Oily all over, white and fluffy on the inside, a deep-fried mantou is hard to come by in the East Village. This was in the appetizer section of Hot Kitchen and disguised under the label “fried little buns.” Now with the exception of the American-Chinese food (stay far away from that section), Hot Kitchen has rarely disappointed, so I decided to take my chances. Plus, it was only $3.
Totally hit the jackpot there. Mantou is a plain Chinese steamed pastry made with flour and injected with leavening agents. It’s the Chinese equivalent of white toast. It was a main source of carbohydrates in northern China and is, to this day, a regular component in Chinese breakfasts. The varieties are endless–mantou with egg (mantou jia dan) or custard mantou, for example.
But my personal favorite is the dessert varietal. When fried, the crust turns a golden brown and is covered with a modest layer of oil. It’s slightly crispy on the outside but soft when bitten into. Eat while hot, but first, dip them in the complimentary condensed milk for a sugar rush.
The menu said it would only come with four pieces, but I got six instead. Three-dollar win.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 9, 2012