We have been a city obsessed with pork buns since 2003, when David Chang opened Momofuku and introduced us to his version of the classic Asian street treat. His was a revelation: brined pork belly in a pumped up hoisin sauce, with sliced cucumber and scallions housed in a pillow soft cradle of steamed dough. For years, I thought his salty sweet pork buns were the only buns.
Last night, I was invited to observe at a meeting of New York’s own PBC, or Pork Bun Club. Its members are all men, and they are a sophisticated, cool crew who became so enamored of a particular Manhattan restaurant’s pork buns they meet weekly to order said buns and (multiple) rounds of beer and sake. At their second meeting they set a restaurant record: 22 orders of pork buns were consumed. That’s 44 pork buns. There are nine members.
When I observed (and ate at) the last meeting, one of the restaurant managers came to the table to inform the club the kitchen had been preparing for extreme pork bun consumption. One bite and I could understand why: unlike Chang’s sophisticated bun, these buns are like Asia’s answer to the BK Whopper. They are served with a crunchy slice of iceberg lettuce, mayo, and a spicy special red sauce, all in those addictive buns. It’s a delectable, slightly guilty pleasure, and goes wonderfully with a cold mug of Sapporo.
The spot that causes such a swine sensation? It’s the cool Japanese noodle spot called Ippudo. I highly recommend trying the buns at both Momofuku and Ippudo to see what you prefer (it may depend on your mood). But at either spot, do make sure to try their ramen.
Ippudo: 65 4th Avenue. Many say their ramen is the best in the city so don’t limit yourself to buns. Visit their website here.