Friday , February 23 2024

Xiu pao delights: Nam Dinh’s long-standing bakery honors culinary heritage


For more than three decades, a bakery in Nam Dinh city has been enchanting customers with authentic flavors, preserving the traditional taste of grilled pork buns.

When discussing Nam Dinh cuisine, it is impossible to overlook xiu pao (grilled pork buns), a delicacy that has earned a place in the Nam Dinh Tourism Manual, curated by the Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of the northern province.Its exact origins remain a mystery, but this round, flat cake with a yellow-brown color arrived with Chinese immigrants on Khach Street (now Hoang Van Thu and Le Hong Phong streets in Nam Dinhs capital city). It has since become a beloved culinary tradition.

When discussing Nam Dinh cuisine, it is impossible to overlook xiu pao (grilled pork buns), a delicacy that has earned a place in the Nam Dinh Tourism Manual, curated by the Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of the northern province.
Its exact origins remain a mystery, but this round, flat cake with a yellow-brown color arrived with Chinese immigrants on Khach Street (now Hoang Van Thu and Le Hong Phong streets in Nam Dinh’s capital city). It has since become a beloved culinary tradition.

One of the earliest establishments to produce xiu pao is Hoa Nhung shop at 234 Hoang Van Thu Street. This shop has garnered praise from older residents and has been serving xiu pao for over three decades.  Anh Tuan, 34, is the third generation owner of the bakery. The family operates two establishments, with the first at Hoang Van Thu, housing the machinery and serving as the primary production site for cake processing and shaping. The second establishment, situated around 100 meters away at 4 Hoang Huu Nam Street, was later opened as a baking and retail outlet. The bakery welcomes customers from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

One of the earliest establishments to produce xiu pao is Hoa Nhung shop at 234 Hoang Van Thu Street. This shop has garnered praise from older residents and has been serving xiu pao for over three decades.
Anh Tuan, 34, is the third generation owner of the bakery. The family operates two establishments, with the first at Hoang Van Thu, housing the machinery and serving as the primary production site for cake processing and shaping. The second establishment, situated around 100 meters away at 4 Hoang Huu Nam Street, was later opened as a baking and retail outlet. The bakery welcomes customers from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Mr. Hoa, the second-generation owner of the family, used to make xiu pao entirely by hand. However, when he passed the business to his son, Tuan, in 2015, they introduced machinery and equipment to improve efficiency.     This upgrade reduced the need for manual labor and increased production to meet the demand. Tuan said that they dedicated a year to studying and customizing molds to ensure that the buns maintained their traditional shape and quality, just like the handmade ones.    Xiu pao is favored during cooler seasons rather than summer. At the moment, the bakery sells around 3,000 to 4,000 buns per day. However, on weekends, holidays, and Lunar New Year, this figure can double or even triple.    Apart from catering to retail customers, it also ships buns to other regions, including Ha Nam, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, and Hanoi.

Mr. Hoa, the second-generation owner of the family, used to make xiu pao entirely by hand. However, when he passed the business to his son, Tuan, in 2015, they introduced machinery and equipment to improve efficiency.
This upgrade reduced the need for manual labor and increased production to meet the demand. Tuan said that they dedicated a year to studying and customizing molds to ensure that the buns maintained their traditional shape and quality, just like the handmade ones.
Xiu pao is favored during cooler seasons rather than summer. At the moment, the bakery sells around 3,000 to 4,000 buns per day. However, on weekends, holidays, and Lunar New Year, this figure can double or even triple.
Apart from catering to retail customers, it also ships buns to other regions, including Ha Nam, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, and Hanoi.

Hoa Nhungs xiu pao resemble steamed pork buns but are prepared following the original Chinese recipe passed down from Hoas father-in-law. The filling for xiu pao consists of a combination of ground pork belly, wood ear mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and egg yolk, seasoned with pepper and other spices.   The distinct feature of Hoa Nhungs buns lies in its crust, made from a blend of flour and lard mixed with water. The dough is kneaded and evenly rolled, layer by layer. Once cooked, the crust reveals four to five thin layers that peel apart when lightly squeezed.

