's baked pork buns. I only like the bun itseft when was soft and slightly sweet and complemented the savory char siu filling. However, your description of the char siu filling was dead on and I completely agreed with you.

            Sun Sai Kay's pork buns have the pork filling on the more reddish and sweet side and I like the flavor better than MLW's, but the filling is often with dry meat and the lack of sauce makes the bun sort of dry.

            I haven't tried Golden Carriage but will certainly pay a visit next time.

            What I do agree with Lau is the fact that there isn't any pork bun in Chinatown that is particularly outstanding.

            6 Replies
            1. re: kobetobiko

              Oh, just want to elaborate a bit.

              I think the problem of not having good char siu filling for the pork buns in these bakeries stemmed from the fact that they don't make their char siu in-house (except for Sun Sai Kay, which may be why their filling was a bit better). These bakeries often get their char siu from other BBQ places and end up with less than top quality pieces for the filling (and of course cost saving for the cheaper pieces). The result is what you see. In Hong Kong, people tend to enjoy char siu buns at dim sum restaurants which also have their own BBQ departments and make their char siu in house. The quality of the pork buns is substantially better. ( and in Hong Kong, it is not really that popular to get char siu buns at bakeries, relatively to all the other bread and buns available)

              I have a few pictures of char siu buns from my recent trip to Hong Kong. They were SO good because the restaurants I went were famous for the char siu in the first place. The third picture is what I consider as good ratio of pork filling vs bun (though steamed bun in this case)

               
               
               
              1. re: kobetobiko

                man these look so good...if only HK wasn't an 18 hr flight away

                1. re: kobetobiko

                  I wonder. There is enough of a taste difference among the different places to suggest they are making them in-house. Cha Shao Bao is fundamentally a good thing - like hamburgers. I have some Cantonese friends that swear by the baked ones at the bakery on Grand (east of Bowery - the name escapes now) and do not like MLW's ones. Me thinks not.

                  1. re: scoopG

                    I can imagine that these bakeries may be marinating some pork pieces with char siu sauce (or alike) to make the filling, but there is no way that they are making char siu like a real BBQ place such as Big Wong as it requires extensive bbq skills and techniques and oven to make outstanding char siu.

                2. re: kobetobiko

                  "there isn't any pork bun in Chinatown that is particularly outstanding."

                  That's been my experience, too. Even places that have other good dim sum items, like the dumplings at Dim Sum Go Go, tend to make overly doughy bao without particularly good char siu inside. Though in fairness, I haven't been to Mei Lai Wah (I hear the time to go there is early morning, and I'm seldom up then).

                  1. re: kobetobiko

                    golden carriage has a good baked char siu bao. The steamed char siu bao at Chatham I like. Wo Kee on Doyers had the first char siu bao I've ever had in chinatown, it was good way back when they were the only dim sum restaurant, time to try again.

                  2. Can you try one of the big ones at Hon Cafe (70 Mott St.) and report back?

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      ive tried them...they are terrible, one of the worst bao i've had in a long time

                      someone told me that they were awesome, so i went and tried them. They are huge (like really big), the meat / bread ratio is way way off, so the u end up having to take a couple bites before u even reach meat b/c there is so much bread. The bread was very doughy and not fluffy at all. The sauce was decent (more savory as opposed to sweet, which i prefer), but the cha siu itself was way too dry sort of like cha siu that has been a bit overcooked

                      1. re: Lau

                        Hi Lau,

                        I agree with Hon's char siu bao - I tried and will never buy again. Lau's assessment is pretty much the same as mine. Also try Long Moon, again, too little filling. But Long Moon's cream bun (the one that looked like a spiral with custard cream in it) was pretty good.

                        1. re: kobetobiko

                          u know where might be worth checking out is chatham (the old school ratty one at 9 Chatham)...a long time ago they had good bao like when i first moved to NY, but then they changed mgmt (used to be hop shing) and they weren't quite as good as before, but its probably worth checking out b/c its been a long time since ive had one there and that place is definitely still popular with the old locals

                          1. re: Lau

                            From what I remember from last Christmas, their char siu bao were solid and acceptable, but not amazing. But that may be the best we can get in Manhattan at this point.

                            1. re: Pan

                              I agree with Lau and Pan's assessments with 9 Chatham Square's char siu bao. Solid, arguably not as good as I remember what it used to be when I was a kid (my dad grew up with these when he was a teenager and introduced me to them) about a decade or so ago.

