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Chinese Traditional Buns

Posted by Staff / Reviewed on February 22, 2007 / review policy

I love the almost musical lilt of Mandarin. I've studied it on-and-off for years, vainly hoping that some of it would stick. It definitely takes a little while for your tongue to get used to. On one of the rare occasions I was foolish enough to try and speak it in public, attempting "I don't want any MSG" came out (much to the glee of those Mandarin speakers around me) "I don't want to feed the chickens". So this past Lunar new year's eve visit to Chinese Traditional Buns I keep what little Mandarin I have a secret while tucking into a porcine feast.

By "Now" I'm sure you've heard it all before. At this point there have undoubtedly been megabytes devoted to this Chowhound cause celebre and humble stalwart of northern regional Chinese food so I can confirm the following:

  • Yes the room is austere bordering on fugly--a few paintings and a menu disturb the otherwise unbroken whitewash along the left wall, construction paper cut-outs naming the various specials in two languages adorn the right, while white plastic tablecloths scatter cold fluorescent light in all directions of this dis-orientingly unassuming subterranean dining room (mix in the opera occasionally breaking the silence through tinny speakers mounted over the glass and aluminum warming table and you're about a droog away from a Ludovico technique environmentally speaking).

  • Yes, the spoons are plastic and most of the plates are Styrofoam--an obvious ploy meant to attract the Billy-bob Thornton set.

  • Yes the food is amazingly good and exceeding cheap. A definite value for the money. Your waitress will chuckle as you, silly hipster, overzealously order plates more food than you'll know what to do with (a suggestion: take them home, as leftovers they still punch well above their weight).

What better way to usher in the year of the pig than with the fantastic Xian cured pulled pork sandwich? AKA the mongolian hamburger it sees a modest heap of sweet, saucy, cinnamon heavy five-spice braised pork served between the toasted slices of what tastes and feels like a cross between an English muffin and a tea biscuit. The house special jellied bean-curd soup turns the heat up to respectable northern Chinese levels immersing custardy-soft silken tofu in a wonderfully flavourful broth enhanced with the flavour punch of raw garlic, chili oil, fresh coriander leaves, further enriched by the crunch of seaweed and Chinese pickle--culinary panacea for anyone who's got ADD inflicted taste buds.
Dan Dan Noodles raise the heat even further, taking chewy wheat noodles smothering them in an incendiary mix of garilicky-gingery ground pork, spicy chili oil and crunchy Chinese pickle.

Making its name on its bao tse, the dumplings don't disappoint.
Savory pork and vegetable pot stickers and Beef soup buns acquit themselves quite well and provide some much needed respite from the chili onslaught.20070222_ctb3.jpg Save room for the puck-sized sweet potato pancakes and enjoy the addictive greasy-sweet, crunchy chew that'll cool your burning tongue and harden your arteries all at the same time. I personally can't think of a better way to go.

Humility, shyness and modesty are hallmarks of those born in the year of the pig and likewise of this northern Chinese nosharama. But these traits belie a richness of character that can be bold and full of surprises. But if the fantastic food here should come as any surprise you need to get yer tongue in gear!

Chinese Traditional Buns - 536 Dundas West (at Kensington) - 416-299-9011



blogUT / February 23, 2007 at 01:18 am
I love this place! Xian cured pulled pork sandwich is a treat. Yang Rou Pao Muo is another favourite. You just can't get this stuff anywhere.
elisha / June 12, 2007 at 04:32 pm
Jennefer / November 20, 2009 at 10:37 am
How old is this review? Clearly really really old. CTB has had a complete reno, and is now an almost classy joint with lovely paintings, more tables, and a much more cozy atmosphere. Plastic forks and styrofoam plates? When was the last time you were there? The food is still the best. Xian pork sandwiches (Chinese hamburgers! as the patron says) are great, as noted above. But just about everything on the menu is really really good. Especially the traditional buns.
Frank / December 31, 2010 at 12:59 pm
@Jennifer - each article has a date and title... if you look. Feb 2007 on this one.
Jennefer / January 3, 2011 at 02:02 pm
@Frank - It's a rhetorical question...if you think about it. The point is, people who are reading this review should know that CTB has upgraded significantly - and BlogTO should do a new review.
Gloria / April 7, 2011 at 09:43 am
Is it still as dirty as people say it is? I've read some recent reviews that still say so.
Mike replying to a comment from Gloria / June 16, 2011 at 10:03 am
No it is not dirty at all. This review is many many years old and they have renovated not once but twice since everything referenced here: much seats, everything matching new kitchen gear, etc. There are no styrofoam plates, lol!

The service is always the best in Chinatown and no one can possibly compare with dishes like jellied bean curd soup, steamed eggplant, HAND MADE noodles...

This review didn't mention (I guess because its so hopelessly out of date) that they have hired someone to make hand made noodles and breads. They stand there in the front entrance of the store spinning dough and letting you know that this is real food here. You have to specify if you want to use hand pulled noodles vs dried ones on some dishes, on some dishes they are standard (it costs 50 cents to switch to them so do it!)

Blogto doesn't do re-reviews of restaurants for some reason. I wish I had a clue why. This should be number one on the list with a new review (putting Goldstone on there is hilarious btw...)
TOFoodie / March 27, 2012 at 02:55 pm
Just finished having lunch here and was thoroughly impressed. Had the Xian bun and Dan Dan noodles. Amazing! Not really what I wanted to spend on lunch tho; my own fault since I was being gluttonous and wanted to try both. Next time will only get one dish. I'd double up on the bun since u only get one.
Iliana / December 7, 2012 at 10:29 am
A shabby, basement-like entrance but their noodles - the most a perfect texture and a light gummy tension in them.

Check out my entire experience:
William / June 9, 2013 at 04:10 pm

Scott / July 20, 2013 at 07:21 pm
Recently visited this restaurant. I agree with the comment made by "William" on June 9.
The service was terrible. The staff were too busy speaking to one another in a corner of the restaurant in another language.
Alison / July 9, 2014 at 01:14 pm
Love this place! It is by far my favourite dumpling house in Toronto. So good. So cheap.

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