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Ten best bakeries for Chinese pastries in New York City

Hopscotch around NYC’s best bakeries for Chinese pastries to nab first-rate egg tarts, sponge cakes, steamed buns and more.

Photograph: Krista Schlueter

Taipan Bakery

Walking into this pristine, neon-pink–tinted Chinatown bakery—opened in 1990, with an additional two offshoots in Flushing—is sheer sensory overload. A bustling crowd herds around the counter, glazed-over eyes taking in the pastry porn displayed: vibrant fruit tartlets ($2.50) artfully topped with honeydew balls and tufts of whipped cream; pale rounds of creamy papaya and green-tea custard ($1.10); and moist, delicate minicakes coated in salt-flecked shredded coconut to counter the sweetness ($2.25). Ponytailed workers whiz about in pink polos with trays of less eye-catching but mouthwateringly fragrant pork mochi ($1.10), golden-fried doughnuts hiding soft, glutinous rice and savory minced swine. It’s just as weird and wonderful as it sounds. 194 Canal St between Mulberry and Walker Sts (212-732-2222)

Photograph: Krista Schlueter

Mei Li Wah Coffee Shop

The bakery menu of this Two Bridges dim sum den, a neighborhood stalwart since 1968, is scant but focused. The shabby nook—outfitted with brown booths and fluorescent lighting—is all about their famous baked buns ($.90). There are four varieties available: plain, pineapple, cocktail and roasted pork. Though the honey-glazed cocktail bun—a Hong Kong–style sweet packed not with booze but buttery shredded coconut—is a close second, the pork variety is the clear standout. The soft pocket encloses a hearty filling of char siu meat, fatty hunks of braised pork commingling deliciously with crispy seared bits in a sweet secret-recipe sauce. They keep exceptionally well after a microwave reheating, so be prepared to buy these babies in bulk. 64 Bayard St between Elizabeth and Mott Sts (212-966-7866)

Photograph: Krista Schlueter

Golden Steamer

Get your mind out of the gutter—the giggle-inducing name doesn’t refer to some Urban Dictionary–sourced innuendo, but to this hole-in-the-wall’s specialty: the steamed bun. Thirteen varieties of stuffed, cotton-light mantou cover every inch of surface space in the small takeout shop. The buns ($.80) are fluffy, mildly sweet clouds of dough: rich, nutty red-bean paste fills one; salty-sweet duck egg yolk oozes over another. The must-have, though, is the pumpkin bao, a perky yellow bun that reveals smooth, mellow squash puree. 143A Mott St between Grand and Hester Sts (212-226-1886)

Photograph: Krista Schlueter

New Kam Hing Coffee Shop

Crack cake. That’s what the renowned sponge cake should be called at this 30-year-old Chinatown coffee counter, so criminally good you’ll think it’s laced with something illegal. It doesn’t look like much—a squishy, boat-shaped white-sugar cake ($.70), pulled from the oven, wrapped in paper and hidden in Tupperware behind the counter. But its unassuming appearance belies an angel-food-like interior, ethereally light and mildly sweet. Even better? The shop launched a green tea variety for 30 cents more in April, smaller than the original but steeped with earthy tea flavor, mellowing out to a vanilla finish. 119 Baxter St between Canal and Hester Sts (212-925-0425)

Photograph: Filip Wolak

Yeh's Bakery

The Boston pie at Yi Shih Yeh’s Taiwanese sweetshop is not what you’d expect—for one, there’s no chocolate glaze. Instead, this fan-favorite take on the classic treat is a large, sugar-dusted whoopee pie ($13), two flaky, delicate circles of sponge cake sandwiched with vanilla cream custard. The teensy Flushing storefront also has a limited but top-notch menu of cakes, including a sizable selection of roulades, in two display cases. The green tea roll ($9) is a delectable swirl of crumbly, poundlike cake and whipped vanilla cream, brightly hued but subtly flavored with Japanese matcha powder. The cakes are only available whole, but are a bargain at under $30 each. 5725 Main St between Booth Memorial Ave and 57th Rd, Flushing, Queens (718-939-1688)