                            2. re: Lau

                              Chatham is very good but again it's the savory oniony version. When I was in college (NYU) there was a a non-descript take-out Chinese place with a few tables below sidewalk level on 8th Street between 6th and 5th. Their char siu bao kept me and the future Mrs. GG alive for four years and were $0.60 a piece. They were the best!

                              1. re: guttergourmet

                                i know which place u were talking about (went to NYU too)

                                btw I tried Chatham again today and it was good. The bread was very good with the right ratio and relatively fluffy (a bit sweeter than MLW or SSK). The pork itself was lean, not quite as tender as I prefer, but pretty decent nonetheless. The sauce had a good flavor (savory as you said as opposed to sweet). The one issue I did have with it was that the ratio of sauce to meat was too high and the sauce itself was kind of gloppy as in too much starch or something. All that said, its still one of the better cha siu bao in ctown

                                1. re: Lau

                                  Is 9 Chatham Sun ("New") Hop Shing which was just plain "Hop Shing" many years ago? Next to the OTB? If so, I would agree that I found their baked pork buns to be on par with old MLW. Different, but on par. I had difficulty ranking one versus the other. I think SHS has onions, or more onions, whereas MLW didn't. But I liked both. But that was before MLW renovated. Recently, I went into MLW after it renovated. Putting aside my repulsion at its new decor and having completely stripped away the most-prized aspects of the old vibe for the moment as irrelevant to this thread, I did find the pork buns shrank a bit, and no longer had, or stuck to the bottom of, the individual piece of wax paper that it used to be served on, prior to renovation. It seemed "meager" compared to its forebear. So, really, nostalgia aside, any meaningful discussion needs to consider the MLW in its current incarnation. Post-renovation, I don't think MLW can compare with Chatham. I have never tried the baked pork buns at SSK or Mee Sum.

                                  1. re: nooyawka

                                    yeah thats the right hop shing, right next to the OTB, it mightve been called sun hop shing, i cant remember b/c its been 4-5 yrs since it changed

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      Ever since MLW closed and reopened, i feel their baos are not the same. MLW used to be my absolute favorite hands down but now, i must admit that i've moved on to Hop Sing which according to a lot of old toi san grams and gramps is the best in chinatown. If youre looking for that other kind of cha siu bao i think the best would be Lai Sum on Catherine street (purple awning across from the school)

                                    2. re: nooyawka

                                      Hop Shing I thought had really good bao and dim sum.. The newer , same location Chatham has good cha siu bao. Theirs is juicy, lot of onions , I had one today , Then went a couple of doors down to Chatham Sq. that used to be Pho Banh and tried to get a cha siu bao but they sent me to where i had just come from . Yesterday i had a Cha sie bao at a fairly new place, I think its new anyway,, QQ bakery maybe it is 00 bakery on east bway, the bao wa biger than usual , but not all that much filling. the meat was good quality but not much sauce and no onions. Golden Carriage is good but i'm liking Chatham the best now,,Im talking about the baked ones.. The steamed ones I used to like the ones at 30 Pell St. fresh made,,
                                      Oh, QQ bakery had a pastry i havent seen before ,,it was same as egg custard but it was white not yellow, it was coconut egg custard, i liked that alot

                        2. It doesn't help you, but I used to love the ones at May May bakery on Pell, which is sadly closed.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: bolletje

                            i miss may may...it was the only place in ctown that had good zhongzi

                            1. re: Lau

                              For the savory filling crowd, I should mention that the Not Just Rugeleach stand at the Dag Hammarskjöld farmers market on Wensadays sells a suprisngly good version. In fact I would be hard pressed to say I've had a better one in recent years, INCLUDING those I've had in Chinatown. Oh and they are the baked ones.

                            2. re: bolletje

                              The buns from May May Bakery were AMAZING. Perfect party treat. 9 buns in a box. They were so fricking addictive. I miss them so much!!!

                            3. Best char siu bao ever, steamed or baked: the late lamented HSF (Hee Seung Fung). Perfection. Does anyone know if the new place located there kept the same chefs, or where they might have gone to? The idea of never having one of those bao again (or har gow) is devastating...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Miss Rennie

                                I'm guessing Sun Shine 27 has its own crew, since it's apparently the new location of a pre-existing restaurant, Sunrise 27 on Division. On the other hand, the new restaurant at 27 Division St., Jing Star Seafood, seems to be a continuation of Sunrise 27, so who knows for sure?

                              2. Does anybody know where, besides Jing Fong (at least I used to be able to), I can get char siu sho? If that's how you spell it? It's a char siu bao filling with flaky pastry outside, like a tiny BBQ pork pie...again, HSF had them, but the only other place I've ever seen them is Jing Fong. And they're really good...

