Floss-topped buns spark craze

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-03-03 11:49

Floss-topped buns spark craze

Shanghai may be well-known for being a fast-paced city that never sleeps, but there is one thing that its residents will slow down for - food.

The latest food craze in the city involves a palm-sized bun topped with dried meat floss and shredded sea sedges, something many Shanghainese normally dislike because of its coarseness.

The bun is sold by Master Bao, which was first established in a quiet residential neighborhood in Beijing in 2009. The company opened its first Shanghai outlet in People's Square in early February, right after the Spring Festival holiday.

The queue outside the shop can stretch hundreds of meters and a customer may wait as long as five hours during peak hours. The snack is sold for between 19 and 29 yuan ($2.8 to 4.2) per 500 grams, depending on the type of floss.

"I called in sick at work just so I could queue and buy this bread for my girlfriend who has been craving it for weeks," said Wu Wei, a hotel manager who queued for nearly two hours on a weekday afternoon. "This is the first and perhaps last time that I will spend so much time queuing to buy a snack."

Bao Caibin, the store manager of the Shanghai outlet, said that the craze in Shanghai is even larger than those that took place in Beijing and Tianjin. He said that the queue starts to form as early as 5 am and lasts till midnight. The store is currently limiting each customer to 2 kg of bread.

It remains a mystery to most foodies why the snack has become such a phenomenal hit. Unlike other wildly popular products like mooncakes filled with spicy crayfish meat or sticky rice balls stuffed with salted duck egg yolk, there is nothing new or innovative about Master Bao's buns. Similar products have been sold at most bakeries across the city for many years.

Most of the customers who were waiting in the line said they were simply influenced by social media posts.

On Taobao, China's largest online shopping portal, people have been flocking to place their orders with daigou (shopping on behalf of someone else) services.

The website showed that more than 10,000 such deals for the buns were made over the past 30 days. A shop assistant, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that nearly one third of the orders are placed by customers in Shanghai.

While most daigou businesses charge a fee ranging from 5 to 20 percent of the price of the product, the most popular daigou store on Taobao is selling the buns at the same price as Master Bao, citing the fact that they are buying these snacks in bulk from Beijing.

The shop, which is charging a delivery fee of 23 yuan, guarantees customers in Shanghai that they will receive their buns within 48 hours.


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