user's guide

Chinese Bakeries: Like American Bakeries, But Different. Here's How!

Moon cake, not pressed ham.Photo Credit: istockphoto.com/h3ct02

There's nothing like a vigorous Chowhound thread to get your appetite going. This one, centering on the best Chinese bakeries in the city, recently made us wonder what we're missing out on. Plus, we still have yet to visit the two fantastic-sounding places Rob and Robin wrote up a few weeks ago. Those of you contemplating your own bakery excursions would do well to remember the following three rules:

Go for breakfast. Like at any other bakery, the product is put out in the morning and gets stale as the day goes on. The shops are also big on coffee and tea, particularly bubble tea. Plus, they tend to make their coffee with light cream, not the vile low-fat milk so many delis use.

Don't limit yourself to sweets. There are so many attractive pastries that it's hard not to fill up on phosphorescent egg tarts, mango puddings, and the like. But to ignore bao, the round yeast-dough buns filled with meat, egg, and other savory fillings, would be a mistake. The most popular of these are char sui bao (roast pork buns) and dai bao (big combination buns), but they can be filled with anything from vegetables to hot dogs. We recommend the baked ones over the puffy steamed variety, but anyway you take 'em, they're one of the best food bargains in New York: only 50 or 60 cents apiece.

Don't limit yourself to the Chinese specialties, either. Chinese bakeries, especially Cantonese ones (i.e. Hong Kong style), love to copy from the West. So along with the moon cakes, mung-bean pies, and other exotic items, you may find crullers, French toast, or even pizza slices. These might taste like the alternate-universe imitations that they are, but some are quite good. Vive la difference!

Favorite Chinatown Bakery? [Chowhound]

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