Thursday, March 22, 2012

Asian Baked Freshness - 大统华面包坊-T&T Bakery

March 9, 2012
大统华面包坊 - T&T Bakery, Richmond BC
豆沙饱 (Black Bean Bun)
台式菠萝包 (Pineapple Bun (TW))
蛋糕堡 (椰丝) (Cake With Coconut)
三宝包 (Taro Custard & Red Bean Bun)
蛋皮肉松卷 (Dried Pork Omelet Bun)

T&T is definitely not cheap, but Mom and I think that for the quality of their buns, they definitely do not overprice their items. The bread is always freshly baked each morning, which means they are sold at discounted prices every night. That's when we normally go to buy them. They get to around 50% off and it is not like we would buy it and eat it right away anyways. They make great breakfasts for the next two or three days. Only, when they are discounted like this, they come in packs of seven randomly selected buns depending on the availability each night.

Picking out a bag with as many of your own favourites as possible without any labels of what each bun is is a definite art. Mom, my aunt, and I each have our way of figuring out what we have in our bag, whether that is by paying attention to the person packaging them up or to the different things on the outer layer such as sesame seeds or almond slices. After dinner with Chris, I decided to go and get some. Here is some of the ones I returned with (he took some and some were squished and thus the photos turned out horrible but I'll get around to those sometime).

First off is the 豆沙饱. Though this is one of the cheaper ones originally in the bag, I wanted to eat it. I love the simplicity of bread filled with red bean paste (or is it black bean?). The most traditional but still one of the best when the bread is soft, moist, and chewy and the red bean paste sweet but not overwhelming. The flower shape added that sense of quality to it. These buns really ought not to be refrigerated, just so the bread will remain moist and chewy - just the way I like it. Dry bread is flavourless with a bad texture - the light sweetness somehow is not as pronounced once it dries up.

This was my first time trying their 台式菠萝包. I have always had filled pineapple buns and not the plain kind. The last time I had a plain one was probably years ago from Maxim's Bakery. The pineapple topping was nice and sweet and again, the bread is good when it is moist and chewy. This was a little dry when I tried it the next day. That is probably just because I left it too long. However, with no filling, the bun is bland, even with the hint of sweetness in the dough. I find that it is too big of a bun to be without filling as the topping does not provide enough flavour compared to the volume. Ahhh, that lovely surface area to volume ratio!

Next came the 蛋糕堡 (椰丝). It is by far my favourite Chinese sponge cake ever, minus the shredded coconut on top. The red bean cream is better than regular cream, not as overwhelming and with a nice red bean aroma. It can get a bit too much sometimes, though, so I generally leave the filling parts for Mom. Instead, I much prefer just the cake part. It could be a bit sweeter, but the lighter taste is definitely more refreshing. Often, I eat this too fast and start choking on the cake. That is usually uncomfortable, but the cake is clearly just too good to resist.

I brought the 三宝包 to school with me. This is only the second time I have had this bun. I have to say that although the concept is quite simple, if you break up the three little buns, each is just a simple mini bun with filling: taro, red bean, and custard. However, each of these pastes is one of my favourite bun fillings. T&T makes the sweetness level just right and there is a decent amount in each bun. I could definitely do with a lot more filling but it is better than some bakeries. The three stuck together is not the most creative either but there is just something about simplicity. It definitely adds to the cuteness factor for this bun. The bread for this manages to remain moist and chewy, even once I got back to Philly. I squish it a bit before eating the dough to bring out the sweetness and chewy-ness but it is definitely one of my new favourites.

Finally, my absolute favourite Asian bun of all time (at the moment at least and for the past year): 蛋皮肉松卷. I brought this with me to school as well, and ate the last half of it on the morning of my math midterm. I had left it in the fridge but because of the egg and Asian mayo, the bread remained generally moist and chewy. A bit more moist than usual, actually, which made it even better! The mayo (or maybe egg white sauce of some sort?) remains a mystery to me. I know it is used in Asian sandwiches but I have never managed to find it on any shelves available for purchase. Maybe T&T makes it themselves. In that case, I'm out of luck. The pork fluff with the mayo and egg is just so good. I cannot even begin to describe how nice a mix of savoury and sweet it is, together with the different textures and levels of chewy-ness. Absolutely gorgeous and a definite must-try!

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