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Lau Sah Bao Test (egg custard bun) - review + pics

A couple of foodies and I decided to embark on a mini culinary adventure of sorts – to find the city’s best Lau Sah Bao’s (please forgive the phonetic translation). These tasty little egg cream buns are a scarcity in the city, and what a shame that is. For those not that familiar with this little dim sum treasure I’ll take a few moments to describe it: it is similar to a lotus seed paste bun you would find at regular dim sum restaurants, however, the lotus seed paste is replaced by an egg custard. Because it is sweet, it is often considered a dessert course. Few places create this custard from scratch though, and many resort to using a powdered concoction. I have my suspicions about the origins of the following buns, but beggars cannot really be choosers. My love for these buns will force me to consume a bit of preservatives and colouring additives.

So the three foodies meet each other on Flickr and decide to meet up at a spot, each bearing buns. These are obviously desperate creatures like myself and in constant search for good food. Since I live closest to Dragon Dynasty and have spotted the aforementioned baked good on the menu and thought highly of it, I offer to pick those up. One member of the team lives close to Dynasty on Bloor and offers to bring a batch of those up. And finally, we pick a place to meet near the 3rd foodie’s place – Grand Chinese Cuisine – the last and final place I know that carries this sweet treat.

Fully aware that fresh out of the steamer buns will probably taste the best of the three; we take that into consideration during our taste test. All three were approximately the same in price, so we eliminated this factor as a deciding point as to which was best. My Dragon Dynasty buns were first up because they were purchased the earliest (about an hour before the test). They were still a bit warm. Inside, the custard was surprisingly still runny. The bun was the largest of the 3 offerings.

Photo of Dragon Dynasty Bun: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Inside the bun: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Dragon Dynasty’s version was very sweet (just the way I like it in fact). It had a nice grainy texture, just like a lau sah bao should have. I enjoyed this entry and found it a strong entry. One of the tasters noted that they could not consume more than 2 or so of these before they were saturated with sugar and fat. Since none of would probably eat that many lau sah bao’s in one sitting ever again, we decided that this would probably never become an issue. This bun was very fluffy and definitely had less than the rest. By now, Grand’s version was resting on our table – cooling.

Next up, Dynasty’s version of the tasty treat. This was the mid-sized bun. The custard was noticeably darker in colour. When tasted, the darker colour was quickly attributed to a heavier usage of ‘ham dan’, or salty preserved egg. This version was definitely less sweet and more savoury. It was less like a dessert, and more of a regular dim sum item. Two of us decided that this was probably the least favourite of the bunch because it was saltier and definitely not runny inside. The bun texture was also the chewiest of the three, which made it a bit unpleasant. The foodie that stated that too many of the sweet buns would make it rank lower said the opposite about this bun. If we had to each consume several of the buns, this bun would rank highest since it is less sweet. Acute observation, but if I had to eat more than one of these in a meal ever again, I would probably have a coronary.

Dynasty Bun: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Dynasty inside: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Last up - the now cool Grand version. This was the smallest of the three buns. The runniness of the egg custard sat between the liquid interior of the Dragon Dynasty and the more gelatinous Dynasty version. The bun was slightly chewy and sweeter and was definitely a dessert-focused bun. (Since we proceeded to have dim sum afterward, it was noted that this bun texture and taste was different than the other buns consumed – namely the cha siu bao and the pumpkin bun). The saltiness level was in the middle and the sweetness ran also in the mid-range of the three. The custard amount was less than that of Dragon Dynasty as well, but more than Dynasty’s. This was a hard call because first place was very close between Dragon Dynasty and Grand’s version. This was the more ‘sophisticated’ choice because there was no sickeningly sweet, runny custard, but is that not why one orders these buns in the first place?

Grand Bun: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Grand Inside: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Side by side comparison: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

After much humming and hawing, two of us decided that Dragon Dynasty’s was our favourite to satisfy an intense craving for Lau Sah Bao’s. When you want something sweet and runny, you go all the way we stated. One foodie decided to go the higher route and stick by Grand’s choice (not me, just so that no one things there’s a bias). It was a well balanced bun with great bun texture. We all agreed we enjoyed the bun texture and flavour of Grand’s best, but when it came to the custard, the other foodie and I wanted our senses to be bombarded.

After dessert, we all sat down and decided to have a real dim sum meal. It was the first time for one of the foodies and he proclaimed it was definitely one of the best, if not the best dim sum he has had in the city. The rest of us agreed that we were none too thrilled with either of the other two dim sum places (Dragon Dynasty, nor Dynasty - especially given Dynasty's prices). I guess in the end, it’s just not about the custard bun, but about the meal that starts it all off. If I had to get my buns during a meal, I guess I’ll take my chances at Grand. If I have a craving for just the bun – I’ll get myself a nice takeout box from Dragon Dynasty.

