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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Whole-Wheat Bao: New Trend for the Fiber Conscious?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 4:33 PM

Chicken in front, pork in back.
  • Chicken in front, pork in back.
A month ago, Wing Lee Bakery in the Inner Richmond put up a sign advertising new "healthy" whole-wheat buns: chicken, pork, sweet, and combination (aka dai bao). They look just like the regular white-wheat puffs except for their speckled brown appearance.

That was my second sighting ever of whole-wheat steamed buns. A few weeks back I'd done a double take at the brown man tou (steamed breads with no stuffing) at Yong Kee in Chinatown. I called up the bakery, and the owner told me he started making the buns recently because of customer request. "They wanted more fiber," he said.

Are the whole-wheat buns popular with younger people? I asked him, thinking that the Omnivore's Dilemma generation was responsible for the shift. "No,

younger people don't care," he replied, laughing. "They can eat anything and then run around

the block, and it doesn't affect them."

I didn't have much luck asking the counter women at Wing Lee about the new healthy buns, so I just tried one of each (they seem to cost roughly the same as the regular version, 80 to 95 cents). The dough had the same airy consistency as white steamed buns, though it tasted like a slice of Wonder Bread wheat dusted with powdered sugar. I preferred the bites with the meat (especially the gingery chicken filling, an old favorite) ― the flavor of meat tamped down the earthy, grainy notes of the whole-wheat flour so it showed up more as an undertone, not the dominant flavor.

Of course, I had to finish the high-fiber tasting with one of Wing Lee's cocktail buns, a guilty pleasure for more than a decade. There's something about a hot dog bun stuffed with coconut, sugar, and margarine that I can't resist. Whole wheat would not be an improvement.

Wing Lee Bakery 503 Clement St. (at Sixth Ave.), 668-9481
Yong Kee 732 Jackson (at Stockton), 986-3759

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Jonathan Kauffman


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