Perhaps one of the most delicious and affordable Asian contributions to the culinary scene is the steamed bun. In Astoria alone, there are several droolworthy versions of these Pac-Man-shaped nibbles available, and all for under five bucks.
At the Bao Shoppe, guests can order these bad boys topped with smoked brisket and slaw, with a side of fries loaded with any smoked meat of your choice, and a haystack of kimchi or curry sauce. On the Colonel Bao, the chef brines the chicken overnight, deep fries it, and serves it with coleslaw and a fresh pickle for $3.50. It might be the juiciest fried chicken in the neighborhood, and you cannot beat the price. Buns also come loaded with pork belly, bulgogi and crispy tofu. The Bao Shoppe, 30-66 Steinway St., Astoria.
The Pun Sai Moo at Leng are the Thai cousins of the steamed bun. While an order of these is $8, you do get two buns on a bed of slaw, and these little sammies are pretty hefty. They come filled with wonderfully fatty cuts of pork belly, which is balanced with a tangy pickle, crispy slaw and a spicy hoisin sauce that is not too dissimilar from a sriracha barbecue. Leng Thai, 33-09 Broadway, Astoria.
The Japanese buns at HinoMaru Ramen are called Niku Man, and they can be ordered stuffed with soft shell crab, shrimp tempura, a miraculously tender slice of marinated pork, or a light salad made with kani. The buns range from around 5 to 6 bucks. Depending on the meat, some come two to an order, which makes these about $2.50 a piece. Throw in the other tapas available, and you can build yourself a pretty fantastic Japanese smorgasbord without breaking the bank. HinoMaru Ramen, 33-18 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria.
The pork buns at Ramen Okidoki are just $3.75 a pop and might win the award for cutest little buns on the planet. The tender medallions of pork are served with a cucumber slice, scallions and a special Okidoki sauce that is available in spicy or mild. They also serve fantastic versions of onigiri, which are steamed rice balls stuffed with fried kimchi, pickled plums, grilled roast beef, spicy tuna or crabmeat for just $3.50 a piece. Ramen Okidoki, 34-05 30th Ave., Astoria.
At Tamashii Ramen the focus is on high-quality pieces of pork and shrimp, and the techniques used to prepare them — the tempura is flawlessly crisp. The sauce on these buns won’t ignite your palate, but just add subtle hints of miso and soy to delicately accompany the meat. They are $6.50, and arrive two to an order. Your server will allow you to mix and match, so get yourself one of each bun, like a Japanese surf ‘n turf. Check out the specials, too, because Tamashii serves one of the only versions of okonomiyaki in Western Queens, like a seafood pancake covered in bonito flakes. Tamashii Ramen, 29-05 Broadway, Astoria.
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