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Tao's Bakery & Dim Sum

2460 Nesconset Hwy. Stony Brook, NY 631-675-6492

Sandwiches filled with lamb and beer are specialties

(Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)

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Type: Asian, Food, Bakery-pastry shop Description:

Walk into this tiny shop and all you see are glass cases full of pastries, both Chinese and Western. But hanging over the counter is a menu promising all manner of dumplings, buns, meat pies, kebabs, congee (rice porridge) and dim sum, all made to order in the kitchen.

Some of the items, such as glossy, delicate-skinned crystal shrimp dumplings, will be familiar to fans of Cantonese dim sum, but most represent the heartier fare of Northern China, where the thicker-skinned dumplings, boiled not steamed, are no less delicious. Tao's vegetable dumplings ($7 for 10) are filled with greens and little shreds of scrambled egg; the shrimp-pork-chive dumplings ($8) are worth the drive from anywhere on the Island.

Northerners do steam their bao (buns), whose wrappers are fluffier, more breadlike than dumplings. Try Tao's steamed pork-cabbage or chicken-shiitake buns, eight to an order and steals at $6 and $7, respectively. If you like the idea of a pork-filled Danish (I certainly do), try the baked roast pork bun for $2.50.

They eat plenty of bread in the north of China so I was not surprised on my first visit when the fellow behind the counter recommended the lamb sandwich ($6). But I was not prepared for the delicious shredded lamb seasoned with spicy pepper, bright herbs and various haunting spices (including cumin seed, I later learned) served in a split freshly griddled flatbread.

Owner Tony Chen, who also owns the restaurant Tao's Delicacies in Selden, opened the Stony Brook bakery in April to serve the nearby university's community of Chinese emigres and visiting students and professors who, he said, "need real Chinese food."

So do the rest of us.

--ERICA MARCUS

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