Cloud, the owner’s son, proudly shows Uncle A-Shui’s Steamed Pork Buns with Egg Yolk
If you head to Uncle A-Shui’s Steam, you’ll almost certainly meet Cloud, the owner’s son. He’s there without fail, seven days a week, working from 4 am to help prepare the buns, all the way ’til closing. Despite the endless long hours, he somehow manages to provide some of the most welcoming service I’ve ever encountered.
Pictured on the left is the owner of the store. Unbelievably, he’s been running the shop for more than sixty years
Maybe it’s the way he conveys such pure enthusiasm when talking about his father’s shop. Or the way he greets his customers like they’re old friends of his. It’s this type of service that’s been bringing people for the sixty plus years the business has been in operation.
One last shot with Cloud!
Oh, and obviously the buns are a big draw card too. When you’re in a country that has an undying affection for buns, I’d imagine it’s quite a tricky operation to keep customers loyal in the face of countless competitors. Even the best service will only get you so far, so you have to have something special to hook people.
Each bun is handmade, from making the stuffing and dough, to the pleating of the dough
One factor that gives Uncle A-shui’s buns an edge over more recently established set ups is that the bun dough and fillings honor traditional techniques and flavours of the past. The dough and fillings remain just like the buns people enjoyed sixty years ago. The buns are preservative-free, and everything is handmade in the on-sight kitchen.
Here’s a freshly assembled Pork Bun, ready for steaming
Cloud was kind enough to take me into the kitchen, where he demonstrated how to assemble a standard Pork Bun. Boy, was he fast- I actually had to ask him to slow down so I could take these photographs! He even let me have a go myself, but let’s just say my poor effort wasn’t quite worth documenting. I blame him for making bun preparation look so effortless– his fine-tuned skills and fast handiwork gave me false confidence that it would be easy!
Steamed Pork Buns with Egg Yolk ｜ 蛋黃香菇肉包
The Steamed Pork Bun with Egg Yolk (蛋黃香菇肉包) ($NT$20) is one of A-shui’s signature products. This bun, and its standard Pork Bun sibling (鮮肉包) are both best sellers, each selling around 200 a day. The key to the mixture is the use of fresh pork and Chinese herbs. It takes ten hours for the dough to be perfectly fermented, a process which results in a distinct chewy texture.
Doesn’t get much fresher than this! Standard Pork Buns and Pork Buns with Egg Yolk resting together in a bamboo basket
The handmade pork stuffing is rich and juicy, and doesn’t have any grizzle like many factory-made buns. If you’re observant, you may be wondering why there are two buns in the picture above which have black sesame on them. It’s the traditional way to differentiate the Steamed Pork Bun with Egg Yolk from the regular Pork Buns.
All these years, I was content with just a regular Pork Bun. But adding egg yolk takes it to a whole new level.
Steamed Cheese Bun ｜起司包
I know there’s a lot of you who’s eyes bulged when you saw the word “cheese”. I’m a total cheese addict myself, so I’ve got to say I was especially excited to try this cheesy offering in the form of a Steamed Cheese Bun (起司包) ($NT20). It ties with the Steamed Vegetable Bun (菜包) (NT$15) as the second most popular bun.
A solo adventure doesn’t get more romantic than stopping by the river to eat a Steamed Cheese Bun!
According to Cloud, this bun is particularly popular with young people (what a solid testament to my youth!). Anchor cheese is used to fill the insides, and the bun itself is a much more airy and light texture than that of the Pork Bun.
Cubes of cheese- need I say more?
Please learn from my mistake- this bun is best eaten fresh. I waited a while to eat it (lest I’d have self imploded from a bun OD), and by the time I did it had already cooled down. It was very tasty, but I know it’d be even better freshly out of the bamboo basket, with the cheese still fantastically gooey and melted.
Peng Pastry / Tainan Brown Sugar Bun Cake | 府城香餅 (黑糖椪餅)
Peng Pastry (府城香餅／黑糖椪餅) ($NT15) is a traditional pastry also known as Tainan Brown Sugar Bun Cake, Fragrant Pastry and Round-top Pastry. While it may look quite bulbous, the inside is hollow, with a thin layer of brown sugar. There are only three main ingredients: flour, water, and brown sugar. When these ingredients are combined and put into the oven, the top of the pastry slowly rises like a bubble.
This is Peng Pastry. Each pastry is stamped with the symbol of the Anping Lion
I’d describe the Peng Pastry as similar to a thin gingerbread, with a sweet and sticky toffee coating.
You can either it Peng Pastry as is, or with an egg like the photographs below show. Interestingly, this egg version is said to be particularly good for nourishing women who have just given birth! Better save that tidbit for the future…
Yep, you can choose to add an egg to your Peng Pastry to make it even tastier
How is the Peng Pastry with egg made? Firstly, the top is scooped out, and then a whole egg with ginger slices is fried in sesame oil and placed inside. Finally, the bun is smashed so both sides of the egg and pastry can be cooked on a low heat.
Sun Cake | 太陽餅
Sun Cake (太陽餅) (NT$10) is a traditional Taiwanese snack from Taichung city. By first appearances it may not look like much, but the Sun Cake is made up of many layers of flaky pastry, and in the middle awaits a layer of malt sugar.
In addition to buns, you can also buy Sun Cakes
The pastry of A-shui’s Sun Cake had quite a buttery taste, and a creamy and milky middle layer. Sun Cakes keep longer than buns, so you can pack some in your bag to eat later as a mid-afternoon pick up.
I also tried their soy milk (豆漿) ($NT15), which with minimal sweetness, paired well with the savoury and sweet offerings from the store. I had it cold (冰), but it also comes hot (熱).
Contact Information for Uncle A-Shui’s Steamed Bun Store
Opening hours: 6:00-18:30(Mon-Sun)
Address: No. 345, Yuping Rd, Anping District, Tainan City