We Like Bunn’s Big Buns (and We Cannot Lie)

The fluffy pork bun is a miracle of portable food no matter how you slice (or steam) it. Cheap, filling, cheap, tasty, cheap, and also inexpensive, you can stuff yourself with stuffed goodness at a bevy of places around Midtown. There’s been good ones at places with otherwise questionable food, places that do amazing noodle soup, and old-guard name-changer stalwarts. When we got word that Bunn had popped up in the old Bunch space at ML favorite and William Gibsonesque vertical food court Food Gallery 32, we wanted to strike while the steamer was hot.

You literally can’t miss Bunn – it’s immediately to your left the second you enter Food Gallery 32. All that steam coming up is a good sign – and good cover for food bloggers trying not to be made by their marks. 23 Skidoo and all. Their cutaways look stuffed to the brim. This is always welcome, doubly so when the pork & cabbage buns and/or char siu bao I usually get are tasty but could use more guts, less dough.

Is this a folded bun which I see before me, folded spicy pork and slaw towards my hand? Come, let me eat thee. Two for five bucks is pretty decent as an extra change-up to the meal.

It looks like the only extra dosh commander here is the bacon kimchi bun ($3.50) – all else, including the sweet red bean bun and sweet potato bun, are $2.50.

Bargain hunters rejoice – there’s real variety to be had here. While most of the 8th Ave places that serve up Chinese steamed buns do so for really, really cheap – $1.25 seems to be the average – these may be double the price but they are double the volume. This beef bun is being hefted by the hand of a grown adult male (mental age is still questionable) and it’s hefty in size and bulk. The filling dominates – salty/sweet/tangy ground beef with cabbage and glass noodles. There’s also a really good bit of chive aroma coming out, and the whole filling assemblage yields well. It does scatter about, though, so be wary if you’re cutting these to share.

A very good sign is present in the bun part. It’s not the fluffball that you’d expect if you’ve had Chinese steamed buns. Instead, it’s more like mochi or Korean rice cakes. It’s not yielding, it’s a bite-and-pull affair. It’s a great thing, though – a really nice variation of textures. The glass noodles are a good filling component, too – it keeps things nice and springy on the inside. It’s like a perfect assemblage of fluff-promoting ingredients and methods.

The pork bun was one hell of a variant. Nobody says anything about it being spicy, so if you’re sensitive to hot stuff, be thee forewarned here. It’s definitely got a good hit of gochujang in there to heat things up in a nice, warming way, but it’s got just a tad detectable bit of sweetness to it. I like this, though – a spicy-but-a-bit-sweet hit goes well with the meat. It’s got cabbage – not kimchi, just cabbage – stirfried in as well. Definitely a solid call, well worth having. My co-worker who went in on the order with me loved this and the beef the best.

At the risk of creeping into hipsterism, I liked bacon before people started putting it in everything and making stupid stuff out of it (That link is worksafe unless you work at a religious institution). That said, I was never impressed by Korilla’s bacon kimchi fried rice whenever I had them. It sounded good, but was too bland in execution – the rice dulled out the flavor. Bunn’s bacon kimchi bun is what Korilla wishes it could be while sighing wistfully, looking out the window. The bacon and kimchi are cooked together, so the flavors meld perfectly. Moreover the bacon is crisp enough to retain some stiffness and give another good texture variation. That’s along with the kimchi, too, which still has a lot of crunch left to it. Seriously, this is perfection. I could eat three of these for a meal at the ML limit. My one complaint: the dough layer was a bit thin on this one.

The kimchi bun was the bacon kimchi bun, equally packed to the brim with awesome kimchi, but falling apart due to a paper-thin bottom layer. You can see it at the top of the bun, the stippled bumps that kind of look like uncooked chicken skin. See how thin that is? I’m guessing the liquids in the kimchi did it in. To be honest, while the pure kimchi was great and there’s those glass noodles for extra body again, I’d rather just get the pork bun. Dense and flavorful, and less breakage risk. This is a real dealbreaker if you’re gonna eat and run, especially if you’re wearing clothes you don’t wanna kimchi-ify.

Last but not least, the folded special bun. Holy crap, please marry me. It says it’s pork shoulder but it tastes and feels like pork belly, in a similar gochujang/sweet stuff sauce, but enough crispness and fatty yieldingness to remind me of perfectly done pork from Tabata’s ramen. I can offer no higher complements to the pork in this one. The slaw is a basic American-style cole slaw, but it’s light on the mayo and big on the crunch. The bun itself is twice as glutinous and chewy as the conventional ones – and that is amazing. I’ve never had anything this fluffy and chewy that I liked this much – I’m not much one for mochi, so saying this means a lot. This is a rip-and-tear bun, and I am going back for it sooner rather than later.

