Move over tapas, there’s a new foodie obsession on the scene! ‘Bao’ may well be the newest, coolest and arguably tastiest treat in town – so enter Bao Wow, a new ‘baowich’ joint in Wan Chai (not to be mistaken with Little Bao, although there are inevitable similarities) where you can enjoy a quick, tasty bite for lunch, or linger over a few glasses of sake or plum wine in the evening (once they get their liquor licence).
So what exactly is a bao, you ask? Based on the traditional Taiwanese gua bao, a bao is a beautiful, steamed, white fluffy bun pocket filled with, traditionally, braised pork belly. As well as the traditional version, Bao Wow serves five other varieties which, although not typically Taiwanese, definitely take inspiration from other Asian cuisines. We tried the Bao Platter, which includes one of each of the six flavours served up in dim sum steamers: original, kimchi bulgogi, pangpang chicken, sesame ginger pork chop, Thai fish fillet and teriyaki tofu.
Our favourite was definitely the original gua bao, but the others were not far behind. The pork belly, having been braised slowly for five hours, was unbelievably succulent and flavoursome, garnished with crushed peanuts, coriander and a sweet Chinese relish.
The kimchi bulgogi bao was a close second, as we loved the slightly spicy kick and the tenderness of the beef. I loved the homemade sesame ginger sauce that coated the pork chop, whilst the comforting sesame and spicy peanut sauce in the pangpang chicken reminded me of cold vermicelli and chicken, one of my favourite Chinese dishes. We were also surprised by how delicious the teriyaki tofu bao was, particularly the silkiness of the tofu itself.
The bao we were least impressed by was the Thai fish fillet. The fish had a lovely, flaky texture, but in comparison to the prominent flavours of the other baos, this one was rather bland. That said, however, it is possible to customise your bao, adding toppings and condiments as you see fit, so perhaps next time we might try adding some kimchi or sesame sauce to spice up the fish bao a bit!
As a side dish, I seriously could not get enough of the crispy taro fries, served with a deliciously spicy Sriracha mayo that I could probably have eaten from the bowl with a spoon!
The “Kimchili” cheese fries were also amazing, if a little heavy – the addition of kimchi gave this classic dish an interesting Asian touch that really worked. If Bao Wow was open late into the night, there would definitely be the danger of me going out of my way to get my hands on these as a late night drunken snack!
Even the desserts at Bao Wow are bao-based. The ice cream baowich (a deep-fried bao filled with vanilla ice cream) was rather filling, particularly after everything we’d eaten, but I liked the contrast of the warm bao and cold ice cream – although, inevitably, this means it does melt pretty quickly!
Our favourite of the two desserts were the bao fries. The bao here had been cut into strips, before being deep-fried and served with Ovaltine condensed milk for a gloriously indulgent dessert. Again, it’s not the lightest choice, but Bao Wow makes no pretences about being a healthy restaurant!
The value for money at Bao Wow is excellent. $58 will get you two baos (of the same flavour), whilst $68 includes a drink. Even with the addition of a couple of sides, you’re very unlikely to pay much more than $100 a head. Everything is made fresh in-store daily with high-quality ingredients, so, although this is technically a ‘fast-food’ restaurant, it’s at least one with a conscience! I’m already dreaming about my next bao-fix…
Bao Wow Shop 2, 28 Tai Wong Street East Wan Chai
2528 9505 www.facebook.com/…
Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!