Eat This Now: Bola-Bola Siopao at Chowking
Steamed buns filled with meat can be found throughout Asia. The Philippines is no exception. What is exceptional about the Filipino version called siopao is that it used to be exceptionally hard to find here in OC. Outside of Pinoy-dense neighborhoods like Artesia and Cerritos (which are just outside the OC border), there are just a handful of places where you can find siopao, including that corner of Anaheim at Euclid and Crescent we've occasionally referred to as OC's unofficial Little Manila. Now that Seafood City in Irvine opened with a few food vendors, there's even more siopao options, such as the ones Valerio's sells out of its steam boxes.
But you know what? I still go to Anaheim for Chowking's siopaos. Chowking is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Jollibee empire. As a result, it has become as fast-foodish as their parent company over the years, but the siopaos remain great. The best siopao is the bola-bola--a big, fluffy pillow of steamed bread filled with sweet pork that you slather with asado sauce, a syrupy blend of garlic, sugar, and soy that that tastes like the Filipino take on hoisin. There used to be a time when the sauce came in thimbles. These days, they're offered in little packets as though fast-food ketchup. But this is actually better, because the packets make it easier to squeeze and spread the sauce more evenly.
Chowking also offers frozen siopaos, which are remarkably good out of the microwave and a godsend if you happen to live in the parts of OC that are still bereft of Filipino food.
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