For more than 20 years, Karen Lim and her sister Emily have run the Mary Ann Bakery on 163rd Street in North Miami. Yes, for two decades, they've been turning out sweet and savory Chinese treats, Hong Kong-style.
Miami has a dearth of Chinese restaurants, as well as places that serve good dim sum. That might explain the heated arguments over which place does dim sum, also called yum cha, better. Some say it's Mary Ann Bakery, which in 2008 was New Times' Best Cakes Not by Little Debbie winner.
Seemingly average birthday cakes sit in the window in a seedy-looking strip mall. Yet inside the bakery are a plethora of both sweet and savory buns. The variety is staggering and includes many options you won't find on your favorite restaurant's dim sum carts or order sheets. Dried pork-jerky buns come with the cured meat shaved atop a fluffy bun split and rubbed with sweet butter. The standard barbecued pork buns are on the menu, as are curried beef buns, a hot-dog bun, and bacon, onion, and cheese buns.
Buns here are also much larger than the ones found in restaurants, and they cost at most $1.50 apiece. The bread is eggy and light, tasting much like challah. Sweet buns include a version stuffed with sweetened red bean paste and another with shredded coconut mixed into the dough and more coconut and powdered sugar sprinkled on the finished product.
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This strip of road in North Miami is lined with Asian restaurants and markets. Nearby is Shing Wang, a popular bubble-tea house whose vegetarian smoked duck was one of our top 100 dishes in 2011. Yet for all the Asian food businesses here, Emily Lim says there are actually few Chinese people living in the neighborhood.
"Most of our business comes from South Miami," she says while packing another box of baked goods for a mother and son. In fact, the pastries I've seen at Lucky Oriental Mart, on the corner of Bird Road and 84th Avenue, come from here. "They send a boy every Saturday to come pick up a few boxes."
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