Last time I was in San Francisco, I turned my kids onto char siu bao (steamed bbq pork buns) by taking them for the buns at the Slanted Door in the Ferry Building, which are probably the best pork buns I've had in my life. And I've had more than a few (mostly from SF Chinatown, but also in NYC and Hong Kong).
So yesterday, after doing a fair amount of research on places that sell pork buns in Manhattan's Chinatown, I took the kids in for a walking tasting tour of four pork bun places. Being kind of type-A, I even made a map of our itinerary: http://www.communitywalk.com/new_york...
Here is the quick recap, from favorite to least favorite:
Mei Li Wah Bakery, 64 Bayard St: the steamed buns were pretty good. Steamed bun: the buns are large and enclosed, and while the dough was very tasty and had nice texture, but there was a little too much of it for my taste, too thick. The filling was tasty, I'd have preferred it it if was juicier. Since their baked bun was frequently raved about in reviews, we tried this too, and it was excellent. I preferred it to their steamed bun. The filling was juicier and tastier, and the thin baked dough had a really nice texture, flavor, and aroma. I often find baked bun dough to be leathery or papery, this was neither.
Golden Unicorn,18 E Broadway. These buns were pretty good. These were the smallest of the ones sampled, but that was not a negative. The dough had nice texture and good flavor. The filling was tasty, but a bit on the sweet side.
Hop Shing Restaurant, 9 Chatham Square: this place was really crowded, many people in line for take out, so I had high hopes. The dough was good, but filling was not that appealing: not great flavor, and had a lot of gelatin in it.
New Wonton Garden, 56 Mott at Bayard: very disappointing. The buns were served up from a large plastic bag in a warmer, and the dough was starting to disintegrate from the moisture. The filling was bland.
We didn't make it to the Golden Steamer.
Overall, I was a bit disappointed by the steamed pork buns on our tour. If anyone has ideas of other places to try for great pork buns, please let me know!
PS, I've tried and enjoyed the pork belly buns at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, which are delicious but different from char siu bao. I also recently tried the buns at Ippudo, and they are also delicious, more like char siu bao, if a bit "deconstructed", and spicier than typical. I might have to take my kids there next time. :-)
New Wonton Garden
56 Mott St, New York, NY 10013
65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003
9 Chatham Sq, New York, NY 10038