Out and about and with time on my hands, I decided to check out some ‘street eats’ joints I’d read about in a local paper.
My first stop was a Chinese steamed bun place called Prince of Buns. My empty stomach and watchful eyes spot the shop from across the street. From afar, it looks like your run of the mill Hong Kong bakery (those people waiting in line in front are waiting for a bus, not a bun).
I stepped inside and was greeted by lots of pretty things:
Not quite sure where to start, I asked the salesperson, in my cringe-inducing Cantonese, which buns the shop was most famous for. She promptly pointed to the trey of sweet cream buns and the ‘steamed bbq pork buns’ (aka cha xiu bao), proudly proclaiming that they sold 1,000 pork buns a day. I was more than happy to secure one of these dimpled treats for myself:
I also got a sweet cream bun from the steamer, which is where one should ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS get one’s buns if intending to consume them immediately after buying them. In the minutes after purchase, the quality of the bun depreciates quickly. After 5-7 minutes out of the steamer, I’m inclined to say that the buns should no longer be consumed at that time, and instead, reserved for a later date (when you can re-steam it yourself).
As I was paying for my buns, I looked around and was startled to catch the amused glances of two men peering out from the back wall. I quickly realized that the wall was not a wall, but a glass window, and that behind that glass window, they were making the buns no more than 10 feet away from me. I’d never been to a Chinese bakery where I actually saw the workers prepping and stuffing the dough, so of course, documentation was a must:
One of them got photo-shy, but this gentleman was nice enough to humor me.
As soon as I got outside, i dug in…And steaming yellow custard goo shot out when I took my first bite, scalding my tongue and reprimanding my overeager gastronomic urges. But oh goodness, this bun was absolutely sensational. The scalding was worth every bit, and more. Until this moment, I was of the belief that a bun was just a bun, but this one opened my mind to the singularly delicious experience a fresh steamed custard bun can provide. It was a no frills, just pure goodness kind of moment. Straight out of the steam oven, it was soft and pillowly on the outside, faintly sweet and with a slightly chewy texture (which I prefer). Each bun bite yielded a sampling of the rich, smooth, sugary custard within, a combination that created a magical sensation in my mouth. The bun to custard ratio was damn near perfect and I thought the bun itself was just the right size — just hefty enough to fill out the palm of my hand.
I was a hot mess on the sidewalk, attempting to hold my camera in one hand and display my bun in the other. At some point, I gave up trying and just enjoyed what was easily one of my more memorable dining experiences. I polished off my snack while admiring the selections of plants and pet fish/sea creatures that make up the Fish Market on Tung Choi Street. Prince of Buns can rule my life any day of the week (ah, you knew some corny royalty joke was coming!).