Food trend alert: Hirata buns dissected

Posted at 1:00 pm, September 5, 2013 in Food & Drink
Hirata Buns © Rob Greig

A New York version of Taiwanese street food with a Japanese name – sounds like a gourmet game of Chinese whispers. But just what is a hirata bun? Celia Plender peers below their succulent steamed surface to find out.

Hirata Buns © Rob Greig

Buns
Once stuffed, these fluffy, folded and steamed Chinesestyle buns look a little like Pac-Man after a good meal. They’re often made with milk powder and come in different sizes from three bites upward.

Hirata Buns © Rob Greig

Fillings
Braised or roasted fatty pork belly makes a popular filling, though other slowcooked meats, fried seafood or grilled mushrooms can also feature.

Hirata Buns © Rob Greig

Greenery
Lettuce, cucumber or spring onions add crunch. Some use sweet or salt-pickled veggies to add another dimension.

Hirata Buns © Rob Greig

Sauces
Sweet, spicy chilli sauce adds a little oomph, while a dollop of mayo is good for squelch factor. Other popular sauces include sweet, salty hoisin, tangy mustard and miso.

The history of Hirata buns…

20th Century
TAIWANESE STREET FOOD
Steamed, folded gua bao buns are Taiwan’s answer to the hamburger. Packed with braised pork, ground peanuts, salt pickles and coriander, this traditional street food snack is where our story begins.

2004
A BITE OF THE BIG APPLE
Since David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar opened in New York in 2004, his folded milk buns filled with roast pork belly, hoisin, cucumber and spring onion have been wowing NY fans of East Asian food.

2008
HIRATA-SAN
Japanese ramen chain Ippudo opened in NYC’s East Village with buns named after their executive chef Masashi Hirata. These chashu (braised, pan-fried pork) and lettuce parcels slathered in a spicy sauce were soon causing a stir.

2010
YUM BUN
Taking inspiration from Momofuku, Lisa Meyer started Yum Bun as a London street food stall selling steamed, folded snacks in 2010. Moving into bricks and mortar earlier this year, Yum Bun’s first shop is located just off City Road in EC1.

2013
WORLD DOMINATION
This year, the hirata is popping up on London menus. It’s also been exported across the Ippudo chain, including Japan, where it’s called the ‘Hakata bun’ after Ippudo’s birthplace.

Try them now at Flesh & Buns or Yum Bun.

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