I was so excited when I saw these in the case. CH and I had been in Denver several weeks earlier, loading up on groceries at Viet Hoa Supermarket, when I saw a sign for an Asian bakery just before we pulled out of the lot. It was dingy inside and the cases were empty—it looked more like a wholesale place than a retail bakery—but in a glass-walled refrigerator on the side I spotted two baskets of large, saran-wrapped steamed buns. Even though they were hard and cold, and looked dried-out on the outside, I bought three and crossed my fingers that they would be delicious. After all, even a bad bao is still pretty good…right?
The answer is no. When I steamed one later on (I had promptly stowed them in the freezer), I discovered how wrong I was. The dough was crumbly and dry, the meat tasted and felt like cardboard, the pieces of Chinese sausages were without flavor, and the tiny hard-boiled quail egg was rubbery. These were bao that tasted of sadness.
I suppose I should have guessed. I mean, look at the wretched thing, with its dry, cracked skin.
When I go home for winter break, I'm bringing back a load of my dad's baozi, damnit.