When it doesn’t taste like home

On Friday, I went down to Chinatown to do some grocery shopping and pick up some baked goods from local bakeries I wanted to try out and support. While I picked up many goodies and things that we enjoyed, I was still a little disappointed in the cha siu bao, or Chinese baked barbecue pork buns I purchased from the locally loved Mei Li Wah Bakery on Bayard Street. Everyone I know in New York who has a cha siu bao recommendation always recommends Mei Li Wah as the best bakery to go to, yet in the handful of times I’ve gotten these there, I’ve never quite been satisfied with them. They’re a little too much on the sweet side for me, and the cha siu, or barbecued pork that is used, tends to be more fatty rather than meaty. I still have yet to try a cha siu bao in New York that comes close to the ones that my parents would buy from a very specific bakery in Oakland Chinatown that they’d occasionally go to when visiting the East Bay.

Even though I’ve lived in New York for about 12 years now, I still haven’t found reliable spots for cha siu bao, zongzi (Chinese rice tamales), or Cantonese-style crab or lobster at a reasonable price. Those are still the things I tend to get and eat when I am back home in San Francisco. It just doesn’t taste like home here for these specific items, sadly.

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