Where To Eat Pork Buns In NYC
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
They can come baked and golden brown or steamed and fluffy, and they’re usually filled with a sweet and chunky BBQ pork mixture or some kind of ground pork blend. We’re talking about pork buns, of course. If you can go into a Chinese bakery, stare a pork bun in the face, and walk away, you have a lot more willpower than we do. From places in Manhattan’s Chinatown to Sunset Park and Flushing, here’s where to get some great ones in NYC.
Ask a bunch of random New Yorkers where to find the best pork buns in the city, and more than half of them will say Mei Lai Wah. Is that all hype? No—their pork buns are some of our favorites, too. The baked ones are the best. They’re soft with a golden brown top, and once you break one open, steam will pour out from a hot caramel-y pork blend. Devour them right away at one of the handful of booths, or if a craving strikes later at night, head to their Greenwich Village offshoot called Munchiez. It’s open late.
There’s some impressive food at this tiny stall inside the Friendship Shopping Plaza off of Main Street in Flushing. All the pork buns are big and steamed, and they’re unique because the pork plays a supporting role. One comes stuffed with mostly fennel and just a little ground pork, and another (our favorite) has a ton of seasoned cabbage with just a few chunks of meat. Eat them at one of the two tables set up across from the kitchen. Then, order a bunch more (plus some steamed mutton dumplings) to take home.
Show up early and be prepared to wait at this popular, high-end dim sum spot in the East Village—it’s worth it. Tim Ho Wan serves a trio of miniature baked pork buns with a slightly sweet, crunchy topping that we can’t stop thinking about. The dough is crisp on top and soft everywhere else, and the filling is rich and flavorful. Even if you’re here with just one other person, you’ll probably want to get two orders of these, because they’re just too good to share.
Manna One is a little off the beaten path, which works in your favor because it’s not as mobbed as some of the bakeries just a few blocks away. Located in Two Bridges, this takeout-only spot has a bright “We sell pork buns” sign right by the door. Their baked version is meatier than most with a good amount of slightly crunchy onions, and the bun is reminiscent of brioche. It’s still very soft, but holds its structure more than some of the squishier buns on this list. Overall, the version here has the best balance of sweet and savory.
The baked pork buns at Tao Hong are big and poofy, and upon first glance, you think they’re going to be too bready. But once you open one, you’ll see that there’s mostly air inside, and it actually has the perfect bun-to-filling ratio. The sweet BBQ pork mixture has relatively big chunks of meat, and the bun is super soft, chewy, and a little sweet as well. There’s nowhere to sit, but Sarah D. Roosevelt Park is right across the street, so get some bubble tea along with your pork buns and enjoy them there.
When we want a big selection of high-quality dim sum in Flushing, Dim Sum Garden is one of our top choices. This restaurant has a lot of seating, two big tree trunks in the middle of the room, and a huge screen showing music videos. They offer steamed and baked pork buns, and it’s a good move to order both. But if you have to pick, the baked ones are superior. They’re filled with a saucy BBQ pork blend in a sweet, crumbly white bun. Be sure to bring cash because that’s all they take.
Golden Steamer, which has two shops in Manhattan and Sunset Park, makes some of our favorite steamed pork buns. Both locations are small and always busy, but the line typically moves pretty quickly. The filling strikes a nice sweet/savory balance, the meat is leaner and more flavorful than it is at some other spots, and the dough is impossibly fluffy and squishy. Get a milk tea (and a pumpkin bun) to go with your pork buns.
We usually try new things when we go to Jing Fong, but a visit here always includes some steamed pork buns stuffed with sweet and sticky BBQ pork. You’ll get three to an order, and they’re so light and fluffy that they practically fall apart as soon as you pick them up. Eat them as soon as the lid to the bamboo steamer basket comes off, because the outside will get harder and dryer with every passing minute. When you inevitably place that second order, a member of the always-attentive staff will be available to help you within seconds.
This place isn’t easy to find, but once you get here, you’ll be rewarded with some very tasty steamed pork buns. Enter a nearly-abandoned mall off East Broadway, head downstairs, and you’ll eventually find Fu Zhou Wei. Get the small steamed buns (the first item on the menu), which are actually not that small. You’ll get six for $4. They’re juicy on the inside with a ground pork mixture so flavorful, you don’t need to add any soy. The seating area feels a bit desolate, so we recommend taking your food to go.
Dragon Bay Bakery in Sunset Park is a classic Chinese bakery that actually has a bunch of indoor seating, so you can post up with your buns and tea and hang out for a while. The baked pork buns are light, flavorful, and straightforward. With their soft, glossy exteriors, these are a little sweeter than some others, but the filling is actually less sweet. It’s a nice balance, and one we keep coming back for. Get a milk tea and a stuffed mochi ball to go with your food.