As today’s New South draws newcomers from around the world, food traditions are meeting and mingling. Just take a look at the little bakery selling Oriental steamed buns at Charlotte’s Super G Mart.
Super G Mart itself is a marvelous mixture. Opened in a former Bi-Lo two years ago by a Korean entrepreneur from Greensboro, it includes Latino, American and even Russian aisles in addition to Asian specialties.
This spring, Taiwan natives Wen Lee and husband Chung Huang launched Honey Buns, a counter selling bao, the white fluffy buns that originated in China. Wen serves the bao from a row of bamboo baskets topped with woven lids, recalling street stalls in China.
“We make just like at home, very fresh,” she says. Chung carefully mixes American flours to achieve a Chinese taste and texture, then arrives two hours before opening every day to begin making dough and scooping in the fillings.
Most of the fillings are Chinese traditions. There are savory ones: Hong Kong style barbecue, Chinese pork, tofu and mushroom. And sweet ones: egg custard, red bean paste, purple taro jam.
But there’s also a Vietnamese bun with sausage, radish and hard-boiled egg.
That’s smart marketing in Charlotte where Vietnamese are the second largest Asian group after immigrants from India.
And there’s a Korean bun with pork, onion, tofu and rice-based “glass” noodles. Plus a kimchi bun, featuring a mild edition of Korea’s favorite pickled cabbage.
Why Korean? Again, Charlotte has more Korean immigrants than Chinese. And they are especially drawn to Korean-run Super G.
Back in China these flavors might never come together. But here in Charlotte, they do.