Chinese pork buns – handmade on a Sunday morning

by Tom Hanchett

porkbunsNo longer in business.

Walk inside Zen International Market & Tea in south Charlotte on a Sunday morning and the first person you’ll see is Jason Wang, deftly hand-making Chinese pork-and-cabbage buns.

Wang is 58 years old, here in Charlotte from his native Taiwan for eighteen years now.  His Chinese first name is Chi-Chia – “Jason” is easier for American tongues.  All week he cooks at Wells Fargo / Wachovia’s giant office complex near UNCC. Sundays find him at Zen, happily chatting with shoppers in Mandarin and some English.

“When I was young, I was interested in food,” he says.  “My father taught me.”

He began with dumplings, what Americans call “pot-stickers.”  Indeed he still makes them under the title “Old Wang’s Homemade Dumplings,” sold in the freezer case at Zen Market.  Steamed buns are a doughier variation.

On Saturdays Wang pre-makes the filling, lots of crisp Napa cabbage mixed with chopped pork, salt and spices.  Sunday mornings he assembles the buns – a hand ballet that moves almost faster than the eye can see.

Wrapper dough is rolled out very thin with a simple dowel of a rolling pin.  A short bladed knife scoops up filling and smoothes it in the wrapper.  Then the dough is folded into a ball shape, with a swirling crimp in the top.  About fifteen minutes in the steamer and the treat is ready to eat.

Ten warm buns — lunch for you and a friend or two — cost just $4.49.

Zen International Market & Tea
No longer in business.

10225 Park Road
Charlotte, NC  28210
(704) 541 – 4748