Saturday, October 20, 2007

JP Knows Good Humbao

by Brian

It was the best of bao, it was the worst of bao. Our quest had the focus of JP's list (see previous post) and, therefore, very high expectations (although we tried our own thing three times before getting on JP's righteous track). Here's our list of humbao joints from worst to best, which is also, coincidently, from first to last:

Winner! No Humbao: Shanghai Garden
This place had no humbao, and they weren't even nice about it. Just a terse, annoyed, repetitive response from a lady who said "No bao! No bao!" Sorry we asked.

Winner! Worst Humbao: Honey Court Restaurant
This place had humbao, but the humbao had no flavor. It was lukewarm and very sweet, but that was it. You couldn't taste the pork, it was just sweet. Like honey. Like their name. Clever? No; just disappointing bao. (I mean, look at my fish face when I'm eating it).

Winner! Second Place Worst Humbao: Purple Dot Cafe
At this point we were still doing our own thing, not yet getting to JP's recommendations. In Marjie's previous post about humbao, she had listed Purple Dot as being tied for her favorite, and JP shamed her for it. We were here to set the record straight. They gave us baked bao instead of steamed bao. It was heavy on the onions, and again, it was lukewarm.

Since her record could not be set straight, Marjie said, "Well, JP is kind of a know it all," because she hates it when other people know more than she does about where to get good food. But, after three failures, she was on track to a place on the JP List.

Winner! Very Close Second Place Best Humbao AND Dumplings that Approach Ultimate Dumpling Status: Jade Garden
Marjie cannot pass up a dumpling recommendation, and thankfully, she did not today, either, even though dumplings were not the day's quest. These shrimp and chive ones were packed with shrimp with a rice flour wrapping. Yum. The bao were delicious, and, finally, HOT. I thought that they might have some kind of bean paste added to thicken them up, and the dough was soft yet moist...just right. Suddenly, JP was a likable know-it-all.

Marjie said, "These humbao kick the last humbaos' ass!"

I said, "JP kicks ass!"

So we headed to our last, and best, JP List destination:

Winner! First Place Best Humbao: New Kowloon
Yep, the restaurant you always see from the freeway when traveling north on 1-5. Tasty, not as gooey but even more flavorful. If only the dough was as good as Jade's, but oh well, what's inside is what matters most.

Winner! Best Non-Humbao, Sandwich and Jello Thingies: Saigon Deli
At this point we got off the humbao track and headed to Saigon Deli for a bahn mi sandwich, since I had never had one before and Marjie loves to prey upon people who have never tried something that she loves. We got carried away with all of the colorful jellos, cakes and coconut flavored thingies, too....and something called Pork and Sour, which is a deceptively cute but actually evil, more sinewy cousin of Spam (pictured, center, the only non-green thingy). The ID pigeons couldn't stomach it either, if that tells you something. Although they tried really hard to.

The sandwich was delicious, and I am eternally indebted to my sister for introducing me to this sandwich (I already owe her my existence because of the turkey wishbone...another story). Toasted tofu, shredded carrots, cilantro, daikon and jalapeƱo peppers in a crunchy French roll. Sound un-American? Yeah, obviously. But also a truly delicious combination.

Hey, JP, where to next?