London’s Soho area welcomed the Taiwanese restaurant Bao a few months back, and it’s caused quite a stir. Waits for food at the restaurant have created lines down the street that people are waiting in to get a taste. Their menu is fairly small, in that they only have five different buns on the menu which are their signature dish, and then a few larger dishes as well.
The space in Bao is minimalist having a few tables and mostly shared benches, which melds well with the food aesthetic as well.
The concept for Bao was created when the founder Shing Chung spent some time traveling in Taiwan after getting an art degree. With the idea firmly in mind, he teamed up with his friend Erchen Chang and his sister Wai Ting to open up a street food stall in Hackney. That was only a mere three years ago, and they got so popular so quickly thanks to word of mouth in the foodie world, that they had to expand to fit the demand.
To open the restaurant they teamed up with Karam Sethi, who is from the Michelin-starred restaurant Trishna in Mayfair. Bao has only become increasingly popular since the actually restaurant location opened, and they have been keeping people hooked by offering unique dishes at rock bottom prices. Everything on the menu is under seven dollars.
Some of the dishes served are very authentic to Taiwanese culture, while others a bit more on the creative side. One of the dishes is made with a steak that is so hard to get that Chung has to order it through his mom who has a connection.
“We have to order it through my mum, who used to live near where it was made in Ping Dong. They only give the first skim to friends and close customers.”
Even the rice at this place is exclusive…each bag that is made of the special short grain rice they use is given an edition number to ensure that it’s the real deal. This type of exclusivity with ingredients helps the restaurants success in two ways: one it creates really delicious dishes, and for another thing it will prevent copycat businesses from popping up and trying to recreate their revered food.
Currently there aren’t many Taiwanese restaurants in London at all, so Bao has certainly got more than a leg up on the competition, they are way ahead of the trend.
Bao is the word for bun, and the buns are made with milk and steamed into a billowy soft creation. Menu items include bao’s with fried chicken, pork baos, and lamb baos. They also have food items like a pig blood cake topped with an egg, and vegetarian dishes such as oyster mushrooms and roasted egg plant. They even have a dessert bao, which is made with a donut batter and filled with ice cream.
On the beverage side of the menu you will find not only more traditional teas for washing down the baos, but sakes, ciders, and beers as well.