Monday, May 26, 2014


A reader recently wondered whether polecats would have the same problem eating piggy buns that everyone else has with charsiu buns. Namely, the sticky bottoms.

Anonymous wrote:
"The trouble with pork buns is that the paper always sticks to the bottom. I can't imagine polecats like them very much, as, like people, they also don't eat paper."

Ah, but that is NOT what piggy buns are! The misconception lies in the name. Charsiu buns (叉燒包 'chaa siu baau') are also commonly called pork buns in English, and it would be a natural error to assume that 'piggy bun' is just another name for a familiar item.

Well, yes. And no.

It's familiar. But not what you think.

The charsiu bun is filled with charsiu pork (叉燒).

You could do the same to the piggy bun. But you would have to cut it open first. Then add slices of charsiu, and perhaps some cilantro and sandwich vegetables. And a smear of soft butter.


The name literally means pig-child bun, in which the character for child (仔 'chai') is both a typical Cantonese term, usually applied to boy children, as well as a diminutive. Chü chai (猪仔) means 'piglet'. The comestible is so named because of its appearance, that being an oval or bolus shape, roughly hand-sized. It's a spongy-crusty bread similar in texture to fresh baguette or a sandwich roll, perfect for toasting for a Cubano, a variation on bánh mì, or just slicing it in half and toasting it, then smearing on the soft butter, sticking it briefly under the broiler, to melt the butter in and gild it, finished with drizzles of sweetened condensed milk.

Easy. Cheap. Delicious.


Polecats (black-footed ferrets) would have no problem.

Why are people so fond of them? Simple. Because you ALWAYS have them with a nice hot beverage.

Either Hong Kong style milk-tea (港式奶茶 'gong sik naai chaa'), or mixed tea and coffee with condensed milk (鴛鴦 'yuen yeung'). It's a welcome break. A pause to regain your composure and recover from the hullabaloo of the day. The interval between getting out of the madhouse, and going right back into the fray.
Even in a loud boisterous overcrowded bakery, it's quiet time.
Your time.

And naturally, its perfect for sharing with a friend.
Someone who has very similar tastes and needs.
Who doesn't mind crumbs on your whiskers.
Or smacky sounds of enjoyment.

Hot milk-tea plus a crispy buttered piggy bun

The problem is that I don't know of any place in my part of the city that even does this. The milk-tea is easy -- over two dozen possibilities or more -- but the piggy bun is hard.

Consequently it's just something I make at home.
I keep some condensed milk just for that.
All creatures love sweeties.

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