How do the pork buns in Seattle compare to those from China?
When I was a kid I took Chinese lessons in Seattle every Sunday. We lived about an hour out of the city so in order to get there by 9 am when class started we had to leave home at around 7 which meant getting up at 6 am, the worst thing imaginable for an 8-year-old. I remember I’d grumble the whole way there and the whole way back and the only thing I enjoyed about the experience was my mom and I would get a pork bun from the Chinese bakery next to the school.
I would try to ask for a pork bun in halting broken Chinese before getting frustrated and just pointing. I’d get a pork bun and my mom would get a lemon custard and we’d sit on a bench and eat our delicious treats and watch the city hustle and bustle by. She’d tell me stories about her time in New York and ask me about my lessons and we’d just sit for a while and talk. Finally, we’d get back in the car and head home and I’d immediately resume my grumbling.
Every time I pass through pikes place Market in Seattle I make a point of stopping by the Chinese bakery and getting a pork bun (my Chinese is good enough at this point I can order in Chinese and it’s always a delight to chat with the staff in their own language). Then I’ll sit on a bench for a while, eat my bun, and watch the city hustle and bustle by.
It’s a beautiful ritual and one that brings me profound peace and joy.Edited
I lived on the corner of 19th and Clement in San Francisco and the bakery on the corner, Fung Lung, translated lucky dragon, had the best pork buns in the city because the gravy was not “too sweet“ as my landlord and dear friend from Hong Kong would say to me. Every time I go to the Bay Area I always stop by the bakery to get at least one pork bun. (Usually a couple!) They also had great traditional corn and ham buns as well as cocktail rolls, which are basically like a hotdog bun with coconut and lots of butter with some sugar. I once wrote a column about the Fung Lung baker, who became a friend of mine over the years, and about how he was so tender and deliberate stuffing the yeast dough to make the pork buns! I saw he and his wife last year. They are retired but still live in the flat above the bakery.