Archive for the tag 'chinese bakeries'

tart

THE BITE: Way back in 2009 when Ka Ka Bakery opened at 1505 Avenue U, we all had a good laugh. Ned made some puns, got a pork bun, and invited us to share in the joy of this oddly named bakery. Maybe it means something in Cantonese or Mandarin? I don’t know. Anyway, good times.

Well, a few years later, it still stands, amid heavy competition. I think there are about four Chinese bakeries within two blocks of each other on that stretch of Avenue U by the Q train station, but the pink Ka Ka Bakery sign still got a smile out of me and I went in for a quick bite.

For 90 cents I decided to go with an egg custard tart, or dan tat, which I’ve seen (and eaten) at many Chinese bakeries.

There are two origin stories for this pastry:

  1. They were first baked by nuns in a monastery outside Lisbon over 200 years ago. These pasteis de nata became popular in Portuguese baking, and made it to the Portuguese colony of Macau, right next to Hong Kong, where they also took off and slowly seeped into the culinary awareness of Taiwan, mainland China, and eventually the rest of Asia.
  2. They were brought to Hong Kong and Canton (now Guangdong) by English colonists in the 1940′s and have evolved from English custard tarts with more egg and less milk. They were first popularized in China at cha chaan tengs, which were tea houses that served tea and Western-style foods and cakes to working-class Chinese at affordable prices. That was something unprecedented as Western food had previously been considered only for Chinese elite.

Whatever the true origin, I like that these are a little less heavy and less sweet than what you typically get from Western desserts. Each bakery seems to have their own specific take on these, and while you can find them in chocolate, green tea, or honey-ginger flavors at some places, plain sweet egg is the standard, and you will see some variation in texture from one baker to the next. The crust can be either buttery shortcrust or puff pastry, and the filling varies in ratios of egg yolk, egg white, milk, sugar, and gelatin.

Ka Ka Bakery’s egg custard tart has a shortcrust shell that is neither too thin nor too thick and in good proportion to the filling. The inside doesn’t come in any fancy flavors here, but it’s fluffy and not too yellow, which makes me suspect a higher ratio of egg whites. It’s got just a hint of jelly-like texture, holding everything together well enough and there’s a bit of sweet mystery liquid on top of the custard, which you can see glistening in the photo. Personally, I prefer these to be a bit less creamy and a bit more gelatinous (I’ve grown to like that wiggly texture) so I may be trying around the competitors just to see, but if you’re preference is for milky and not wobbly, these are for you.

Ka Ka Bakery, 1505 Avenue U, (718) 998-2229.

– Sonia Rapaport

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

THE BITE: This week the Bite breaks new ground and lets you take a peak into the sausage factory. Usually we spend the week sampling various foods for the Bite and try to only bring you the best the neighborhood has to offer. Today, we bring four of the neighborhood’s Cha siu bao offerings, better known as the pork bun, into the office for a showdown.

Let’s meet the four contenders..

  1. Bing Bakery – 1415 Gravesend Neck Road – $0.80.
  2. Bliss Bakery – 1412 Avenue U – $1.00.
  3. Good Family Bakery – 1317 Avenue U – $0.90.
  4. L & U Bakery – 1405 Avenue U – $0.70.

Before we get started, let’s set some ground rules here. One: this is not a definitive guide to Cha Siu Bao. Not every Chinese bakery in the neighborhood will be represented. There’e no bias here. These buns were purchased in the normal course of my day, while conducting other important business for Sheepshead Bites. If I passed a Chinese bakery, pork buns were purchased. Two: all of these pork buns were purchased on Tuesday afternoon around 3:00 p.m. A few of the bakeries were sold out of Cha Siu Bao by that time. Three: the Chinese Bakery owners and staff were not aware of this impending shoot out.

Once back at the office, all of the buns were weighed, sliced open, photographed and tasted. Now, here at the Bite, we’re not experts in Chinese food, but we know what we like. So here’s what we’re looking for: a light, chewy bun with a texture very similar to hallah. The pork filling should be tender, moist and bursting with flavor – after all, the diced pork is usually mixed into a syrupy mixture of oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, roasted sesame seed oil, rice vinegar, shaoxing wine or dry sherry, soy sauce, sugar and cornstarch. The bun should have a nice meat-to-bread ratio, with meat in every bite.

Read on to find out the results of the Buns Off Challenge!

Welcome back to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

Avenue U west of Ocean Avenue has a reputation among the foodies of NYC as being Brooklyn’s “Mini China Town.”  Only Sunset Park’s “China Town” surpasses our neighborhood in size, but I believe our restaurants and markets are much better. Maybe I’m biased?

Stroll along the avenue and you’ll find Chinese bakeries, markets, stores and restaurants. Many of the store signs are in Chinese, leaving this guilo wondering what wonders await inside.

Today I followed my nose and stepped into L & U Cafe for a quick bite – a Cha Siu Baau or BBQ Pork Bun. Hmm, did someone say BBQ?

BBQ Pork – Who could ask for more?