This week I set out to try a food I had never tried before. At the suggestion of a classmate I went in search of a red bean bun. A Chinese dish made from a sweetened paste made from boiled, mashed adzuki beans. This paste is then placed in a steamed bun or baozi and served in a steamer container. After searching on the internet I found a place on Spadina called Traditional Chinese Buns that was said to have very good red bean buns.
“Toronto’s Spadina Avenue” sourced from https://tayloronhistory.com/2013/01/26/spadina-ave-when-it-was-a-quiet-rural-location/
After a short misunderstanding I received by Red Bean buns, 4 large buns served in a traditional steamer basket.
To the apparent delight of the female customer next to me I proceeded to sniff and prod at my buns before I ate them. They smelt earthy, a strong scent of yeast under the smell of the steam and water that was used to prepare them. They were spongy and soft to the touch.
Using my newly acquired chopstick skills, since I was not given a fork I fished one out of the basket and proceeded to indulge myself. The first bite was mostly dough which was offputting at first but it was smooth on the tongue, slightly chewy and pleasant. It also revealed to me the inner red bean paste that made the bun what it was.
The paste smelt earthy and sweet, slightly reminded me of a beet but more pungent. The first bite was as it smelt, sweet with strong earthy undertones, in my opinion a little too sweet but still satisfying. There were no salty, sour or bitter elements inherent to the dish. The taste was unlike anything I had tried before, but I imagine beets tasting the same way if prepared the same way. The paste was smooth and melted in your mouth as you chewed the dough you got with each bite. This contrast was enjoyable in the mouth and most of all easy :D.
The buns are traditionally eaten with soy sauce fish sauce or chili, of which only soy sauce was at our table so I tried dipping my buns in this.
This added another layer of flavour to the buns and one of my favorite flavour combinations: sweet and salty. The soy sauce also added a strong umami flavour which was welcome and most importantly made the dish even more appetizing.
The dish was quite unique, it was unlike anything I had tried before. Although baozi or bao are stuffed with many things; the combination of the savoury bun and the sweet earthy paste was delightful and a welcome tasty surprise.
Through this tasting I did realize even more how much my palate enjoyed the marrying of salty and sweet in a dish. I also garnered a stronger respect for umami as I noticed its effects on the dish when added by the soy sauce. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish and would eat it again, however 4 buns for one person is pushing it haha. I have always been a lover of combinations of sweet, sweet and spicy, sweet and salty and sweet and sour. Bitter flavours have never been a delight for me and as such I usually never cook with ingredients that add this element.
This experience has taught me a lot about flavour profiles and tasting. Sitting and analyzing each bite of a meal has given me greater insight when it comes to future grocery shopping. Strong consideration will be given to each ingredient in a meal to guarantee a strong marriage of complimentary flavours.