musu osaka buns toronto

Japanese stockbroker waiting for visa in Toronto will soon be making Osaka-style pork buns

A former Japanese stockbroker waiting for a visa has turned to making Osaka-style steam pork buns for her husband to sell while she's unable to get a job in Canada.

Yuko Kubo applied for her visa in mid-2019, after she and her husband decided they would like their children (a daughter and son currently aged two and six respectively) to attend Canadian schools. It usually takes about a year to obtain the visa she needs.

In a stroke of bad timing, her husband (who is Canadian) quit his job in March 2020 and COVID-19 immediately hit, stranding them in Japan. They were finally able to move to Canada in July 2020, hoping to wait for the visa here.

It's been almost another year, and Kubo still doesn't have it.

"COVID-19 has caused many delays and service centres were closed so I couldn't give biometrics, to name a few causes," Kubo tells blogTO.

"Often my husband and I would talk about what we missed most about Japan. We often commented on kaitenzushi, gyoza, and of course butaman: steamed pork buns," Kubo says.

"Unemployed and without a work visa I decided to recreate the taste that we missed in Japan."

For the past few months she's been tweaking doughs and flavours to create the perfect butaman, which she notes is different from "Chinese bao, or Filipino siapao, which it is often confused with, and not very common in Toronto."

Butaman are similar to Chinese bao though there are subtle differences. They also go by the name nikuman, though the name butaman is more common in the Kansai region of Japan.

The steamed buns are often filled with pork, but in Japan they're sold in convenience stores and might be filled with anything from chocolate to beef tendon to squid ink.

Kubo's are made using Canadian pork, Canadian onion, Canadian unbleached flour, Japanese rich flavoured sesame oil and low-sodium soy sauce and then steamed in traditional bamboo steamers. She says the natural ingredients bring out more of the umami flavour.

They're not actually available to order just yet, but Kubo's husband is planning to launch Musu Osaka Buns sometime in May. You'll then be able to order online for delivery in the Scarborough area, and get what Kubo calls "a taste of Osaka."

A previous version of this story implied that Ms Kubo was earning income in Canada without the appropriate visa. She has since clarified that her husband, a Canadian, owns the business, sells the goods, and will be the recipient of any income.  

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