Soft, pillowy, melt-in-the-mouth and versatile with a variety of fillings, the bao is one of our favourite Chinese imports. It’s basically fermented dough that’s steamed, not fried, and stuffed with meat or veggies. Healthy and delicious? We’ll take it!
Mantou, as it was originally called, dates back to the 3rd century AD. It’s an Asian staple even today, commonly sold at street stalls and food markets in Oriental countries. The most popular one is the sweetish red bean paste bun as well as the savoury pork bun, but of course, there are many more variants.
The bao trend has hit India only recently — and modern Asian restaurants have really gone to town with it, serving dumpling-style as well as open-faced buns in imaginative flavours.
These are our top picks at Mumbai restaurants:
1. BBQ Chicken Bun at China House
Grand Hyatt’s award-winning restaurant has an elaborate Chinese menu with a good selection of steamed delicacies. Dig into the sweet ’n sticky BBQ Chicken encased in a steaming hot bao, or try their version of the Pork Bun cooked in a clay pot.
They also have a mushroom-pok choy bun for vegetarians.
2. Edamame & Chickpeak Slider at Pa Pa Ya
This bao is served as a slider at Pa Pa Ya, with a crisp edamame-chickpea patty sandwiched between cloudlike buns and finished with chilli mayo sauce; different and delicious.
3. Char Siu Bao at Golden Dragon
Taj Colaba’s longstanding Chinese restaurant has many classics on its menu, including the Pork Bao that’s absolutely worth trying.
They also do a spicy coriander bao for vegetarians — just ask the servers and they’ll be happy to help.
4. Butter Chicken Bao at 145 Bandra
As with every Chinese dish that’s come to India, the bao here at 145 is also modified to suit our spice-loving palates!
Go ahead try the fusion flavours of the Paneer Pasanda Bao and the Butter Chicken Bao. Or you could play it safe and call for the traditional BBQ Pork Bao.
5. Roast Duck Bao at The Fatty Bao
The Peking duck roll with hoisin and shredded scallions gets a makeover at The Fatty Bao. It’s served in an open-faced steamed bun (as opposed to skinny pancakes), complete with the sweet zing of five-spice.
6. Steamed Mantou at Bastian
This is the simplest version of the classic steamed bun without any filling. It’s available as a staple/side dish on Bastian’s menu and goes well with the Mud Crab Singapore Curry, but honestly, it’s just so yum by itself!
Which restaurant according to you serves the best baos in Mumbai? Share your views in the comments below.
Image Credit: Caprionviaroma