When I miss China, I make baozi. When I think of baozi, I think of juicy meat and veggies inside a thin, dough-encapsulated ball of goodness. I think of the first bite followed by the squirt of hot juices into my mouth, a risk I’m always willing to take for the sake of the flavors and nostalgia that ensues.
生煎包 Shengjian Bao
I’m also reminded of the baozi man at Peking University, who sold Caitlyn (Red-headed-China gal-pal) and me baozi in a thin plastic baggy. He was not the kindest vendor we met in our adventures, but certainly the most speedy and most startling. On our first visit to baozi man, we were curious, hungry, apprehensive and most importantly, unprepared. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into when we got in line. Sooner than we could say baozi, we were at the front of the line, face to face with baozi man himself. Uncertain what was even in these mysterious steamed buns that everyone seemed to be so fond of (as indicated by their having either purchased heaving baggy-fuls or eaten them on the spot), I proceeded to ask baozi man himself. Bad idea. The four simple words out of my mouth not only resulted in a twelve person bottleneck, but also a shouting, disconcerted, irritated baozi man. Did I wrong him? Gosh, it wasn’t like I said the four-letter word.
Caitlyn and I shot each other angst-ridden stares and pointed at two baozis. Thank goodness we had exact change. Tails between our legs, we quickly shuffled to the side to consume our hot baozis before they burned through our paper-thin baggies, let alone our hands. The heavenly crunch of the salty veggies married with the soft consistency of the bun was a morning pick-me-up, well worth the baozi man’s harrying. It even prompted weekly visits, which always comprised of lining up, pointing, paying exact change, and alas, ingestion. Of course this was always followed by a nice blueberry yogurt (yoge for short)–a palate cleanser and breath freshener before class.