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Plum Alley and the Imposter Pork Bun Escapade

  • Plum Alley and the Imposter Pork Bun Escapade
  • Plum Alley and the Imposter Pork Bun Escapade
  • Plum Alley and the Imposter Pork Bun Escapade
  • Plum Alley and the Imposter Pork Bun Escapade
  • Plum Alley and the Imposter Pork Bun Escapade

•Note, this blog post is written by guest blogger, Matt Gibson, who is a finalist for the Ski Utah Foodie blogger position. Comment, engage and share this post. The Ski Utah Foodie Blogger will be announced here, this upcoming Monday at noon.

"Our specialty is pork belly steamed buns," the hostess chirped. "We've become pretty well known for them."

We were in Plum Alley, a trendy Asian fusion bistro in downtown Salt Lake City. The hostess was white. Our waitress was white. The patrons were all white. I was probably the only person in the restaurant who could read the Chinese characters on the front of the menu, which read "hao che," and mean delicious in Chinese.

You see, I used to live in Taiwan. I lived there for six years. It just so happened that I lived a half a block away from one of the best steamed pork bun restaurants in my city (it's a very popular dish in Taiwan) and ate there several times a week. You could say that I'm a bit of a pork bun connoisseur. So, when a teenaged Utah-born hostess tells me that the steamed pork buns are good, I take it with a grain of salt. That's something that I need to decide for myself.

1-pork-belly-steamed-buns [fullsize.image 480x318]

The dish in question

The pork belly steamed bun was not what I expected. In Taiwan, the pork is cooked inside the sealed bun. In Plum Alley it was served on top of it.

Strike one.

I eyed the imposter pork bun suspiciously. The pork appeared to have been braised in a dark sauce with which I was not familiar.

Strike two.

I sniffed the rich sauce before taking a cautious bite. It was tender, rich, and delicious -- reminiscent of the recipes I'd tasted in Asia, but with a marked western influence.

The pork was drier than I'd hoped. The pork belly I love is juicy with a tender rubbery texture, similar to good octopus. That, however, was my biggest complaint.

On the drive home I contemplated my feelings about the imposter pork bun, trying to decide what I'd write about it.

Then, when I got home I found myself telling my girlfriend Emilie (who'd also lived in Taiwan) that I'd discovered a great little place where we could get some bao zi (the Chinese name for the dish).

So, we're going back tomorrow.  Plum Alley is oceans away from my favourite Taiwanese pork bun restaurant, but think it's going to be a fine replacement.

Other Dishes Worth Trying:

2-house-noodles [fullsize.image 480x319]

The house noodles are spicy and probably the dish I liked the most. I ate three servings. I liked them as much as the noodles at Cafe Trang.

3-pickled-veggies [fullsize.image 480x319]

The pickled vegetables had a tangy kick of vinegar, which I enjoyed.

4-ice-cream [fullsize.image 480x320]

Plum Alley has several unique varieties of homemade ice cream such as honey and bourbon.

Tip: if you don't like spicy food, ask your server for suggestions. Dishes aren't marked as spicy on the menu, but some are quite hot.

Plum Alley
111 E. Broadway, St. Suite 190 (see map)
Salt Lake City, Utah

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Cailin's picture
Cailin posted 1 year ago

All that food looks delicious Matt! I hope you win! :)

Matt Gibson's picture
Matt Gibson posted 1 year ago

Thanks Cailin!

cristina's picture
cristina posted 1 year ago

That is a serious imposter! The pork has to be in the bun, not on the bun!!
Looks yummy anyway

Matt Gibson's picture
Matt Gibson posted 1 year ago

I know, right? Who puts pork on the outside of the bun?

Monika @ Utah Ski Resorts's picture
Monika @ Utah Ski Resorts posted 1 year ago

Thanks for this great tip! I love Asian food, and this sounds like a winner. I need to try this, when I'm in Salt Lake City next time.

Matt Gibson's picture
Matt Gibson posted 1 year ago

You definitely should. It really is a great little spot.

