Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Finally! You Can Get A High Quality Crispy Baked BBQ Pork Bun in Los Angeles

Clearly my favorite dish in the world is the crispy baked BBQ pork bun, which we ate four years ago during our visit to Hong Kong at Tim Ho Wan, the restaurant which popularized the dish.  Tim Ho Wan was once the most inexpensive Michelin starred restaurant in the world until some Asian street vendor also was awarded a Michelin star.  However, much to my chagrin, the only restaurants serving worthy versions of this dish in the US have all been in the San Francisco Bay Area, at such eateries as Dragon Beaux, Hong Kong Lounge II, Lai Hong Lounge, Koi Palace and Pacific Lighthouse.   In the Los Angeles area, it was offered regularly only by Golden Valley in Industry, but it wasn’t that good and they recently shut down anyway.  Lunasia does a fair version, but it’s not a regular menu item,  China Red recently added a so-so version, and don’t even mention the sorry version at Bao on Beverly Blvd.  

But it’s time to rejoice, as a delicious version of the Tim Ho Wan bun has appeared at Xiang Yuan Gourmet in Temple City.  Xian Yuan Gourmet has had a very checkered record in its year of operation.  When it opened last summer, it showed the potential to climb to the top of the Los Angeles dim sum heap.  But then shortly thereafter, Longo Seafood opened, rightfully grabbing the mantle as the great new dim sum hope in Los Angeles.  To add insult to injury, the owners of Xiang Yuan Gourmet got in a spat with the dim sum chefs, and the chefs walked out, leaving Xiang Yuan Gourmet to suspend its dim sum service altogether.  But then last month I happened to see the Yelp listing for Xiang Yuan Gourmet which indicated that dim sum was back.  But the $64 question was whether the old dim sum chefs were back, or was it a totally new crew?  Breathlessly I went to the restaurant and checked the menu, and many of the distinctive offerings they used to have were on the new menu.

But under the old regime there was not a crispy baked bbq pork bun option on the menu–indeed as I recall there wasn’t even a regular baked bbq pork bun.  I had heard, however, that they sometimes had an off menu, green tea crusted bbq pork bun.  Unfortunately they never had that item available the times I went there before they suspended their dim sum service.  And when I made my first return visit to Xiang Yuan Gourmet last month, there was no crispy baked bbq pork bun on the menu at the time.  However, I later received information that their new menu had the matcha crispy baked bbq pork bun actually listed on the menu, so I immediately headed out for a return trip.  And yes indeed, it was there on the menu, and more importantly, comparable in taste to the versions found at the various Bay Area dim sum houses--not as good as the original Tim Ho Wan or Dragon Beaux in San Francisco, but better than Tim Ho Wan in New York or Lai Hong Lounge in San Francisco.

So now LA really has a great new one/two dim sum punch with Xiang Yuan Gourmet and Longo Seafood, after a decade of nothing new under the dim sum sun here in Los Angeles.      

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