Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chinese Traditional Buns

Lee E and Hsieh J

536 Dundas St West, Toronto
I have heard a few mentions of this place, but given that Mr. Lee already has a go-to spot for noodles in Chinatown (Ahn Dao for the Bun bo Hue), I never gave it much consideration. However, on my way to a "Minxicure" at Heartbreaker, a series of tasty pictures caught my eye. Alas, it was Chinese Traditional Buns! Sold, that will be dinner tonight after a gorgeous manicure that withstands even wet transferring SDS-PAGE gels in 20% methanol buffer.

The menu is filled with more traditional items eaten in northern and western (would Xi'an be considered west?) China, ie. no Cantonese chow mein and a lot of things I did not recognize. Given the name is "Chinese Traditional Buns," I focused my ordering on the first page of the menu - "Buns." First item that arrived was Gao-Bu-Li buns (Figure 1).



Figure 1. Gao-Bu-Li pork buns. (A) It looks like a bun but (B) can almost pass for a dumpling.

I was actually hoping to order the shredded pork sandwiched between two flat buns pictured outside. I actually could read the Chinese name of the Gao-bu-Li buns, but this is yet another example of Chinese names that sound really cool but achieve nothing in description. The next dish that arrived was the Spicy Beef noodle (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The remaining half of the spicy beef noodles (the other half was already in our belly by the time I remembered to take a picture). We paid an extra $1.50 for handmade ramen. Note the cilantro.

The highlight of the spicy beef noodles were in fact the handmade noodles. One just knows when it is handmade - there is that distinctive chew. The beef was sufficiently good - not chewy. The broth lacked some meaty heartiness and could use some more depth from the anise seed, but what was nice was the freshness from the cilantro that would occasionally cut through. Next up: an oily cabbage and fungus in garlic sauce (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Cabbage and fungus in garlic sauce. This dish was absolutely massive so we couldn't finish it.

The last dish to arrive to the table was crab and pork soup-filled dumplings (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Crab and pork soup-filled "buns" with a bite taken out of it.

The pastry of the crab and pork soup-filled dumplings was certainly handmade. We had to question the structural integrity of these dumplings because as shown in Figure 4, there was no appreciable amount of soup. However, there's a possibility this was intentional, as the name explicitly was not "xiao-long-bao."

Halfway through our meal, a giant cockroach was leisurely crawling around on the floor. Normally we'd be pretty disgusted and stop eating, but hey, this is Chinatown. At least our waitress came over and stomped on it for us.

Upon leaving, it turns out the pictures outside had captions! The dish I wanted was Xian-cured pork in bread. So much for those astute scientist observational skills of mine.

The final bill for 2 people: about $26.

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