Steamed buns sell like hot cakes after China president's restaurant visit

BEIJING Mon Dec 30, 2013 6:23am EST

1 of 2. A serving of food which according to restaurant staff, is similar to what Chinese President Xi Jinping ate when he visited on Saturday, is pictured on a table after it was ordered by a diner at the Qing-Feng steamed buns restaurant in Beijing, December 29, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

BEIJING (Reuters) - A surprise visit by China's president to a Beijing steamed bun restaurant has sparked a bun craze, with customers lining up by the hundreds to order food and take photos at the table where he ate.

President Xi Jinping shocked patrons and restaurant staff when he visited the restaurant on Saturday, paid for his food, carried his own tray and happily chatted with customers.

While common in Western countries, such impromptu interactions are unusual for senior Chinese officials, who have a reputation for carefully stage-managing appearances through the Communist Party's propaganda arm.

At lunchtime the day after Xi's visit, more than 400 people waited for a taste of the "Uncle Xi combo" as customers took to calling the pork and onion buns, fried liver and stir-fried greens, the Beijing Morning Post said in a report widely carried in state media.

Customers waited in line for 40 minutes for their food and a photo in front of Xi's table, the paper said.

Since coming to power as president in March, Xi has demanded officials cut down on waste and extravagance and get closer to the people, as part of a broader campaign to root out pervasive corruption.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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