Perfection in a bun
Thanks to an unwavering dedication to quality and tradition, Tong Qihua’s wildly successful steamed buns empire in China is now going global
To Tong Qihua, the founder of the GanQiShi Bao Bao chain of steamed bun shops in China, nothing is more important than excelling at one’s craft and being respected for it.
To achieve this, the perfectionist ensures that his restaurants are equipped with temperature-controlled kitchens and his employees adopt a meticulous approach in making the brand’s famous buns.
For instance, each piece of dough used to create a bun must be made using whole wheat. It must also weigh 60 grams, with the permitted deviation being less than 2 grams. The fillings in the buns, which can range from sweet paste to meat or vegetables, must be 40 grams.
It may sound like an easy recipe to follow if one uses a weighing scale, but all the chefs at GanQiShi craft every single bun by hand, using muscle memory and a keen sense of touch to meet these standards.
Convinced that the perfect bun can only be crafted by hand, Tong himself spent two years learning how to do so before he opened his first restaurant. He would then painstakingly train the chefs he hired before having them pass down their skills to the subsequent batch.
In fact, Tong has such a reverence for the art of bun-making that he refers to his employees world the beauty of traditional Chinese food culture.
“I was surprised to find out during my first business trip to the US many years ago that the locals viewed the steamed bun as a delicacy. With this overseas expansion, I’d like to view myself as a messenger of traditional Chinese food culture,” said Tong.
While the buns in the US will be prepared exactly the same way as before, the menu offerings and the restaurant settings will slightly differ. In order to cater to the local palate, Tong said that his American outposts will also sell buns stuffed with fillings such as chicken and lobster. Patrons can even choose from a variety of beers to go with their buns.
Meanwhile, the people tasked with making the buns at GanQiShi’s US restaurants will be predominantly American. Tong said that these employees will have to undergo a threemonth training program in China before they begin work in the kitchens.
But Tong is not simply focused on foreign markets. Apart from his US expansion, he is also in search of business partners who can bring his brand to more cities across China.
“I think the culture of eating baozi should be promoted to a wider range of modern Chinese cities where locals should slow down their pace of life and spend some time savoring delicious food made from the heart,” said Tong.
Tong Qihua, the founder of GanQiShi Bao Bao, is so obsessed with quality and authenticity that he spent two years learning how to make buns by hand before opening his first restaurant in China.