It’s time to take on steam buns. You ready? Ok.
New Town is a bakery with three locations around Metro Vancouver – Surrey, Vancouver’s Chinatown, and Richmond. While they offer food to stay, most people (at least at the Richmond location) pop in for boxes goods to go, especially their steam buns. Also known as “bao” or “siopao,” they have 13 varieties which hungry customers often order by the dozen. I visited twice for this post; once to collect a boxful of bakery goods, and another time to carry home a boxful of buns. My friends and roommates LOVED me.
My first purchase included a Chinese rice puff square, an apple tart, a sesame red bean ball, an egg tart, a coconut bun, a curried beef bun, and a pineapple bun (remember? The ones with no pineapple in them). In total these all cost about $11, and we ate them on the grass after another round of berry-picking – I apologize for the “pulled apart by berry-stained hands” look in the photographs.
The Chinese rice puff could be likened to a rice krispie square in appearance, although in taste, its sweet, honey-like crunch reminded me of Greek baklava.
The apple tart was soft, flaky, and comforting, like a bite-sized apple pie.
The sesame red bean ball was made with the same glutinous rice flour as my treat from Mega Bakery (very textural), and was filled with sweet red bean paste. This was a crowd favourite.
The egg tart wasn’t as popular, and I’m still having a hard time coming around to these myself. They look like they’re filled with a sweet, vanilla-y custard, but are actually not very sweet at all, and taste strongly of egg. I don’t know if they’ll ever surpass my love for Portuguese custard tarts, but they can keep trying!
New Town’s coconut buns (aka cocktail buns) are long and narrow, with a burnished brown exterior and sweet coconut paste filling. THESE you can count amongst my favourite buns in the world. I love them.
The curried beef bun was just ok, with a mild curry flavour and good dough. Don’t know if I’d necessarily order it again.
The last treat we tried was the pineapple bun, which paled in comparison to the one from Lido; it simply wasn’t as fresh, nor was it served with a huge slab of butter. No competition here, as Lido’s set the bar too high.
Now, on to the steam buns. These buns (also known as “bao” or “siopao,” amongst many other names) are given this English translation because they’re literally steamed. The dough is usually comprised of water, yeast, flour, sugar, and oil, though recipes vary, as do the fillings inside them. They’re widely available, fresh or frozen, in Asian shops and supermarkets, and I’ve snacked on quite a few myself over the last couple of years. Throughout the day, New Town empties stacks of large, bun-filled steam baskets into metal drawers where the buns are kept warm, then plucked out by the dozen for hungry customers. At about $1.60 each, they’re great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and/or feeding a crowd. Or just feeding yourself! What I’m trying to say is they’re awesome. I ordered six: the sweet custard, mixed vegetable, sweet lotus paste and egg yolk, chicken, beef, and spicy pork.
The sweet custard was bright yellow and exactly as promised: sweet, vanilla-y custard in soft dough. The perfect breakfast.
The mixed vegetable included carrots and cabbage, and tasted buttery. It’s a nice alternative to the meat-filled buns.
The lotus paste was dense and sweet, contrasting with the salty yellow egg yolk. It was good for a few bites, but perhaps too rich for me to finish the whole thing.
Honestly, the chicken and the beef (pictured one and two), didn’t taste all that different to me. They were flavourful, but rather gelatinous and mystery meat-esque. I think I’ll generally stick with the pork from now on.
Speaking of which, the last I tried was the spicy pork. I’ve had the bbq’ed pork from New Town before (delicious), so I decided to give the spicy version a shot. And it delivered! It was filling, with just the right amount of hot-saucy kick. This one got a big thumbs up from the roommates, too.
For the fastest (and most carb-heavy) picnic ever, head to New Town, pickup a box of buns, then walk over to Minoru Park. Just don’t forget to get some coconut buns for dessert!
And now, another ‘experimenting in the kitchen with Lindsay’ segment. As everyone in BC knows, IT IS CHERRY SEASON, and I’ve been eating these little ruby globes like it’s my job.
Yesterday I decided to try roasting them, and the results were good. Simply cut them in half, remove the pit, lay them skin side down/cut side up on a cookie sheet, and cook in the oven at 215 – 225 degrees F for about 45 minutes to an hour, checking them regularly.
I guess we’d consider this a very slow roast, because you’re essentially just drying them out a bit, and you don’t want the oven to be too hot or they’ll burn. Pull them out when they’ve shrunk and are noticeably darker, but still have some juiciness to them. The cherry flavour becomes concentrated, and they’re like candy. We served them hot from the oven over vanilla ice cream, but you could let them cool and eat them with anything. Perhaps in a salad with goat or blue cheese? However you use them, do so sparingly – they’re rich!