Bao or baobao as they are often referred to in China, are formally known as baozi (包子). In America you may have heard them referred to as steamed buns, or compared to dumplings as you may know them from dim sum. Our bao are larger than dumplings and have dough that rises to become pillowy and light with a smooth exterior. Because we are making FRESH, UNFROZEN, REAL BAO, as has never been seen before in the U.S., we think that ‘steamed bun’ doesn’t cut it, so we will continue to refer to the food we are making and sharing as bao – and we encourage you to do so as well.
The mythology surrounding the 1,200 year history of bao is that it was a food originally made to be eaten by emperors because it takes an army of chefs to make. There are an endless supply of ingredients that could be used as filling, and a formidable series of steps needed to form a lump of dough into the perfect bun. Most importantly, the precision needed to roll, cut and form the dough without breaks, bubbles or hard spots is not a simple flick of the wrist to learn over night. Like a complex dance routine or martial art, it is a series of moves that needs to be understood deeply and practiced obsessively to perform correctly on a regular basis.
…We’ve also heard they are pretty delicious. Take a look!
Seasoned pork in a broth. Very simple, very juicy, very tasty. The rich and savory nature of the pork is a great compliment to an airy sweet bun, creating a combination that melts in your mouth, yet miraculously is neatly contained within an expertly crafted bao. It is a classic by which all other bao should be measured.
Beef Curry Bao
A combination of complex, creamy curry-soaked vegetables and succlent beef. The curry seeps into the edges of the bao after the first bite is taken. The delicate balance of flavors is accentuated by the soft texture and subtle taste of the bread.
Apple Pork BBQ
The most popular specialty item on the Shanghai menu. The shredded pork alone would make this a great bao. The kicker is the contrast provided by the natural sweetness and aroma of the apple. GanQiShi really thought outside of the box on this one – and they nailed it.
Spicy Lotus Root
Without a doubt one of Jhonny and my favorites. For some reason Gerry can’t seem to get a hold of one, no matter how many baos he bites into. It goes without saying that this is one of the more exotic things on the menu to most western audiences, and that is one of the things we love about it! The filling is about one-third pork and two-thirds lotus root, with a spice that slowly builds, but never becomes overwhelming, and really brings out the flavor of the lotus root, which also delivers a satisfying crunch to the normally soft bao. Americans love the Spicy Lotus Root, even if they don’t know it yet.
Veggie Tofu Bao
Bao are healthy food generally speaking, but this one in particular is an example of how to make food that is good and good for you. Like other vegetable bao, there is a hole left in the top during formation of the bao that allows for steam to escape, and for the vegetables to remain green and unwilted. Earthy and natural, this bao has a mild flavor comparable to mustard and is supported by the tofu to make a filling meal from the freshest and most natural bao offered at the store. Jhonny has dubbed this bao the ‘Asian Blimpie’. Those Rhode Islanders among our audience may know what he is referring to.
Osmanthus Black Bean Bao
This bao’s flavor is by far the most distinctly unfamiliar among any given western audience. The beans, entirely unassuming to look at, are surprisingly sweet. The Osmanthus flower cannot be seen in this bao, but the scent is unmistakable and strong – like sticking your nose in a bouquet. The consensus is that this bao will attract the most adventurous people to try it at first. Everyone else will follow suit when they notice that our bao shop has suddenly become filled by the smell of beautiful flowers mixed with hot, fresh bread from a freshly steamed bao.