Hoa Nhung’s xiu pao resemble steamed pork buns but are prepared following the original Chinese recipe passed down from Hoa’s father-in-law. The filling for xiu pao consists of a combination of ground pork belly, wood ear mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and egg yolk, seasoned with pepper and other spices.
The distinct feature of Hoa Nhung’s buns lies in its crust, made from a blend of flour and lard mixed with water. The dough is kneaded and evenly rolled, layer by layer. Once cooked, the crust reveals four to five thin layers that peel apart when lightly squeezed.

Once the filling is wrapped, the buns are arranged on trays and placed in the oven. They undergo two rounds of baking, each lasting 20 to 30 minutes at approximately 200 degrees Celsius. After the initial baking, the grilled buns are removed, and a layer of egg wash is brushed onto the crust, lending it a natural golden color.

Once the filling is wrapped, the buns are arranged on trays and placed in the oven. They undergo two rounds of baking, each lasting 20 to 30 minutes at approximately 200 degrees Celsius. After the initial baking, the grilled buns are removed, and a layer of egg wash is brushed onto the crust, lending it a natural golden color.

The finished product features a golden hue, with a crispy yet soft crust that remains intact. Each batch emanates a sweet aroma, enchanting passersby on the street corner.

The finished product features a golden hue, with a crispy yet soft crust that remains intact. Each batch emanates a sweet aroma, enchanting passersby on the street corner.

Sized to fit in the palm of ones hand, each bun is priced at VND5,000 (21 cents). The cake may be small, but it contains a good amount of fillings. The wood ear mushrooms provide a satisfying crunch, while the combination of savory pork belly and shiitake mushrooms, spicy pepper, and rich egg yolk creates an outburst of tastes.    Vu Quynh Chi, 28, from Hai Phong, said: Compared to other places, these buns are larger, with thinner shells and fuller fillings. Breaking one in half while its still hot releases aromatic smoke, enough to tantalize any appetite.

Sized to fit in the palm of one’s hand, each bun is priced at VND5,000 (21 cents). The cake may be small, but it contains a good amount of fillings. The wood ear mushrooms provide a satisfying crunch, while the combination of savory pork belly and shiitake mushrooms, spicy pepper, and rich egg yolk creates an outburst of tastes.
Vu Quynh Chi, 28, from Hai Phong, said: “Compared to other places, these buns are larger, with thinner shells and fuller fillings. Breaking one in half while it’s still hot releases aromatic smoke, enough to tantalize any appetite.”

The bakery packages 10 buns per bag. Tuan explains that due to the absence of preservatives, the cakes should be consumed within a day or kept in the freezer for up to a week. Before eating, it is recommended to microwave the cakes briefly, allowing them to regain their crispy, and fragrant qualities.

The bakery packages 10 buns per bag. Tuan explains that due to the absence of preservatives, the cakes should be consumed within a day or kept in the freezer for up to a week. Before eating, it is recommended to microwave the cakes briefly, allowing them to regain their crispy, and fragrant qualities.

Xiu pao is not just a breakfast or afternoon snack. It is also a heartfelt gift from the countryside, symbolizing the warmth and affection of the Nam Dinh people.    Pham Van Hau, a 60-year-old resident of Nam Dinh, purchased 100 xiu pao to send as gifts to his friends in Hanoi. He said that he has been enjoying these cakes since his youth.     Although I have tried two other establishments in Nam Dinh, I found their taste lacking. I only choose to buy from here for my gift-giving needs, Hau said.    In Nam Dinh City, visitors can easily discover shops selling xiu pao along Hoang Van Thu, Le Hong Phong, and Nguyen Trai streets.

Xiu pao is not just a breakfast or afternoon snack. It is also a heartfelt gift from the countryside, symbolizing the warmth and affection of the Nam Dinh people.
Pham Van Hau, a 60-year-old resident of Nam Dinh, purchased 100 xiu pao to send as gifts to his friends in Hanoi. He said that he has been enjoying these cakes since his youth.
“Although I have tried two other establishments in Nam Dinh, I found their taste lacking. I only choose to buy from here for my gift-giving needs,” Hau said.
In Nam Dinh City, visitors can easily discover shops selling xiu pao along Hoang Van Thu, Le Hong Phong, and Nguyen Trai streets.

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