Pork buns put juicy strips of pork between or within steamed buns, then add pickled vegetables and hoisin sauce. The list that follows covers the best pork buns in Manhattan; there are whole other lists to be made about the best bao on offer in Flushing and elsewhere in Queens. By Jessica Allen.
Momofuku Ssam Bar
The pork bun that David Chang built has launched a thousand other pork bun variations and restaurants since opening in 2006. In addition to pickled cucumbers, hoisin sauce, scallions, and, of course, pork, the steamed bun at Momofuku comes with a last liberal dousing of Srichacha. Is that the secret to their long-standing popularity? We’re going to go eat another few more and get back to you.
Before he was a memoirist, clothing designer, and television personality, Eddie Huang was a restaurateur (and before that he was a lawyer). His first restaurant, BaoHaus, has since moved from miniature quarters on the Lower East Side to larger digs in Gramercy. The steamed buns, or bao, have stayed the same, with Niman Ranch pork belly and Taiwanese condiments like crushed peanuts, pickled mustard greens, and cilantro.
Located near where Chinatown bleeds into Little Italy, Golden Steamer sells super-cheap steamed buns stuffed with pumpkin, lotus seed paste, egg custard, red bean paste, pork and dried shiitake mushrooms, sausage, and chicken with vegetables, among others, all for less than one dollar. While cheap is one thing, really really good and cheap is another. The buns here fall decidedly into the latter category.
Widely popular, this outpost of a restaurant based in Japan specializes in ramen, big bowls of broth and noodles. But the hirata buns, filled with either chicken or pork, and served alongside a house-special sauce, are worth saving room for. The spicy sauce undercuts the slightly sweet pork, making for multi-notes of flavor. If you can’t get into the original East Village location, go the new one uptown.
Chop Shop, in Chelsea, seems to fly under the radar. Despite being within throwing distance of the High Line, it doesn’t get much publicity. That’s OK—all the more pork belly buns for us. The bun has the ideal amount springiness and tackiness, and the pork belly is rich and fatty. Some crushed peanuts finish the dish. We’re also pretty keen on the salt-and-pepper shrimp and the pan-seared beef with Chinese broccoli.