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: Miss Rennie

                                  Try some of the bakeries along East Broadway. Most of them carry it. I particuarly like the ones at one place that's about a third of the way down (from the Bowery side). Name esacpes me, but I think it had an orange sign, and I remember that on the wall opposite of the door was a poster from the USPS showing a mailman dressed as the Monkey King. BTW thnak you for giving me the name of things, I'd never heard if before. I hope were taking about the same thing (most of the bakeries make them in the from of a folded triangle, rather than the three fold triangle the dim sum houses use (basically think apple turnover shape, rather than hammentashen shape)

                                    1. re: Chandavkl

                                      Actually seeing the book, I think it was the QQ bakery at 50 E. Broadway, I dont know why I though the sign was orange (probably had just walked past the white swan bakery and got the sign colors confused)

                                  1. re: Miss Rennie

                                    I believe I had them @ Oriental Garden on Elizabeth Street. I also like the curry versions you can get in the bakeries......There's a bakery on the west side of Mulberry Street between Bayard and Canal that has them for around .70 each.

                                    1. re: fourunder

                                      Yup, I've had them at OG a number of times for dim sum.

                                      (Although if you really REALLY like char siu sou, you should go to Flushing and head to Perfect Team Corporation, who make the best I've ever had!)

                                      1. re: kathryn

                                        agree with kathryn their cha siu sou is quite good, in fact all of their dim sum is high quality

                                        1. re: kathryn

                                          Same folks BTW who own Jing Fung in Manhattan -which gets no dim sum praise. Go figure.

                                        2. re: Miss Rennie

                                          chatham (the new one) has cha siu so

                                          1. re: Miss Rennie

                                            Miss Rennie, this may seem odd, but one of the best 叉烧酥 Cha Siu Su I had was the vegetarian verison at Boddhi Bodai on 5 Mott street. Being a vegetarian (and I think Kosher) restaurant, it's kind of funny that one of their famous dish is the BBQ. Somehow they're able to get the texture (tender gluten and some charred edges) and the sauce right. Inside fried pastry the sauce + "meat" pieces are pretty much perfect.

                                            As for baked cha siu Bao I have had a pretty good one recently from Fong Hing Bakery at 139 Hester: the bread is good,neither too bready nor too flimsy; the sauce and meat ratio is alright, and is suddenly more than the same bakery's steamed cha siu bao. The steamed cha siu bao here has tender and moist bread, but not enough filling. In fact, the real star of this bakery is the steamed pork and veggie buns (cai rou bao). If you happen to be there when there are some freshly ready in the steamer, be sure to get 2, or 3, otherwise you'd be back tracking as you finish one and want another. It's THAT good. The steamed bread is really fluffy and tender and flavorful, the filling isn't much but somehow, or maybe it's because of the ratio and moisture, you don't need to chew much, they just slide down easily: no greasy after taste, nor strange fatty bits. It's a well-balanced cai rou bao in the same way that their Lao Po Bing (老婆饼)is so much better than most I've had. The cai rou bao has the savory taste and scent of a pork and veggie juices without the stink of the pork that you often get from most others (maybe they just know how to use ginger); the Lao Po Bing has the delicate pastry with a very nice Barley Malt fragrance and light sweetness that reminds me of the 太阳饼 Tai Yang Bing that I loved as a kid in Taiwan.

                                            The Kha Wah bakery at 9 Eldridge still has my vote for their egg tarts, but their Lao Po Bing is just a bit too thick in comparison to Fong Hing. But, while I remembered, I hope that someone here can be out early enough to catch their Cha Siu Bao that I've been too late for. I'm pretty sure I've seen the man getting huge pieces of meat out of the fridge in prep for making BBQ pork, so it might be worth a try if you're there early in the day. I'm quite curious.

                                          2. Ah Wong Bakery on Mott street makes a very good steamed bao -- light fluffy, good pork inside.

                                            I prefer SSK to MLW for roast buns -- the pork seems less sweet and more meaty. I had a bun @ chatham recently and thought it was a soggy, oversweet mess.

                                            Any one have any comments to offer on best combination ("big") bun? I like combo buns that have some of the char siu bao pork inside, in addition to sausage and egg.

                                            13 Replies
                                            1. re: greenermjr

                                              I usually get them from MLW although I haven't gone out of my way to figure out who has the best da bao (dai bao, big bun)

                                              1. re: Lau

                                                where is MLW? I need to try their bao and compare

                                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                  mei li wah is on bayard bet mott and elizabeth, north side of the street
                                                  http://www.yelp.com/biz/mei-li-wah-ba...

