If you haven’t checked out Li Ming’s, it’s hardly a surprise—this Asian supermarket has been tucked away in a dying shopping center off 15-501 for less than a year, surrounded by plenty of culinary competition (3400 Westgate Dr). The day we visited for lunch, the sign was covered with plastic making you wonder if it had just opened or just closed. But go past the door and you find a grocery of specialty Asian foods including a hot bar and bakery counter serving up authentic Chinese dishes, pastries, and drinks. One of us had been before and helped guide the other on what to order to get a well-rounded flavor experience.
On recommendation from previous experience, we visited the baozi counter (steamed buns with filling in the center). We were quickly sold on the buy five get one free offer and ended up with a selection of six—one custard, one shrimp, two sweet black bean, and two pork.
—light, moist and slightly sticky breading with little, if any flavor—basically serving as a pillow cushion for the flavor inside. But this soft breading serves as a contrast to the heavier filling you find in the middle. Many of the flavors are sweet including the black bean and custard, giving the baozi a dessert or pastry quality. Li Ming’s is the only place we’ve found in this area with steam buns and we think that’s reason enough to visit again.
—one of us was already a fan but the other was again trying something for the first time. Available in a long list of flavors, these drinks are made to order and served in a sealed plastic cup that you puncture with a wide straw. We chose the black bean flavor with tapioca and enjoyed the chilled, coffee-like taste. The tapioca floats at the bottom of the cup in little chewy balls that are sucked up through the straw—interesting but a little distracting in such a constant stream.
—we split the plate between the two of us (along with our steam buns and bubble tea), and left feeling very satisfied. It was also a pretty quick and affordable option for a lunch break.
Carpe Durham's previous post here and don't forget cash if you want to order from the counter!