Photograph: Time Out New York

Fay Da Bakery

Han Chou’s steel-accented bakeshop has been a Chinatown staple since 1991, growing from a humble local bakery into a chain with 14 stores throughout Manhattan, Queens, Connecticut and Chengdu, China. And the crowds haven’t waned one bit—sweets-seekers line up, tongs in hand, before an amber-lit display of sugary buns, fresh bulk bread and Western-style pastries. There are American touches, like a chocolate-walnut swirl ($1.25) and pullman loaf ($2.25)—the baker who taught Chow learned from a U.S. soldier during World War II—but the Asian goods are the real draw. Petite wonders include the taro puff ($1.50), a purple, spiraled orb of moist, mashed root vegetable in a whisper-thin crust; and the mango mochi ($1.25), a chewy, Turkish delight–like rice-flour treat teeming with orange liqueur and fresh mango bits and juice. 83 Mott St between Bayard and Canal Sts (212-791-3884)

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

New Golden Fung Wong Bakery

Homier than shiny chains like Taipan and Fay Da, this worn-in Mott Street den—sporting blush floor tiles, Formica two-tops and red paper lanterns—specializes in old-school Chinese desserts. A sign on the storefront window proclaims, “We Have the Best Hopia,” a bean-paste-filled pastry introduced by Fujianese immigrants in the early 1900s. The rendition here is pretty damn delicious—tender, flaky discs filled with savory-sweet black beans or lotus seeds ($2.75). The rich, thick bean paste also serves as the center of the jin deiu ($.80)—sesame-seed balls that trace back to the Tang Dynasty—whose crunchy seed coating counters the soft paste and chewy glutinous rice. 41 Mott St between Bayard and Pell Sts (212-267-4037)

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Lung Moon

Moon cakes—the Chinese answer to the holiday fruitcake—are traditionally enjoyed during China’s Mid-Autumn festival, but this bare-bones bakery doles out the special-occasion sweet year-round. Owner Tak Law—a Hong Kong native—fills the mini cakes ($3.50 with yolk, $3.25 without) with dense lotus seed paste, lending them a light nuttiness. The cakes are punctuated with a rich, cooked-through duck egg yolk that adds nice salt (and, when cut in half, resembles a moon). The funky treat is an acquired taste for Western tongues, so for more familiar fare, look to featherweight, mildly sweet cakes like the almond roll ($.80), sheathed in nut slivers, or the simple, spongy angel food cake ($.80). 83 Mulberry St between Bayard and Canal Sts (212-349-4945)

Photograph: Krista Schlueter

Dragon Land Bakery

Most bakeries are sought after for their sweets, but the savory stuff is the real star at this corner pastry haunt. Underneath a ceiling hung with empty cake boxes, vested bao gatekeepers parked near the wall-spanning display of shiny, glazed buns guide the pick-and-point operation, bagging treats in wax-paper packets—they rule against customers grabbing items themselves and, curiously, limit the amount of pennies you can pay with (FYI: it’s five per customer). Ask for the hot-dog-and-scallion bun ($1.25)— the eggy, clover-shaped crust of this Chinese take on pigs-in-a-blanket is studded with chopped franks and topped with green onion sprigs; or a baked char siu bao ($1.10), sweet minced onions cutting through the salty, syrupy pork filling. 125–135 Walker St between Baxter and Centre Sts (212-219-2012)

Photograph: Time Out New York

Manna House Bakery

Clued-in locals lamented when Grand Street’s Manna House Bakery folded in 2010 due to lease issues—luckily for neighborhood egg-tart-mongers, there are three other locations of the custard-pushing chain sprinkled throughout the neighborhood, including this quick-service Mott Street outpost. Crammed between fruit stands and seafood markets, the small shop does justice to Hong Kong–style buns and pastries, drawing in a boisterous crowd of Chinese natives in the a.m. when sesame balls, cocktail buns and sponge cake are piping fresh from the oven. The egg tarts ($1) are a quick sell-out, with a buttery, shattering crust encasing a soft-set center that tastes purely of egg and sweet milk. For a delicious on-the-go breakfast, grab one of the popular pineapple buns ($.90)—despite the name, there’s no pineapple involved—doughy puffs filled with sweet cream and finished with a crusty, powdered-custard topping; and a kiwi bubble tea ($2). Instead of a made-from-mix situation, whole kiwis are chopped per order behind the counter and blended into a refreshingly tart sip. 125 Mott St between Grand and Hester Sts (212-966-3766)

Chinese bakeshops boast a dizzying array of pastries, but most are known for one exceptional item. On your next trip to Chinatown, head to the ten best bakeries for Chinese pastries like fluffy sponge cakes, lotus-filled hopia and more. It doesn’t get sweeter than this.

RECOMMENDED: Complete guide to Chinatown in NYC



What happened to the "ten best Chinese bakeries"? After the first , Taipan, the web page goes blank! I tried to access the page from several sources, but couldn't. Somebody fix this--I'm hungry!