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

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - In Shang­hai

yu­ran@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

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.

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