Friday, December 21, 2007
Bao for Now
“I don’t do Chinese.” This is my standard response when the suggestion for Chinese food is made. In reality, I do Chinese, but I would much rather spend my calories on something wickedly good, rather than artificially flavored orange chicken or a bland, greasy chow mein (which I have come to realize is what most people want when they suggest a Chinese joint).
Good Chinese on the other hand, is rich, fresh, and wonderfully traditional. So, I was skeptical when someone suggested “Bakery Delight” for a quick Chinese snack. But set one foot inside of this place and you’ll know they mean business. No sweet and sour sauce or celery in sight… just a simple glass case full of egg-washed pastry, scissor-snipped dumplings, and sesame-topped dough balls. A whirr of activity comes from behind the counter-- women rapidly rolling, chopping, and pinching together perfect little pies.
I ordered lunch from a curt woman and paid $1.50 for bao and a pastry. I would have been satisfied with almost anything that filled me up for this price, but I got so much more. The pork inside the bao was rich and satisfying, leaving a little pink bleed of sauce into the white pillow of dough. Next the pastry, a petite golden oval formed of the flakiest of shells. It crumbled instantly into my mouth, leaving me to chew on the little layers until they magically dissolved. I sat trying to figure how this trick was performed. Then it came to me: lard! Ah, natures answer to the world’s best pastry. Does it really matter at this point that this was stuffed with a sweet red bean paste and dusted in sesame seeds? Delicious.
I have since come to discover the sesame balls, a dessert like no other-- gummy and chewy like a Chinese doughnut hole. Look for savory brioche, rolled in scallions with fried meat the texture of ratted angel hair. The shrimp dumplings are earthy with chunks of bamboo shoots, wrapped in a gossamer rice noodle package. But what will keep me coming back are the mini egg tarts… the most subtly sweetened golden custard, shrouded in the perfect pie crust. The contrast between the flaky and the smooth, the creamy egg and rich tooth of the flour crust (and don’t forget the lard!) makes me tip my head back with each bite, carefully ensuring no morsel will fall onto the table.
I have not yet dabbled into the roasted duck, fried pork ribs, or other meaty delights. (The word on the street is you can order a whole roasted pig for special occasions).
Get over bad Chinese and go have a little dim sum (and then some!). Each bite is indeed a delight.
6749 N Cedar Ave, Fresno