                                                  they used to have the best steamed cha siu bao in the city, but since the new ownership, i don't think they do anymore

                                                  they do have the best coconut bun in the city though...i eat them all the time

                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                    thanks Lau for the info ,,i'll check it out. If you get a chance to go to 30 pell st. i think the new name is Delight, let me know what you think about their cha siu bao

                                                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                      yeah i plan on going their for dim sum soon

                                                      the old place on division was pretty good when i ate there a long time ago (they just moved)

                                                      1. re: Lau

                                                        30 pell was called Hung Gung for years. It had the same manager for maybe 25 years. They went from being a bar /restaruant to karaoke to dim sum and bakery. Then it changed names about 4 years ago ,, then again recently. It used to be my favorite restaurant,,, It's time for me to try it again, the dinner there was good especially for seafood last I was there. The cha siu bao was good a couple of weeks ago , but thats all i ate .
                                                        I was talking to my hong kong friends and they told me there are several dim sum places in Hong Kong like DSGG and with no carts. They said the big halls are more like Jin Fong ,and Golden Unicorn and Triple 8, So I know it was a different post , but I guess I was wrong on my coments of DSGG not being authentic,, I just know old style I guess.

                                                        1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                          Regarding dim sum in Hong Kong, I will say it isn't "several" dim sum places in Hong Kong like DSGG with no carts. I will say 95% of the dim sum places in Hong Kong order off from the paper menu. Only a handful of places still have carts and they are all the older kinds that attract older people. Only one major dim sum place / chain (Maxim's) still use carts, but their dim sum is horrible.

                                                          1. re: kobetobiko

                                                            Ditto for Vancouver. Carts still the majority in LA and SF but most of the best places are menu driven.

                                                            1. re: Chandavkl

                                                              agreed....there's also that big place where u have to get the dim sum yourself basically and have to seat yourself although id say everyone in there is over the age of 50 generally (i'm blanking on the name), but whatever we're not in HK

                                                              foodwhisperer - what is the name of the restaurant at 30 pell today?

                                                              1. re: Lau

                                                                30 pell is now Delight Restaurant ,,actually they changed the address to I think 31 pell but it is same location . a few doors down from vegetarian paradise which is 33 pell

                                                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                  ah i know which place that is, its packed for dim sum usually

                                                                  ive been meaning to try

                                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                                    on a side note...
                                                                    I was on bayard today and popped into th bakery to see what was new. While there I bumped into a really odd pastry and bought four of them (they looked like oversized fluffy scallion pancakes). When I bit into it I found that not only was it donut like dough (which would not be a problem in and of itsefl) it appered to have cinnamon and sugar, as well as the scallions I had seen in the dough (I check and yes they were scallions). Is there really a market for this taste? I consider myself fairly open vis a ve combiantion but cinnamon, sugar, and scallions just tastes weird to me. any idea of what it was?

                                                                    1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                                      this reminds of one time years ago when my mom decided to bring my dad back some baked treats from ctown and got something that was introduced as "chicken cookie" o_O -- somewhat flakey outside around what was basically crystallized really strong chicken broth (brittle in texture) it also had a somewhat sweet taste....it wasn't really to his taste

                                            2. I withdraw my Golden Carriage recommendation. Stale bun, too much bun too little meat, too much onions. Oh well, back to the drawing board.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: guttergourmet

                                                I actually have found a very good baked char sui bao recently. It is of all places at Chatham square resturaunt (not #9 the other one, the one with the symbol on its logo that looks like a gian curvy "H" or 2 "S"s attached to each other. I ordered the one listed on the dim sum take away menu as Roast pork bun with honey (listed in the steamed section but they are baked) as was blown away. an almost prefect baliage between the two version (sweet and savory) sweet without being cloying savory without being overy winey or stewish plust the little chincks of vegetable in the filling are still crunchy!

                                                1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                  6 chatham (the old school place) has always been known for their cha siu bao, at one point in time when it was hop shing i thought they had the best in ctown...they are still among the better ones in ctown

                                                  they also have a good take out dim sum biz

                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                    I think 6 Chatham is the new place. 9 Chatham is the old school hole-in-the-wall.

                                                    1. re: kobetobiko

                                                      Right Kobe, #9. And yes Lau, they did change their name and their cha shao bao are not too bad. I'll go there if Mei La Wah is out.

