Thursday, September 6, 2007

Frozen Cha Siu Bao Showdown

Before I get into the frozen food war, I'd like to say that my readers rule! Special thanks to Aline and California Girl, who were both so thoughtful to inform me of the $100 iPhone credit! Yay!

Now, back to the usual programming (complete with more reader references, no less)....

While Leslie suggested yesterday that I'm evil for all of my food posts (not a bad theory), I think Alyssa's hypothesis may be closer to the truth. Because I'm so careful about food these days, I'm especially focused on it. I even find myself drawn to other people's food. Tonight, while I made myself a chicken breast quesadilla with fat-free cheese and salsa on a whole wheat tortilla (baked in my toaster oven, not fried), Mr. Monkey decided he'd rather referee a Frozen Cha Siu Bao Showdown (after having already eaten a half a bag of cheddar potato chips before I got home).

A few of you are probably thinking, "What is cha siu bao, WeeMo?" Well, dear readers, it's a fabulous little pocket of goodness! Cha siu (叉焼) is sweet barbecued pork. Bao (包) is generally a bun or bread, usually steamed. Put them together, and you have a steamed sweet barbecued pork bun, which is often a crowd favorite at dim sum. (I think I will explain dim sum another day. That will be a long detailed post with lots of pictures.)

Frozen Contestant #1:
O'Tasty Foods Inc. B.B.Q. Pork Bao With Oyster Sauce
Bought at Ralphs Fresh Fare
370 calories per two buns

Frozen Contestant #2:
Prime Food Corp. Steam Buns With Roast Pork
Bought at 99 Ranch Market
170 calories per two buns

I think Mr. Monkey had already pre-determined a winner before actually sampling, as evidenced by his selection of two Prime Food buns and only one O'Tasty bun. Really, nothing's more Chinese than "O'Tasty."

On appearance alone, Prime Food started off ahead. Cha siu bao are rarely completely closed on top, and the bun should be fluffy and almost cake-like in texture and teeming with bountiful pork. O'Tasty's version looks like a completely different kind of savory meat-filled bao, totally sealed and mysterious. Just wrong. Score one for Prime Food.

Since I did not actually eat these, the rest of this showdown is all the opinion of Mr. Monkey, but transcribed with color commentary by moi.

O'Tasty was *meh* at best. Mr. Monkey said he would eat the rest of the bag, but it wouldn't be his first choice from the freezer. The bun was not delicate or airy. It was sort of thin, yet dense -- contradictory, I know, but that's what it was. The meat was salty. Too salty. It also lacked the characteristic sweetness of proper cha siu. Further, the meat was just straight-up brown, when most cha siu has a reddish tinge to it, courtesy of red food coloring. (I guess this lack of food coloring should really be a plus, but it just didn't seem right to us. It's supposed to be red, damn it!)

Prime Food was a far cry from fresh cha siu bao, but at least the bun was fluffy-ish. It was as fluffy as frozen food could be anyway. The meat was sweeter than O'Tasty's. And red. I think it's obvious which bun won. (Hint: Mr. Monkey ate two of them.)

Lesson learned from the Frozen Cha Siu Bao Showdown -- buy Chinese frozen food from a Chinese supermarket. Duh.


  1. yummy. cha siu bao is always on my dim sum table - i dig both the steamed and baked versions, and the kid always opts for the latter.

    did mr. monkey steam these, or just microwave them? i find that using one of those little steam baskets in a pot with about an inch of boiling water on the stove works really well, and they turn out pretty yummy. and i actually found some at vons pavilions that are very tasty.

    not o'tasty, but actually TASTY.

  2. Dang, total burn - via blog, no less! ;)

    Seriously. I love your food blogs so much. They just make me want to eat at odd times of the day. For instance, right now it's 3:24 AM, and I'm hungry. :)

  3. Dude I just tried one of those little things at Famima!! of all places. It was a mushroom something or other.. I'll have to admit it wasn't so tasty. But then again who knows how many hours that soggy sucker had been sitting in that warmer..

    Maybe I'll try one of these yummy suckers per recommendation of you.

  4. famima cha siu = not so good.
    we desperately need a 99 ranch run. some of these are going on my list. as wan said, putting them in a steamer helps the texture a lot.

  5. I freaking love this post. O'Tasty is usually pretty good w/ the frozen foods. They dominate the dumplings section.

    We should do this together. I bring my version and I challenge yours.

    Sending this post to D so he can see. Thanks!

  6. I have seen the O'Tasty version at my Ralphs Fresh Fare several times and almost bought it because they look so tasty. I'm glad to know I wouldn't be getting the real thing.

  7. Back when I took my driver's training in Rowland Heights, my instructor had me drive him to the 99 Ranch Market and wait in the car while he shopped for an hour. Then I had to drive him back to his house to put away his frozen foods. And that was the extent of my lesson.

  8. I actually tried something for the first time last week...bubble tapioca drink! In the bottom was the red bean and tapioca pearls it was DELICIOUS!!!!!

  9. I'll have to defer comment on these treats because I have never had dim sum, cha siu bao, or anything else from the 99 ranch with the exception of pocky thanks to you ladies.

    Tell Mr. Monkey (and this is to you too, of course) thanks for the education on a pork filled snack I can't pronounce! :) (I'm guessing it's cha-see you-bah o maybe??)

  10. I wish you could read me your post today...There were lots of unfamiliar food words, but I'll trust that I should buy my frozen chinese food from a Chinese supermarket. Thanks for the education :)

  11. I'm so proud of myself. As soon as I saw cha siu bao I thought "ooohh barbeque pork buns!" Not bad for a white girl!

  12. Love, love, love them. Wow, I go from one "food" post to another.
    Aw, you're so healthy, wealthy and wise, WeMo? How od you do it?

  13. Yum. I loooove cha siu bao. Great, now I'm really hungry.

  14. totally a dim sum staple for us. i still remember the first time i ever had one was after visiting my friend's church in chinatown in SF we ran around sampling food from different yummy spots. ah, memories :)


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