Hope this helps those of you out there with the same strange cravings for sweet dessert buns. If anyone knows of anywhere else we should test and add to the list, please let me know.

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to post up another taste test I’ve done recently. If only I had more time….

Cheers and Happy Eating!

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  1. Have you had the egg-custard bun from Ambassador? It is one of favourites off of the menu and would love to know how it compared to these ones.

    1. It is definately not runny. Moist, sure. But, not runny.

    2. I do think theirs might be made from a powder; or at least the vanilla flavouring is not 100% natural. But, that's ok, I still love it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Atahualpa

      I have not tried Ambassador actually. Some Dining Companions of mine tried it separately and were very underwhelmed and advised me against trying it. How would you rate their dim sum overall?

      If your buns were not runny, I am thinking perhaps they were the regular custard buns and not the 'lau saa bao's? The runny texture is inherent to the dish and actually part of the name. Just wondering. Thanks Atahualpa.

      1. re: BokChoi

        They are probably standard egg custard buns (I was unaware that the runny ones were distinct). They are delightful though -- soft, and pleasantly comforting.

        I like Ambassador's dim sum. It isn't the most adventurous list ever. But, what they do, they do well.

        I like their XO noodle rolls, their Har Gow are particularly delightful, the curried baby cuttlefish, duck and preserved vegetable dumplings and the hot and sour seafood soup (to die for). They also do a very nice job of the sweeter items -- their sesame balls with lotus seed paste as very nice as are the red-bean patties.

        1. re: Atahualpa

          Thanks for the suggestions Atahualpa. Hopefully when I'm in the area I'll stop by and give them a try. I have heard good things about them over the years.

    2. I think that Legend has a pretty tasty egg-custard bun even though the only time I ate it, it was leftover dim sum from the day before. I microwaved it for about 30 seconds and the inside was super runny and hot! The filling has a sandy texture and the bun texture is quite fluffy. However, the filling is not super sweet.

      4 Replies
      1. re: piggylicious

        If you are looking for a twist on this 'custard' bun, Golden Crown Dynasty at Leslie and 16 has a Lau Sah Sesame Ball. It's like a normal deep fried sesame ball but with the 'custard' filling in it. Very good, we order it every time we go there.

        1. re: piggylicious

          Once again, I have never tried Legend. Ahh, so many I have been missing out on! The bun sounds perfect... good texture. How was the taste of the custard filling? You noted it was not sweet - was it good?

          1. re: BokChoi

            Sorry for the misunderstanding. The filling is sweet but just not overwhelmingly so. But as a fair warning, that might just be because I have a really sweet tooth.

        2. They have them at T&T too...the one at Warden and Steeles is pretty good. They are huge and tastes really good when you give it a good steam at home.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dayna.e

            Good to know. I generally never bother to try and make them at home, just because I know if I got into that habit, I would eat them all the time. My waistline and arteries would never forgive me....
            Thanks for the tip. Maybe for a quick fix sometime in the future.

          2. I like Rol San's.

            Yui Wah's are also tasty.

            It's funny... I can't think of an egg custard bun I don't like!

            2 Replies
            1. re: JonasBrand

              It's so true. Those buns are just one of those things that are sickeningly addictive. It always brings back memories of childhood.

              Yui Wah - I have never heard of them. Should look them up. Do you recommend their dim sum?

              1. re: BokChoi

                It is on the 3rd or 4th floor. Cart service. Pretty inexpensive. I like their steamed bbq and egg custard buns... otherwise I much prefer Rol San.

            2. I had it once at Paradise, it was very tasty but I haven't had it very often so I can't really compare. I couldn't get enough of it though.

              3 Replies
              1. re: szw

                I should note, they do not always have this on the menu. It was recommended once and the next time I went they did not have it.

                1. re: szw

                  OK I was really mistaken. At paradise I had some egg dessert that was in a crispy sesame ball shell thing. THe egg "yolk" inside was much gooier than the egg custard bun.

                  I had an actual "egg custard bun" that you are describing yesterday at Szechuan legend. It was alright, but I prefer the gooey sesame version.

                  1. re: szw

                    Thanks for such a thorough response, szw. The sesame ball sounds really delicious. I have heard mixed reviews about Paradise - what are your thoughts? I did not realize that Szechuan Legend carried the dessert. I would have thought it more of a Cantonese style concoction. Thanks for the info.