                                                    2. re: Lau

                                                      I agree with Lau the old chatham previously known as hop shing is IMHO the best ,, goldencarriage rates high on the baked char siu bao

                                                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                        well to clarify i actually dont think they are the best anymore when they changed names (maybe ownership?) their food went downhill a bit although i do think they are among the best

                                                2. I think the best baked Char Siu Bao is Manna 2 Bakery Corporation located on 87 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002. They have a nice balance of pork to bun ratio and sweetness to salinity. They are not as sweet as Chatham Restaurant located on 6 Chatham Square, New York, NY. I like it because their roast pork is not as fat as the good old MLW. The original Manna One located on 27 Catherine Street, New York, NY is almost as good but a bit too sweet for my taste. Overall, the bun is thin, the roast pork is lean and savory. A perfectly balanced baked Char Siu Bao. I am not much of a fan for the steamed Char Siu Bao because the bun is always very thick with little bits of roast pork. That's not a good balance.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: HEAVEN888

                                                    NEW MLW on Bayard is a pathetic shell of its former self. Their baked Char Siu Bao sucks. Inferior in all respects to its predecessor. The new help look like they don't have a clue. Either the new owners got rid of the old cooks, or if the old guys are being kept on, they're being forced to follow a new (cheaper) recipe. And I've stopped in periodically over the last 2 years to give them a chance to change my mind. So sad. I used to enjoy that place so much. I now go to Chatham.

                                                    1. re: nooyawka

                                                      You are so right. I only recently managed to get back to try the new place out and it was just SO depressing. Everything seems to have taken a hit quality wise...the big "mixed" steam bun was fairly close to what it was, but the baked char shu bao which I always liked has definitely changed and not for the better. I was shocked when my plate of siu mai arrived...30% smaller serving and 15% higher in price, and the flavor just wasn't there. This used to be my favorite lunch in NYC. I hate what they've done to the place, and it's just sad what's happened to the food. Just makes me sad...

                                                  2. Is love of char siu bao genetic I wonder? My wife and I lived on them when we were dating at NYU. Last night when I couldn't get a table at Lucali my 10 year old daughter declared she didn't want pizza anyway (the horror) but then reaffirmed her genetics by saying what she really wanted were pork buns! We drove to Sunset Park and sampled a few bakeries. Any suggestions there? Also had a great one at a bakery in Bayside Queens last week. i'll post names at some point.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: guttergourmet

                                                      "Also had a great one at a bakery in Bayside Queens last week"
                                                      What the????I just did about 10 double takes in half a second. I work in Bayside, so I'm very curious. Please, please, do tell.
                                                      P.

                                                      1. re: Polecat

                                                        OK-Aces Asian Bakery 213-12 48th Avenue

                                                    2. Anyone out there tell me has "baked" char sui bao been around as long as the "steamed" ?
                                                      Growing up on Long Island (in the 50's-60's)we'd go to Chinatown for dim sum and there was what I thought only "steamed" char sui bao. Then again my parent's always seemed to avoid the stuff on the fried carts where the "baked" bao might have been.

                                                      I live in Los Angeles now and the best baked char sui bao I've found is at a take out place in Chinatown called Family Pastry. They're big and meaty and only 65 cents each.

                                                      -----
                                                      Longs Family Pastry
                                                      715 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: monku

                                                        haha family pastry! i used to go there alot when i was a kid, it used to be really good when i was young although i don't think its nearly as good as it used to be...they used to have these siumai, but they were made with chicken that were really good. their cha siu bao were great too

                                                        when i was a kid i was obsessed with anything that had cha siu in it (cha siu over rice, cha siu bao, cha siu so etc etc)

                                                        i dont have a great rec in ny b/c i always get the steamed version (i like it better), but i have a feeling that chatham square (9 chatham, the really old school one) has good ones b/c they have good cha siu bao and i remember their baked version being good a long time ago...you could also try the usual suspects (MLW, SSK)

                                                        1. re: Lau

                                                          The baby baked ones at Dim Sum Go Go are fantastic. Sweet fresh & meaty. Balance is good as mentioned above. the best ones I had in NYC were at King Wah...sadly they are gone and a new bakery is in it's place at 25 Broadway. Anyone familiar? If your in Chicgao there are 2 places that do good ones...Wan Shi Da on Wentworth and also the Captain's Bakery also on Wentworth.

                                                        2. re: monku

                                                          I'm guessing baked chashu bao showed up in the 1970s when Hong Kong style food made the big move in the US. Prior to then they only came steamed.

                                                          1. re: Chandavkl

                                                            Thank you....I knew I wasn't crazy thinking I never saw them when I was a kid.