Food Gallery 32 and its across-the-street rival Woorijip are basically the nexus of cheap, amazing Korean food on the run in Midtown and this latest addition is a wonderful diadem in the constant crown that is Koreatown in NY. If you have to walk past this area to get to work, and you just need a grab-and-go to get back to Penn or Port Authority, this is it. These buns traveled well and were still hot and fluffy after about four long blocks and two short ones. Best of all, when they’re almost all $2.50 each, you can eat like Kim Jong-Un on a post-Dennis Rodman bender. Plus, there’s tons of variety to boot – and dessert options too. I’ll be honest – this is my new favorite steamed bun place. It takes a lot to get me to not go around the corner to Lunch Box, but this is as close as the competition has come thus far.

The + (What the Psy, BIGBANG, and steamed bun fanboys/fangirls would say):

  • Stuffed to the brim and flavorful!
  • The perfection of bun ensconcement is down to a science – chewy and soft!
  • As cheap as its predecessor with more variety to the menu!

The – (What the undercover North Korean infiltration agents would say):

  • Why are the buns with kimchi so thin on the bottom? Real structural integrity issues here!
  • Would be nice to have a bulk buy.

Bunn, 5 West 32nd St., btw 5th and 6th (Inside Food Gallery 32)




    doesn’t quite have the same feel

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    Heard the dumpling place across the street that closed reopened with a new concept…anyone seen it?

    • After telling my wife about buns that rival the char siu bao she normally likes, I’ve been ordered to go back to Bunn on her behalf soonish. I’ll peek/check and report back.

  • I like Bunn’s big buns and I can not lie
    Midtown Lunchers can’t deny
    When you walk in for an itty bitty taste
    They put a round thing in your face
    You get sprung, cause that dough’s got fluff
    And you notice that bun was stuffed
    With slaw and pork belly no foolin’
    I’m hooked and I can’t stop droolin’
    Oh baby, I wanna lick ya
    But first I’ll take your picture
    Cause you’re goin’ on Midtown Lunch
    Other people see you get munched
    My homeboys tried to warn me
    That kimchee one makes me so horny
    Ooh, Bun-o’-smooth-skin
    You say you wanna get in my belly?
    Well, use me, use me
    ‘Cause you ain’t like no dry Bahn Mi
    This bun’s packin much fat!
    So, fellas! (Yeah!) Fellas! (Yeah!)
    Does your belly want this bun? (Hell yeah!)
    Tell ‘em to make it! (Make it!) Make it! (Make it!)
    Make a Kimchee Bacon Bun!
    Bunns buns are phat!

    (LA face with Zach Brooks booty)

    Bunns buns are phat!

    where’s mamacita when I need her for her verse?

    • Close ‘er up, boys, we found the best comment that’s gonna be made yet. Ain’t no point in keepin’ the shop runnin’.

    • Oh, my, god. @Wayne, look at that folded special bun.
      It is so big. [scoff] it looks like,
      one of those peking duck buns.

      But, you know, who understands folded special bun? [scoff]
      They only try it, because,
      it looks like a fusion Korean Reuben, ‘kay?

      I mean, that bun, is just so big.
      I can’t believe it’s just so round, it’s like,
      out there, I mean – umm hmm. Look!
      It looks so … goood!

      • I love you all

      • I like ‘em round, and big
        And when I’m eatin like a pig
        I just can’t help myself, I’m actin’ like an animal
        Now here’s my scandal
        I wanna get you back to my desk
        And unh, double-bun, unh, unh
        I ain’t talkin’ bout wolfin Chop’t down
        That salad stuff is made for ass-clowns
        I want ‘it real thick and juicy
        A phat juicy bun double
        Skinny folks in trouble
        Beggin’ for a big bun bubble

        So I’m lookin’ at food videos
        Skinny-ass bloggers talkin’ like dopes
        You can have them anorexics
        I want my lunch as big as Texas

        A word to the thick gyros, I wanna get with ya
        Gonna finish, not quit ya
        But I gotta be straight when I say I wanna EAT
        Cause Lunchtime is ON
        And street meats got it goin’ on
        A lot of folks won’t like this song
        ‘Cause them punks like to nibble leaves and shit it
        But I’d rather gorge on CerTe
        ‘Cause I’m long, and I’m strong
        And I’m down to get the meatloaf on
        So, ladies! {Yeah!} Ladies! {Yeah}
        If you wanna roll in my gravy {Yeah!}
        Then turn around! Stick it out!
        Cause Midtown Lunchers always shout
        I want my lunch with extra fat!

    • too awesome, thanks Wayne!

  • Their steamed buns are pretty subpar. You’re better off going to Chinatown.

    • Somewhere out there is Midtown Lunch’s counterpart in the Mirror Universe, where Zach has a goatee and it’s really Chinatown Lunch. The comments read like “their char siu bao are pretty subpar. You’re better off going to Midtown.”

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        And tin this evil Mirror Universe this Zach also hates buffets and rates lunch spots based on the quality of their chicken salad wraps.

    • I went there today and thought they were pretty f-in’ awesome, never had them in Chinatown though

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    Avoid the sweet potato bun

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