Mei Lai Wah Pork Buns: What Am I Missing?


Delicious rice noodle roll

I stopped by the newly reincarnated Mei Lai Wah (64 Bayard Street) today, which is now cleaner and brighter, but, by all accounts, just as good as before. A confession: I hadn’t been there before it closed. When I was doing research for my Chinatown bakery story, I talked to Chinese cookbook author Grace Young, who said that Mei Lai Wah had been one of her favorite places for a steamed roast pork bun. But by then it was too late to try what was apparently the ultimate char sui bau.

But now, as you’ve probably heard, Mei Lai Wah rides again. So I went by for lunch today and got a rice noodle roll with shrimp and a steamed roast pork bun. And they were both very good, absolutely above average, but I liked the rice noodle roll more than the bun. The noodles were very delicate and slightly chewy, filled with small, nicely cooked shrimp.

The char sui in the bun, while tender and well-fatted, didn’t have any sauce at all. Maybe this makes me a char sui bau philistine, but I like the slightly sweet slick of oyster-hoisin sauce that’s usually mixed in with the pork. I don’t like it too sweet, or gloppy or full of food coloring. But I don’t think a dry pork bun is as good as one with sauce. So were the Mei Lei Wah buns always like this, and do people love this style, or did I just get an off batch?

Here’s a picture, below, of the bun. Sorry it’s out of focus, I always feel like such an ass sitting in a restaurant and taking pictures of my food, so I try to do it as quickly as possible. Do tell: is this your beloved bun?