Back when I lived in Boston, I used to catch a bus to New York on weekends that let off at the corner of 34th and 8th. Just near there, squeezed between a Wendy’s and a Burger King, there was a tiny no-name bakery (unless it was called “$5 lunch & dinner,” which was the only sign I could see) that sold some of the tastiest steamed buns I’ve ever had in New York — enormous, fluffy, snow white, and just a couple bucks apiece. For a time, every return trip from New York found me clutching at least two (or three, or four) of those buns, tucked neatly in their wax paper jackets, for the ride back.
As a full-time New Yorker (and Brooklyner) nowadays, I don’t have much occasion to be in that area anymore. But the awesome thing about these buns is that they’re actually pretty simple (albeit a little time-consuming) to make on your own. My version is up on Food52 today, with a couple of incarnations included for red bean steamed buns, pork & vegetable, and my absolute favorite, shengjian bao, or panfried pork steamed buns. Which is fitting, since they’re a Shanghainese specialty (though I actually didn’t know that it was until I was raving to my dad about how much I loved them recently. Let’s call that being unconsciously Shanghainese, not being uninformed-ly Shanghainese.)
You can check out the recipe(s) here. (Or, if you’re feeling extra badass, check out this breakfast-sandwich-meets-SJB lovechild that only The Molly Yeh could dream up — bacon & egg shengjian bao. Oh yeah.) Happy Friday!