                                                            1. re: Chandavkl

                                                              When I was growing up in the 80s, I had never seen anything but steamed siopao (of course we also made it at home), though my experience might be somewhat different not having grown up in NYC.

                                                              1. re: JungMann

                                                                i had them in the 80s in LA when i was growing up (my dad liked them), but i think the traditional is the steamed (which i like much better)...i bet the baked version is like a gai mei bao (coconut / cocktail bun) that is something that was invented within the last 50 years in HK

                                                            2. re: monku

                                                              back in the 60s there was only steamed. and there were only a few places in Chinatown that had them, one was a place called Koon shing another was Nam Wah Bakery., I think they were 40 cents each then. And they had the paper on the bottom , nicely filled I had a baked one in Paris in 1971

                                                              1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                                Thanks again for reaffirming my memory wasn't that bad.
                                                                Thought steamed bao always has paper on the bottom?

                                                            3. OK- forget about the bao-focus on the char siu! The No. 18 Vietnamese sandwich at Sau Voi on Lafayette is the Xa Xiu, the Vietnamese spelling of Char Siu. On a warm Vietnamese style baguette (with a little rice mixed in the flour to make it flakey) along with cilantro and the de rigueur julienned pickled carrots and daikon like in most banh mi, this blows away any char siu bao for the sheer amount of roast pork in the sandwich as compared to the bun.

                                                              21 Replies
                                                              1. re: guttergourmet

                                                                I just had a lap cheung bao (Chinese sausage instead of roast pork bun) in Chicago's Chinatown. MMM! Where can I find one of those in NYC?!

                                                                1. re: guttergourmet

                                                                  i think MLW has them, most of the bakeries do as well, but i cant vouch for their quality

                                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                                    its sort of depends on what gutter means. Most of the Lap Cheong Bao I've seen around Chinatown are more along the lines of a hot dog roll i.e., a piece of Lap Cheong with dough wrapped around it. If that waht he means then fine. But what Gutter seems to be describing song like a lap cheong analoge to a Cha Siu Bao, that is a rond bun with a chopped chinese sausage filling. I dont think I've ever seen that exactly. The closest I can think of (and it may be close enough to satisfy) is the chinese sausage dumpling at one place (can seem to remember the name at the moment, but it's the new place with the big glass doors that opened on the East Side of Bowery between Grand and Canal, something Cafe) and that;s more along the lines of a fried chinese sausage pancake rollup. (it is good though)

                                                                    1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                                      Or perhaps it's the chicken bao with egg and Chinese sausage. I agree that I've never seen a sausage bun similar to a chashu or chicken bao.

                                                                      1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                        Actually I'm not entier sure it would be possible to make one. Lap Cheong is a very dry sausage (I often think of it as the Chinese analogue of Italian salami, in much the same way as many Chinese hams are texturally very much like Proscuitto ) simply diced up and treated like Cha Sui it might be umpleasantly dry and nubby in the mouth). There's another,similarly flavored but much wetter Chinese sausage I've bumped into a few times (I think it's called Longzha) which might work well in a bun. If I ever decide to start making my own buns from scratch (I actually have a cookbook that tells one how to make such things) I may give it a shot.

                                                                        1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                                          no they do have it, its the same white bun, but its rolled around the lap cheong and it sticks out so you can see the lap cheong

                                                                          its pretty decent....its not as common as cha siu bao or dai bao, but alot of places have it, i think people just dont notice it

                                                                          1. re: Lau

                                                                            That what I said, more like a hot dog roll-up. Whne I said I have never seen one I meant a round bun that was filled with chopped up chinese sausage, which is what It sounded like the orginal poster said he had found.

                                                                            1. re: Lau

                                                                              What is that called? I've had enclosed bao with sausage but given the flavor, I was pretty sure they were hot dogs. What I really miss are chicken bao (ji bao?). My mother used to make those for us for an after school snack with plum sauce. If I could find that, it would bring back great memories.

                                                                              1. re: JungMann

                                                                                jumpingmonk - i thought you were referring to those hot dog buns that alot of bakeries have which are completely different

                                                                                jungmann - i call them lap cheong bao (or la chang bao in mandarin), i dont think there is another name for them (although i could be wrong). fyi mei li wah sells steamed ji bao, they're pretty decent

                                                                                1. re: Lau

                                                                                  lau (or anyone else), could you help identify a thai dish over on this thread?
                                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7289...

                                                                              2. re: Lau

                                                                                That's what it was. Just want to avoid the dreaded "hot dog" bao.

