Afternoon Snacking at Sun Say Kai – NYC
Char-Siu Bao @ Sun Say Kai
I should really title this post “Desserts at Sun Say Kai,” since I went there after eating a few spring rolls and an entire bowl of pho, but Chinese pastries aren’t really desserts. They’re more like portable mini-meals that a normal person would probably eat for breakfast or a mid-day snack. So, for the sake of appearing less like a glutton, let’s just say the snacking took place a few hours after lunch, not a few minutes.
At a Chinese bakery, I normally get either a roast pork bun (char-siu bao), a pineapple bun (bo lo bao), or a slice of rice cake (baak tong gou). At an attempt to watch my weight, I decided to nix the pineapple bun and got a sticky rice roll, a roast pork bun, and a slice of rice cake. Yes, I could have gotten just one pastry, but my rationale at the time was that I would just have a few bites of each. Of course that didn’t happen, but each baked good was only seventy to ninety cents. In my mind, if it’s that cheap, it doesn’t really count.
The first pastry I tried was the char-siu bao. As I was cutting it, I immediately knew something was terribly wrong. It sounded hollow. When I looked inside, I thought ‘WHAT THE Fu*K?!’ It was all bread and the little pork that was inside was on the brink of being bland. According to Danny, this is not usually the case, but I’m a woman scorned. I’ll be getting my future roast pork bun fixes at Chatham.
Next up was my first sticky rice roll. Basically, it’s a Chinese steamed bun, in roll form, stuffed with the insides of a zongzi (glutinous rice steamed or boiled with pork and Chinese sausage). It’s two carbs in one! There’s no real textural contrast in this pastry, beside sticky and pillowy, but the salty filling with the sweet Chinese sausages was strangely pleasing with the tasteless fluffy bread. However, if given a choice, I’d choose a roast pork filled bun over a sticky rice filled bun any day.
And last, but not least, was the rice cake. Spongy and more gelatinous than doughy, it’s not for everyone. For me, it reminds me of my favorite Korean rice cake (jeung pyun, 증편) made with alcohol. The Chinese version is made with yeast and a lot less bread-like, but the flavor profile is similar; a little sweet, a little sour, and completely delicious.
Next time, I’ll be trying one of the pineapple buns and/or some of the savory options at Sun Say Kai (They have roast duck!). But I’ll be skipping the pork buns. As the great former leader of our nation once said, “fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.”
Sun Say Kai
220 Canal Street (betw Baxter & Mulberry St)
New York, NY 10184