BEIJING, China (AP) -- Chopped cardboard, softened with an industrial chemical and flavored with fatty pork and powdered seasoning, is a main ingredient in batches of steamed buns sold in one Beijing neighborhood, state television said.
State TV's undercover investigation features the shirtless, shorts-clad maker of the buns, called baozi, explaining the contents of the product sold in Beijing's sprawling Chaoyang district.
Granted that this is over there, but I'm beginning to wonder about the local $4.50 lunch special. (Note to self - avoid the wontons.)
"What's in the recipe?" the reporter asks.
"Six to four," the man says.
"You mean 60% cardboard? What is the other 40% ?" asks the reporter.
"Fatty meat," the man replies.
I hope they use the thin, glossy boxes; they have an extra kick that's hard to find in your generic single-wall cartons.
Squares of cardboard picked from the ground are first soaked to a pulp in a plastic basin of caustic soda -- a chemical base commonly used in manufacturing paper and soap -- then chopped into tiny morsels with a cleaver. Fatty pork and powdered seasoning are stirred in.
Alton says: "Now, be sure that the cardboard is thoroughly soaked before chopping, because this helps to break down the cross-grain bonding in a typical box. You want to make sure the adhesives are completely dissolved, so they rinse away. Don't skip the rinse - that stuff will overwhelm the taste of the spices and leave you with gummy baozi. Gummy baozi is BAD. Then chop fine, and add a tablespoon of kosher salt, ¼ cup of mustard, ¼ of paprika, two eggs, and your fresh parsley."
"This baozi filling is kind of tough. Not much taste," [the reporter] says.
Skipped the rinse, didn't you? I'm going for pizza.
"... It fools the average person," the maker says. "I don't eat them myself."
Well, you know what they say - you want to eat ethnic food at a place where you see a lot of that ethnic group in the dining room.