                                                                                1. re: guttergourmet

                                                                                  alkapal - i dont know what it is, i know thai food ok (alot of great places in LA), but im not an expert or anything

                                                                                  guttergourmet - yah the hot dog bao is gross, i can't stand those things. lap cheong bao are very good though

                                                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                                                    now that 6 chatham has closed where are people goimg for the baked cha siu bao? also does 9 chatham allow you to take out their dim sum or is it sit down only?

                                                                                    1. re: foodie9

                                                                                      Mei Li Wah at 62-64 Bayard Street. Superior cha shao bao to Chatham Square.

                                                                                      1. re: scoopG

                                                                                        agree with scoopG

                                                                                        you could try sun say kai as well

                                                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                                                          I just tried a few CSB from the above. I agree they are very good (though I personally think 6 Chathams are a tiny bit better, but that could just be me and it is a close race)

                                                                                          On a whim I also tested a CSB from the Golden Land Bakery (I think that's the name, the little hole in the wall one all the way over on the corner of Allen and Houston. Regrettably that CSB was only so-so (though thier fried sticky rice dumplings are excellent, probably some of the best I have had in MCTWN (and I'm including the Dim Sum hall one's in that statement)
                                                                                          Oh and for the record, the new place I mentioned in the Lap Cheong Bao segment of this thread (the one that made that great chinese sausage pancake rollup under the listing of "Chinese Sausage Dumpling") is called the Full House Cafe (I have no idea if it is affiliated with the Full House Seafood Resturaunt in Flushing, the very different menu's lead me to believe otherwise.

                                                                                          -----
                                                                                          Full House Cafe
                                                                                          97 Bowery, New York, NY 10002

                                                                                          1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                                                            Is Full House Cafe located where that restaurant (Big Eat) with all the pictures of Mao Tse Tung used to be?

                                                                                            -----
                                                                                            Full House Cafe
                                                                                            97 Bowery, New York, NY 10002

                                                                                            1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                              Dunno, never went to Big Eat. It's at 97 Bowery (thank you Chowhound auto adress function) between Grand and Hester on the opposite side of Bowery from Congee and Fu Wong. It's a fairly Narrow Place, next to a lot of signs advertising a karaoke bar (which may or may not be the same place) Besides the dumpling they make a pretty decent Amoy Mai Fun as well as some other pretty tasty thing (forgive me, it's been several months since I last went there to eat, so what I actually ordered escapes me)

                                                                                              -----
                                                                                              Fu Wong
                                                                                              100 Bowery, New York, NY 10013

                                                                                              Congee
                                                                                              98 Bowery, New York, NY 10013

                                                                                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                                I had one or two meals at Big Eat. It was interesting, the curry bread bowl and whatnot.

                                                                                          2. re: foodie9

                                                                                            And yes, 9 chatham does allow takeout.

                                                                                            1. re: foodie9

                                                                                              Actually 9 Chatham (the former Hop Shing) is closed; 6 Chatham (Chatham Square Restaurant) remains open.

                                                                                              -----
                                                                                              Chatham Square Restaurant
                                                                                              6 Chatham Sq, New York, NY 10038

                                                                                              Chatham Restaurant
                                                                                              9 Chatham Sq, New York, NY 10038

                                                                          2. This all takes me back to when I lived in little Italy, I'd Traipse over to chinatown before i'd ride the train to the stable to get my hack out for a day in central park, ah to be young again, back then it was the dai si' gai on mulberry and canal, onion and pork not to sweet 50 cents a bun, or a dozen for $5, if you wanted something sweet you'd head over to the chinatown bakery, "the moon cake" a concoction of candied fruit and chopped nuts on top of a plain almost shortbread cookie, which was dipped on the bottom in semi-sweet chocolate, for a buck this delicacy was a steal, alas the chinatown baker moved some years ago and the chinatown bakery which opened down the block make's nothing like it, with the moon festival approaching i'm craving this mound of sweet goodness but i've never found it again, any suggestions? i'd really apprreciate it

                                                                            1. wow. Someone said 6 Chatham reopening and construction going on now. I was even told some of the owners are the same. Any news on this??

                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                              1. re: foodie9

                                                                                You mean 9 Chatham. There's a brand-new awning with the old name, Hop Shing. A local restaurateur told me she'd heard some of the old owners are involved.

                                                                                1. re: squid kun

                                                                                  hmmm could be interesting, the old hop shing was better than when it was chatham

                                                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                                                    Just heard 9 chatham aka hop shing opening this weekend. Hope the cha sui bao are the same recipe as the old ones. Hopefully won't be too much of a price increase. I think they were 60-70 cents before they closed last spring.

