Buns & Rice Cake in Chinatown – NYC
So the coronavirus (or COVID-19) pandemic is becoming serious. Not only have thousands of people died from the virus, globally, financial markets are being impacted as well. In addition, small businesses are said to be losing lots of money as people are scared to patronize Chinese businesses. It seems ridiculous, but I have to admit when I first heard about the coronavirus, I was scared as well, and decided to skip Chinatown that weekend. Initially, 7 people had been infected in NYC, but those 7 were later cleared. So what now? I’m still wary of telling people to rush to your local Chinatown, especially those with compromised immune systems, but for everyone else, I would say, support your local Chinese businesses if possible. The way I see it, NYC is a cramped city. If someone has the virus, we’ll all get infected anyway. We might as well die full and happy while we’re at it.
So today for breakfast, I decided to make a small trek to my go-to Chinese bakery, Lucky King Bakery, in Chinatown for some carby treats. I always get either a red bean bun or pineapple bun, and since I wanted both, I got a pineapple bun with red bean paste (pictured at top). The best pineapple buns have a thick cookie shell on top, and this bun was pretty solid. As for the red bean paste, it had the perfect amount. Which reminds me, when I was little, we used to eat Korean steamed red bean buns at home, and I would always throw away half the paste as I thought it was too much. This would infuriate my dad as he thought it was a waste of money, which I didn’t get. What does it matter to him if it ends up in the trash or in my belly???!!! Now that I’m older, and I pay for my own buns, I get it. I always eat all my red bean filling. You should too.
Because I always need something savory, I ordered a roast pork bun (char siu bao) too. Most roast pork buns in Chinatown tend to be way to fatty. The ones at Lucky King could be a little fattier, but they get bonus points for being fresher than most places.
And my favorite at Lucky King is the Chinese rice sponge cake. These cakes aren’t for everyone as they are gelatinous and slightly sour in taste as a result of fermentation, but for me, I love them as I grew up eating Korean rice cakes called jeungpyun (증편) or suldduk (술떡) which is similar but slightly more fermented in taste. Fong On nearby makes a more updated version of the Chinese rice sponge cake, but for a classic take on the traditional cake, this is where I go.
As for price, for all 3 sweets, I paid $5. Not bad at all.
Again, support your local business if you can. Today, for the first time, the normally ambivalent ladies at Lucky King made an effort to be nicer to me, which goes to show you, the downturn in activity is real. Get out there and get your bun, noods, or dumpling on!
Lucky King Bakery
280 Grand St (map)
New York, NY 10002
Visit Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Pro Tip: If you like Chinese sponge rice cake, this is a solid traditional spot.