Yum Bun - Food so cute it demands destruction
There’s a phenomenon in popular psychology called Cute Aggression. It’s used to describe the sensation of being confronted with something so unbelievably adorable - a puppy, a baby, a perfect little steamed bun stuffed with juicy pork - that your brain can’t process it, and so releases the resulting emotions as violence. It’s why we squeeze the cheeks of infants. It’s why we shake tiny little dogs. And it could be why every single Yum Bun - the cutest food this side of planet Clanger - demands that you destroy it immediately.
Yum Buns are cute, you see. The buns in question are of the pillowy-soft steamed variety - beautifully fluffy treats from the Chinese tradition that are light and satisfying at the same time. These form tiny little beds for fillings of slow roasted pork, Japanese fried chicken, pollock and mushroom, tucked in with fresh cucumber, hoisin sauce and spring onions. They are umami rich. Aww-inspiring. Emotionally incomprehensible.
Their story began when Lisa Meyer discovered the bun recipe on a trip to New York. "I just thought they were amazing." She says, "and people needed to have them." After making round after round of the buns at home for her appreciative friends, she decided to take it to the streets.
"When I started out, street food wasn’t what it is now. It was a lot simpler to start up then. You could just make a load of food at home, turn up at Broadway Market with a table and a blackboard and just do it." And that’s what she did. Loading up a steamer with buns and setting up her first pitch, she decided on the name Yum Bun "because I like the word yum, and obviously it’s buns, so... I wasn’t there with a branding storyboard or anything."
From these simple beginnings, a street food legend was born. At the time, Lisa was working as a radio producer, making shows around the world for the BBC during the week, and serving up buns at the weekend. "I loved my job, I wasn’t trying to escape. But I did love the immediacy of street food - with radio you’re always working on things to be aired in a year’s time, but there’s an instant satisfaction with food. So after about a year of doing Yum Bun at the weekends I decided to go for it and do it full time - and it just keeps growing."
Yum Bun’s growth has not slowed, winning plaudits from critics, crowds and chefs alike. Chiltern Firehouse head honcho Nuno Mendes has declared himself a fan, regularly ordering 50 at a time to keep his staff sweet. The success lies in a singularity of focus that comes from Lisa’s Japanese food background. "Japanese restaurants tend to focus on one thing and do it really well," she explains. "You go to a ramen restaurant, they just serve ramen. They focus on the detail, on how to make the one thing they do the best it can possibly be." Yum Bun have dedicated their energies to creating the perfect steamed bun instead of broadening out. "There are probably ways we could make our buns more cheaply and quickly" Lisa says, "but I want to make the best steamed buns it’s possible to make."
And so the cute buns continue their path of destruction across three Street Feast sites this summer, invoking raging belly-lust in all who encounter them. We may never be able to deal with them in an emotionally healthy way. But we will eat until our hearts break.
Article originally appeared in M&C Report
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