I love crusty cracklin’ baguettes, but I also love white pillowy steamed buns. Filled with pork, even better. Filled with quality pork at a price lower than the buns at Momofuku, I’m head over heels.
The Chairman Bao ($4) — filled with Niman Ranch pork belly slowly braised in a rice wine & soy sauce concoction with a touch of cherry Coca-Cola and served with crushed peanuts, pickled mustard greens, cilantro, and Taiwanese red sugar — is a beaut, and so far my favorite bao at Baohaus. I love the gloriously sticky fatty pork, the generous amount of pickled mustard greens, the slight heat from the red Haus sauce, and the added crunch from the peanuts and Taiwanese red sugar. It’s a lot to love in a little package.
The Haus Bao ($4.50) is similar to the Chairman, but filled with Niman Ranch skirt steak instead of pork. Cooked with moutai (Chinese sorghum liquor aka Chinese rocket fuel), the skirt steak is tender and shreds easily between bites.
For tofu lovers and/or vegetarians, Baohaus also has a fried tofu bao. The Uncle Jesse ($3.50) is made with pan fried tofu coated in sweet potato starch. The tofu, layered neatly inside the fluffy bun, is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, but unless you’re a vegetarian, opt for one of the more delicious meat baos where the quality of the protein is more apparent.
For savory baos, spiciness varies per visit. The first time I didn’t notice any heat in the baos, but the second time I felt a gentle burn from each. Both ways I loved it so it’s a not a big deal for me, but for those who don’t like spice, it may be a problem. Let them know if you can’t handle spicy foods.
If you order three baos (called a Straight Frush at Baohaus; $13), a cup of Salt & Vinegar Boiled Peanuts is included with your order. The slightly slimy peanuts take a bit of getting used to. Salty and sour, some more than others, and with the texture of wet edamame, I wasn’t sure I liked it at first. For those who didn’t grow up eating boiled peanuts (like me), it’s definitely weird, but oddly addictive if you keep going at it.
The Sweet Bao Fries ($3.50), however, I instantly liked. It’s a bao fried, sliced, and drizzled with sweet black sesame sauce. The airy bao slices are crisp at the edges, and the black sesame sauce — condensed milk based — is rich and thick. What’s not to like?
The baos from Baohaus are pricier than the ones found in Chinatown, but they’re better crafted with better quality ingredients, and are also cheaper and more flavorful than Momofuku’s delicious pork buns. The more flavorful part isn’t necessarily better (it depends what you’re in the mood for), but the cheaper part definitely is. In a few weeks I’ll be living closer to the two Momofuku restaurants than Baohaus, but I have a feeling for baos I’ll be making a trip down to the Lower East Side.