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Hot Meat and Steamed Buns, A Welcome Addition to the Bakery


A fraction of people who read the next sentence will understand it and be out the door and headed downtown without bothering to read more; the rest of you will be confused and compelled to read on.

Yen Ching Bakery now has manapua every Sunday. But here's the catch: Yen Ching Bakery doesn't know it serves manapua, so don't ask for it by its pidgin name. If you're comfortable with your Chinese, ask for "hum bao," otherwise, ask to be pointed to the selection of stuffed steamed buns. You'll find four varieties in total: vegetable, bean, pork and vegetable, and classic manapua char sui pork.

For the uninitiated, think dim sum on steroids. In Hawaii, manapua is as ubiquitous as the potato in Idaho. They are stuffed with everything from sausage to sweet potato and sometimes baked, but the most common version is steamed and filled with shredded char sui pork. Rather than the perfectly smooth, pale, dome-shaped buns you used to find in island grocery stores, Yen Ching Bakery's are flatter, knotted little handmade numbers. The same steamed, springy bread cradles a spoonful of slightly fatty chopped pork in a slightly too soupy char sui sauce. They're not spot on, but as the only option within miles, they get the job done. Especially for a buck and a half.