Viv's picture
Viv posted 1 year ago

Love the photos and description. Sure made me hungry... maybe hungry enough to take a road trip and check out this food joint for myself!

Matt Gibson's picture
Matt Gibson posted 1 year ago

You'll have to give me a call if you do. Where are you guys these days?

kelley {mountain mama cooks}'s picture
kelley {mountain mama cooks} posted 1 year ago

Ha! As a white girl from Salt Lake and not much to compare too, I still loved them. And those braised greens.....I'm still thinking about them!

Matt Gibson's picture
Matt Gibson posted 1 year ago

I was totally sorry I missed out on the braised greens. Those are awesome! But, it's probably better the gluten-free folks had a chance to eat more. The house noodles more than made up for it.

Danielle's picture
Danielle posted 1 year ago

We tried cooking steamed pork buns at home. They weren't quite Taiwan quality but they were still pretty yummy and surprisingly not that difficult.
Apparently to get the buns nice and fluffy-light you have to steam them pretty far above the water, which we didn't do. And they say to put raw pork inside the bun, and cook it by steaming. I'm still a little hesitant to to that...

Matt Gibson's picture
Matt Gibson posted 1 year ago

You really tried to make them at home? How to do you steam the buns?
Yup, raw pork steaming definitely sounds dangerous. But I think that's the only way to do it. I think I want to try making my own now.

Leah's picture
Leah posted 1 year ago

Mmmm I would love me some bao zi right now!

Matt Gibson's picture
Matt Gibson posted 1 year ago

I'll be you do. It's been a while!

Cathy Sweeney's picture
Cathy Sweeney posted 1 year ago

I would definitely try the noodles since you had 3 helpings! I'd probably prefer Plum Alley's pork bun to the one you were familiar with because an octopus-type texture just isn't my thing. Enjoyed your objective review!

Matt Gibson's picture
Matt Gibson posted 1 year ago

The noodles were awesome!
Don't discount the tender chewyness of good octopus. It's a texture sensation ;)

vikki's picture
vikki posted 1 year ago

Liked your comments and the resolution that your arrived at suggesting the Plum Alley Pork bun would be a great replacement of a Taiwanese favorite. Sort of like trying to find an authentic american hamburger in Taiwan.

Jana's picture
Jana posted 1 year ago

The pork belly looks delicious even though not very traditional Asian. Can't wait to try it! I hope you win too, Matt!

Samantha's picture
Samantha posted 1 year ago

I'm not sure about the pork belly buns, but the house noodles look worth trying out!

Juan's picture
Juan posted 1 year ago

I've driven by Plum Alley several times and now I want to check it out. Thanks

Satomi's picture
Satomi posted 1 year ago

skiing and eating!! my favorite things!

Norie's picture
Norie posted 1 year ago

I'd like to try this out as soon as I get back in town !!!! Thanks, Matt

Mary's picture
Mary posted 1 year ago

Great photos and honest commentary Matt!

Dean's picture
Dean posted 1 year ago

Nice objective review, actually I am now hungry for some of it and it is 7:30 AM.
Will be on my list to try the next time I am in Utah.

Micki's picture
Micki posted 1 year ago

Oh wow, you had me at the honey and bourbon ice cream. Looks soooo good! Really enjoyed this article, especially the comparison with the authentic Taiwanese buns.

Sindy's picture
Sindy posted 1 year ago

Great honest article on the food!! I am going to give it a try but darn, wish the bun sounded better.

Dalene's picture
Dalene posted 1 year ago

It's always a tough thing to compare food from it's origins to duplicates thousands of miles away! It all looks really delicious though. Great article!

Liz's picture
Liz posted 1 year ago

PORK IN BUN! PORK IN BUN! Great photos and review!

Amy's picture
Amy posted 1 year ago

This made me really hungry. I will have to check out that ice cream next time I'm in SLC!

pat's picture
pat posted 1 year ago

Enjoyed the article,Matt...everything looked great. especially the noodles!! Good luck in the competition !!

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