Food plays a vital role in the world of Final Fantasy XIV. Breaking bread with friends and allies, newfound acquaintances, or former adversaries has been an important gesture and custom, just as it is in the real world. And sharing a meal with fellow Scions always marked a moment of respite before a story-defining event.
The Crystal Exarch’s handmade sandwiches delivered to your quarters. Your Scion friends showing up at your door with dinner and G’raha eating that big tasty cheeseburgie. Aymeric arranging fancy dinner dates in Ishgard in the earlier years. That meal you shared with the Scion OGs in Old Sharlayan (where Urianger got drunk) before venturing into the unknown.
FFXIV Patch 6.3’s main story questline continued that tradition in a subtle but powerful way.
In a seemingly easygoing cutscene, Jullus shares one of his favorite foods with Zero, who’s new to the entire realm and rather indifferent toward others. In his offer, they literally and figuratively break bread as strangers to establish familiarity among themselves. It’s a great display of Jullus’ regained empathy in a post-Endwalker world and one that rubs off on Zero ever so slightly.
Not only that, it did so with an in-universe version of a beloved food from Chinese and southeast Asian culture. Jullus mentions that buuz is a traditional Azim Steppe-style dumpling, “a kind of bread stuffed with a filling — meat or vegetables usually — that you bake or steam.” He goes on to share memories he had making them and eating them with his family, and mentions spicy or sweet jelly-filled variations they had.
And on top of that, this was shown with extremely intentional and refined custom animation, rivaling that of the iconic bread-eating animation from Yakuza: Like a Dragon. This was a moment for the FFXIV team to flex their animation skills a bit, but one that painted a vivid picture of the food itself.
You see the bun tear with realistic imperfection and jiggle just a bit. The meat-based filling stuffed in the middle is upclose and in focus, and the steam releasing from within tells you this is a freshly prepared bun. It’s one of those moments you look at and just kinda know what the developers were intending to showcase.
FFXIV siopao splitting animation, the true star of Patch 6.3 pic.twitter.com/sQAwxdG0DV
— BRAZYAZN (@michaelphigham) January 11, 2023
The name “buuz” itself originates from the Mongolian meat dumpling, and considering that The Azim Steppe was heavily influenced by Mongolia and its culture, the parallel is apparent. However, buuz in the world of FFXIV is a parallel to real world baozi, identical to the Filipino variation called siopao, which my people adopted from Hokkien Chinese immigrants in the Philippines during Spanish colonial occupation.
It’s not just any old steamed bun or version of bao, it’s a long-standing staple that represents our culture and cuisine. There are many types of steamed buns with filling derived from Chinese baozi, but here in FFXIV, it so closely resemble siopao with its size, shape, structure, texture, and asado-like meat filling — even the way they eat it by hand in FFXIV.
Childhood memories of splitting siopao to get to the meaty parts first and the sensation of biting into the juicy, seasoned pork filling came flooding back. My mom would come home with a pink donut box full of siopao from Valerio’s Bakery, and you already know I was tearing into them things.
Filipino cuisine isn’t just near and dear to my heart, but food is a universal language for sharing culture. Maybe it’s a silly little thing to feel some sort of representation from parallel food in a video game, but the feeling it evoked is still real. And to have it in a heartwarming moment in my favorite game with a whole custom animation is pretty damn cool.
As Jullus mentions, buuz comes from Azim Steppe. And yeah, I guess that checks out — if myself or my ancestors were in FFXIV, we’d probably come from The Azim Steppe, too.
Editor’s note: A correction and additional context was provided regarding the Mongolian origins of the name buuz and the country’s influence on The Azim Steppe in FFXIV.