Tasty Tuesday – Salapao
Perhaps my favorite snack ever, in Thailand at least (though it would rival my top picks in the States as well), is a little thing called Salapao. Just hearing the name of it makes me happy.
Salapao are a sort of Chinese dumpling that is quite popular in Thailand. You can’t walk into a 7-Eleven, Tesco Express, or other convenience type store without seeing a hot case filled with them at the checkout counter. They’re everywhere! Even better, you can eat them for any meal, any time of day.
Salapao is essentially a ball of dough wrapped around some sort of filling, then either steamed or fried. Steamed is by far the most common, and in my opinion, the only way to eat them. They can come in all shapes, sizes, and colors as well, depending on current holidays or store promotions. I saw little pink ones with faces that looked like pigs around New Year’s, and yellow rabbits just last week. Fillings for the buns can be either savory or sweet (I tend to lean toward the savory). A few examples would be: shredded meats (chicken, pork, beef, or tuna) – both seasoned and plain, red bean paste, green bean paste, hard-cooked egg, taro cream, custard, and others I have yet to try. Sometimes you can even find just a plain ball of dough with nothing inside, but where’s the fun in that? Each type of Pao also has a colored dot (or two) at its peak, to indicate what lurks within.
My bun today has two orange dots on top, and is about the size of a regular hamburger bun. According to the chart at 7-Eleven, this means my bun has bits of gingered pork, and an egg yolk in the middle. Yum! It tasted great, was nice and fresh, and only cost me 15 Baht – almost 46 cents for you in the States. Now, while this one was good, my all-time favorite Salapao are only the size of a quarter, filled with shredded dry red pork, and go along with a little dish of spicy Sri Racha chili sauce. I used to be able to buy 10 for only 12 Baht in the market, but the vendor is no longer there.
If you would like to try some Salapao for yourself, check out the dim sum section at your local Chinese buffet. This would be the area where other dumplings, like potstickers, can be found. Sometimes, they even put them near the Sushi. Just look for soft little buns that look like marshmallows.
Imagine the softest white bread you’ve ever had, then pretend it’s super dense and chewy, with a lovely filling inside. That’s Salapao.