No. 1, Alley 40, Lane 216, Zhong Xiao E Road, Sec 4
Lao Guh Tsui Jien Bao
hours: 8 AM - 9 PM
Visit reviewed: 10-22-2008
You can always pick up a hot steaming bun at the 7-11's around Taipei, but for even more selections and freshness, you should definitely wander over to Lane 216. There you'll find a whole street corner with various vendors selling steamed buns of various sizes, shapes, fillings- huge hot sesame paste or red bean buns for only NT$18, or pan seared meat and vegetable buns for NT$12.
It's pretty impressive to see all the various trays of baozi and bags of mantou surrounding that little corner of the street. It might be a bit confusing for a novice because the signs are all in Chinese and there is actually a lot to choose from- basically a "bao" or "baozi" is a steamed bun filled with something inside, usually ground meat or chopped vegetables, or something sweet; a "mantou" is a steamed bun without a filling- a dense yet fluffy bread; a "tsui jien bao" is the bao with a pan-fried coating on the bottom, usually savory, not sweet.
There's often a line of shoppers, but the wait is not long. Sometimes the shop is sold out of various items by the end of the day, or you have to wait 5-10 minutes while the new ones are steamed. I bought a few of the huge bao zi, filled with red bean and a bag of mini-mantou that were different colors.
Just a few steps away is Lao Guh Tsui Jien Bao- which are slightly smaller and cheaper at NT$12, with only 4 different types to choose from.
This is a favorite of mine from my memories of first having them at the Shih Lin Night market. These might not be as crispy if they've been sitting out (and they are MUCH better crispy), but I like the cabbage ("gao li tsai") and meat ("zhou bao") fillings. There's also chopped Chinese leek ("jiou tsai") which is like a cousin to a spring onion.
The best way to figure out what you like it to order a few different kinds and then you'll know generally which kind you like and which kind you don't, even though each place will make it slightly differently.
I definitely want to explore this corner again and take some pics of the actual baozi and mantou before I eat them on the way home.