At Chinatown's Dragon Land Bakery, it's look, don't touch—and order quick or lose your place line.
Said line bunches up at the door, but it moves fast. Once you reach the front, there's a literal wall of hot baked, fried, steamed goods, a red belt—separating the rows of taro-filled buns and dough-wrapped hot dogs from the hungry—and a couple of stern women armed with a set of tongs, waiting on your order.
You're up next. Panic sets in. What's that big yellow mound? Is the dan tat (egg custard) good here? Wait, I'm here for lunch—where are all the curry things?!
Breakfast, lunch, early evening—this place is always packed. It's got the best assortment of bready goods, savory and sweet, but you have to know where to look, err, what to point at.
We did the "research" of stuffing ourselves silly, so we've compiled a good list of what you should order. Skip the flabby egg custard and gesture toward these baked goods if you're non-Cantonese-speaking (or clueless). They'll make the most gluttonous (and glutinous) spread:
Clockwise, top left: Curry bun, scallion hot dog bun, sugar doughnut and pineapple bun | Photo: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table
Scallion hot dog bun ($1.75): Hot dogs belong in Asian dishes like noodle soup, rice and, here, chopped up and baked into a Pillsbury-like clover-shaped bun. A generous squirt of mayo and a tiny bit of cheese are baked together into a rich tangy mess on top, and a sprinkling of scallions completes this surprisingly delicious Chinese-American mash-up.
Coconut cream bun ($1.75): This bakery staple is sort of like a hot dog, but instead of said weiner, the bun is filled with a mountain of milky coconut-infused cream! This one's a big boy—we highly recommend sharing it as a snack or calling it breakfast if for yourself—but we're fans of the delightfully over-the-top ratio of buttery cream to soft bun.
Sugar doughnut ($1.10 for three): Watch out—there's a stick inside. Most sugar-dusted doughnut holes are put to shame by these three little beauties stacked on a spindly kebab. They're crisp and crunchy with sugar on the outside and wispy and layered like dinner rolls—better than the cake doughnut variety, in our book.
Baked pork bun ($1.10): Slicked with a thin, sticky glaze, these medium-size mounds of oniony, roasted char siu pork are spot-on. It's less bready than the usual steamed sort you'll find at dim sum joints—and the best quick snack to scarf while dodging tourists along Canal Street.
Curry bun ($1.10): When you see a big tray of these football-shaped pastries coming out, jump on 'em. It's an aromatic, almost Malaysian-style curry made of stewed beef and soft, caramelized onions, and enveloped in a slightly sweet potato doughnut-like dough. Cheap lunch for the win.
Pineapple bun ($0.90): Every Chinese bakery sells this bright yellow, somewhat diamond-patterned bun—hence the name pineapple, since there's no actual pineapple in it—but this one is exceptional. Hot out of the oven, it's one of the airiest versions we've tried in the city, and that crackle of egg, sugar, flour and lard on top lends a nice crunchy contrast.
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