London has gone steamed-bun crazy in recent years, with the Asian snack dominating both the street-food scene and, more recently, the restaurant scene. The soft, fluffy buns can be filled with meat, vegetables or even ice cream. Here are the best places to get these little bundles of foodie perfection.
Food Truck, Asian
With Yum Bun, the clue’s in the name. A stalwart of the London foodie scene since 2011, Yum Bun can currently be enjoyed at Street Feast’s Dalston and Lewisham outposts every week. It specialises in the fluffiest of fluffy buns, filled with a variety of Chinese- and Japanese-inspired ingredients. The slow-roasted pork belly comes with cucumbers, spring onions and a delectable hoisin sauce, while the crispy prawns with green chilli sambal and lettuce offers an addictive crunchy/soft combo.For something completely different, try the dessert buns: coconut ice cream in a deep-fried bun with miso butterscotch and peanut praline, or coffee ice cream in a deep-fried bun with condensed milk. Sample all of these and it will be obvious why Yum Bun has won multiple honours at the British Street Food Awards.
A Korean street-food specialist with an emphasis on fun, drinks and punchy flavours, On the Bab’s buns are intense, kimchi-infused concoctions that don’t spare the spice and drip with juicy deliciousness. This is a messy affair, and unashamedly so: the restaurant provides its own wet wipes to go with the buns. The bulgogi beef variety is a tender treat, while the fried chicken is further evidence that this is a dish Korea does better than anyone else on the planet.The rest of the menu features such dishes as fried yangyum chicken with crushed peanut and soy garlic or sweet spicy sauce; budae jjigae, a wonderfully surprising frankfurter, spam and processed cheese stew; and the obligatory bibimbap, which remains the perfect comfort food.
At the top of the wonderful K10 Japanese restaurant is Beer & Buns, a pop-up doing exactly what it says on the tin. Beer & Buns serves fluffy buns alongside a menu of independent Japanese beers and sake, with incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff to help you choose the perfect drink to accompany your perfect meal. After a few handfuls of home-made spicy popcorn to start you off, we recommend the sticky and moreish Asian sauce-glazed wings, paired with beer from the first microbrewery in Tokyo, which come served in chilled glasses. Though you will be tempted to go in for seconds on the wings, save room for the obvious star of the show: buns, buns and more buns (and beer).The short menu allows you to order one of everything, so you don’t have to choose between the tender duck with refreshing cucumber, the roast pork with red cabbage, the fried chicken or even the veggie option, which offers delicious aubergine with avocado salsa and miso sauce, so vegetarians can join in on the fun. And fun, is, ultimately, what this place is about: sitting on barrels, playing foosball and vintage pinball, knocking on tables to drop sake bombs into beer and sipping ice-cold Asian cocktails. Located in the centre of the city, and moments away from Shoreditch, it brings together suits and jeans to bond over beer and buns.
Chefs Shing, Wai Ting and Erchen have travelled extensively across Taiwan, China and Asia over the years, cooking and eating together, and BAO draws its inspiration from these culinary capitals, as well as from the ‘small-eats’ venues popular in Taipei. Made in-house, the steamed milk buns speak for themselves, and are so good that they have got other people talking as well. The secret-recipe buns come filled with braised pork, peanut powder, fermented greens, lamb shoulder, panko-crumbed daikon radish, daikon pickle, hot sauce and coriander.There are snacks and other items as well, ranging from sweet-potato chips with plum pickle salt to the more adventurous (and terrifying) pig-blood cake. You can finish your meal with a decadent fried Horlicks ice-cream sandwich. Whatever nibbles you choose, however, they are sidekicks to the undeniable kings of the London milk-bun scene. With queues around the block and no reservations, be prepared to wait for the privilege of eating here.
Shoryu Ramen, with multiple locations around London, is a choice place for eating sticky, slurpy, messy food in a classy environment. Its sleek surroundings provide a lovely setting for a nice but reasonable evening out and the chance to to indulge in some incredible food.As the name suggests, the rich ramen options are delicious and hearty as a main meal, but the buns should not be overlooked. Pillowy and just spongy enough, they come filled with char siu barbecue pork belly, soy-marinated chicken karaage, ginger salmon tatsutage, tiger prawn tempura and grilled halloumi and shimeji mushrooms, with gluten-free options available as well.Shoryu Ramen’s winning bun is the wagyu beef yakiniku with shiso, daikon and shimeji, which is tender and deeply flavoursome, and is offset perfectly by the light and airy bun. Pair your food with some warm sake served in a little wooden box, and you’re in for a beautiful evening out.