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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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Alyson's picture
Alyson posted 1 year ago

Ahh! That happened to me too!!! I complained at length to an unamused white New Yorker behind the restaurant counter that this is not a "real" Bao Zi if the content is visible from the outside. He offered me a promotional key chain for my troubles.

Matt's picture
Matt posted 1 year ago

Ha ha ha. Yup, times are tough all over here in the US.
Good luck during the storm. Take care!

Kelsie London's picture
Kelsie London posted 1 year ago

Great article and photos... Sudden desire for Dim Sum or a trip to Asia. Wish you could review restaurants here in Calgary before I go to them!!!

Ryan's picture
Ryan posted 1 year ago

I love steamed pork buns. Think I'm going to seek some out right now. Thanks!

dan's picture
dan posted 1 year ago

Awesome article! Looks like steak on a bun, which actually sounds pretty good!!!

David's picture
David posted 1 year ago

Good review, nicely balanced - and the excellent photography helps, too. But now please reveal where's that good pork bun restaurant in Taipei as well for those of us who also frequent Taiwan....

Matt's picture
Matt posted 1 year ago
Eva Hamori's picture
Eva Hamori posted 1 year ago

Your photos are great Matt! I sure miss Asian food, and wish there was a place like this here in France.

Andrea's picture
Andrea posted 1 year ago

Those steamed pork buns look heavenly - I'm a huge fan of them too.

Dean's picture
Dean posted 1 year ago

Sounds great! I will put it on my list for the next time I am in Utah.

Bryon's picture
Bryon posted 1 year ago

I'm a picky eater and have never heard of that. Looks tasty!

Rich Matheson's picture
Rich Matheson posted 1 year ago

Agreed. It looks funny. But if it tastes good that's all that matters, especially so far away from Taiwan.

Johnny's picture
Johnny posted 1 year ago

I'm all for innovation and fusion but the pork must be in the bun! Mix up the ingredients and spices and whatnot, but do so in the bun.

Matt's picture
Matt posted 1 year ago

Agreed, pork must be in bun. You appear to be passionate about your bao zi. Where do you get yours?

Johnny's picture
Johnny posted 1 year ago

Pork belongs in the bun! Change the flavor of the pork, change the ingredients, ratios and spices, and whatnot and whathaveyou, but do so in the bun. Too much fusion leads to confusion...

Gary Arndt's picture
Gary Arndt posted 1 year ago

Are you talking about Din Tai Fung?

Matt's picture
Matt posted 1 year ago

Din Tai Feng is epically good, but I don't think that they serve bao zi. The place I'm talking about is a small restaurant near the house I lived in in Tainan.
Have you been to Din Tai Feng? It's great, isn't it?

Ava Apollo's picture
Ava Apollo posted 1 year ago

Looks delish!

Velma's picture
Velma posted 1 year ago

Hum I am so hungry, sounds and looks great.
Hope you win Matt.

Matt's picture
Matt posted 1 year ago

Thanks Velma!

Abby's picture
Abby posted 1 year ago

Loved this breezy, inciteful review! I crave spicy food, so I think I'd love it here. There are some amazing pork bun places in NYC. They really are magical when done right. I want to read more food stories from Matt!

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