Alright, Londoners and all of my other curious readers from around the world, my latest restaurant conquest had been a highly anticipated event.
I had a love affair with hirata buns since I first tasted them on the second floor of a Chinese convenience store in Singapore. But I really struggled to find them back in the UK. The wait was over when Bone Daddies’ owner Ross Shonhan, ex-head chef of Zuma London and Nobu Dallas, decided to open up Flesh and Buns in Covent Garden.
What are these hirata buns you say?
Let me break it down for you guys.
First there are the steamed buns:
These little soft pieces of steamed heaven may look cute in the bamboo steamers, but their history was full of controversy.
When David Chang first opened Momofoku noodle bar in 2004, he decided to use mass produced versions from a Chinese restaurant supply company instead of making them in house. Many food critics claimed that the handmade buns are better, but I really couldn’t tell the difference.
Next there is the flesh:
These are the fillings of slices of meat in between the buns. They are usually braised belly pork with a nice juicy and fatty layer. There are also various other versions of these, such as duck, seabass or even steak, currently on the menu at Flesh and Buns in Covent Garden.
We ordered the crispy pork belly and flat iron steak versions, just to get a bit of variety in our bellies.
Lastly there are the sauce and pickles:
Popular sauce choices include hoisin for a little bit of savoury kick, sweet and chilli sauce for that gooey sweet tangy goodness, and mayo for a little bit of western influence.
The pickles on offer at Flesh and Buns included beetroot marinated in a tangy sauce and salted cucumber. Both worked perfectly to balance out with the more fatty flesh that we have ordered.
So there you go. The Hirata buns 101.
I always wondered if they were Japanese or Chinese, and after some research, it turned out that they had an East Asian fusion heritage. Their Chinese name was gua bao, which was the Chinese version of hamburgers! Then Japanese ramen bars started to feature them as a nice little side dish, which are now popping up all over London.
It was a hard decision to make as I debated whether I had any space left for dessert. But in the end I gave in to these kinako donuts. They had a black sugar custard centre, very creamy and delicious.
To try these little parcels of goodness as well as a range of amazing side dishes, pop in to Flesh and Buns in Covent Garden, or Yum Buns in Old Street.
Happy Eating! 🙂