                                                                                    1. re: foodie9

                                                                                      Either kind of siu bao is 80 c at Mei Li Wah. So the competition is on :-)

                                                                                      1. re: diprey11

                                                                                        A recent visit confirms that the siu bao at Mei Li Wah have taken a downturn in quality since the makeover and new management there...just not as good as it used to be. :-(

                                                                                      2. re: foodie9

                                                                                        I agree with Lau, the old Hop Shing was better than Chatham, and yes Hop Shing is now open. An interesting thing is when it was Chatham, it still said Hop Shing in Chinese. I will try it tomorrow and see if it is as good as I hope it will be. Also, It appears that Golden Carriage closed (east bway and essex), I liked their Char siu bao ( please don't correct my spelling,its transliteration anyway).

                                                                                2. http://ny.eater.com/archives/2011/05/...
                                                                                  After reading this, I tried Manna One for the first time. While the char siu bao were of the onion savory variety, the pork to bun ratio was amazing and the unusually sticky bun added something extra. The shop also appeared to be bao heaven and I can't wait to try some of their other baos!

                                                                                  -----
                                                                                  Manna House
                                                                                  27 Catherine St, New York, NY 10038

                                                                                  1. Led by reports here, I tried Mei Li Wah for pork buns, and they were absolutely inedible. Slimy, nasty-tasting filling, much too much breading. I will give SSK a shot, but my go-to place is still 27 Sunshine on Bowery. Though they have skimped down on the filling lately. Still, 3 buns for 2 bucks isn't bad.

                                                                                    -----
                                                                                    27 Sunshine
                                                                                    46 Bowery, New York, NY 10013

                                                                                    Mei Li Wah
                                                                                    64 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: HippieChick

                                                                                      If you don't like a lot of bread, don't even bother with Sun Say Kai. I personally like Sun Say Kai's CSBs the best because even though they're pretty bread heavy there is still a lot of filling and the bread is really tasty.

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

                                                                                      1. re: Humbucker

                                                                                        SSK's cha siu bao has completely changed like 3 or 4 years ago it was definitely better the MLW. they had good fluffy bread, similar brown not very sweet sauce and much better cha siu. Then it changed the bread went from being the enclosed kind (note that MLW's is fully enclosed) which was very fluffy to being a much denser bread that is open toward the top so the cha siu is exposed while the filling is still fine the bread is pretty bad now

                                                                                        MLW has pretty decent bread and the sauce is decent, but the actual cha siu has gotten a bit worse

                                                                                        1. re: Lau

                                                                                          SSK's bread is indeed pretty dense, but that's actually why I like it. I should clarify that I usually get the baked buns at SSK and the one time I got a steamed bun, I didn't like it as much (fluffier dough is probably better for that application).

                                                                                          Growing up, I always had little interest in Hong Kong style baked buns because the dough always seemed to be this airy fluff that condensed into a small gummy wad as you chewed it. In contrast, I never had a pineapple bun I liked until I tried SSK's because the bread reminds me of the rich, substantial dough used for cinnamon rolls and the top is super crunchy like an almond cookie.

                                                                                          The fact that SSK's bread is so different from other Chinese bakeries probably means most people would consider it terrible, but I have weird taste and love it.

                                                                                          One thing that SSK does that I think everyone should be able to appreciate is you rarely get baked buns where you bite into it and inside is mostly an empty cavity with a tiny smear of filling. Chinese bakeries that skimp on filling should be ashamed of themselves.

                                                                                          1. re: Humbucker

                                                                                            ah i prefer the steamed kind so i rarely order the baked kind anymore. my dad loved the baked kind, but the steamed kind is what i like

                                                                                            the white kind with the dense bread is all wrong compared to what you get at good places in hong kong, the good places in hong kong is a light fluffy bun with a great sauce that isn't too sweet but is a little sweet and then the key is that the cha siu is just perfect and is such good quality

                                                                                            1. re: Humbucker

                                                                                              I like the Big bun @ SSK.......Dai Bao?

                                                                                            2. re: Lau

                                                                                              i lived in little italy this past year, and on my way to work i would usually pick up a bun (or 3) from SSK. the steamed cha shao bao has two versions: enclosed bun and opened bun. you can still get either. the baked one is pretty good too. overall, it probably still has the best cha shao bao in chinatown.

                                                                                              also, i think SSK's sticky rice bun is the best thing on the menu. the key is to peel off any extra bread before eating.

                                                                                              1. re: ssl5b

                                                                                                oh they still have that enclosed one? i like that one way better