Tiger Bites Pig -Bao London, Street Food Europe, Dalston Yard, London


Steamed, fluffy and stuffed with pork belly;
the first time I ate gua bao it was like nothing I’d tasted before. In
fact, the International Students’ food fair at University introduced my taste
buds to many a cuisine, texture and flavour: spankingly fresh and aromatic
Vietnamese summer rolls; gluey savoury congees with grey-black Century eggs,
and sweet glutinous brittle spiked Malaysian desserts, to name but a few.


The gua bao
stayed in my memory, as unlike many of the other dishes I’d tried, I had little
opportunity to eat it again. With the nickname hu yao zhu –tiger bites pig, gua
, a speciality of Taiwan and a festival food, was traditionally eaten
during end of the year celebrations and not so readily available otherwise,
which might explain a thing or two.

Bao (shortened from baozi, which means bun), was
created last year by Shing, Ting and Er. Bringing Taiwanese small eats to the
streets of London, their excellent food has captivated London’s street food
scene and accrued some prestigious awards. Amongst their repertoire, pork belly gua
; when I heard this, I knew I had to go seek them out and having eaten
their food a handful of times now (on this occasion at Street Food Europe in Dalston Yard), I can tell you it is so very good.

Cloud-like clams of sweet scented steam; the
milk buns at Bao are made using a Tang
milk starter (a roux of 1:5 flour and liquid), often used in Eastern
baking to make soft and fluffy bread. Slow cooked with rich curls of gelatinous
skin, the pork belly generously filled the bun alongside sharp pickle,
fresh coriander and shavings of peanut brittle. Each bite, rich, savoury and
fragrant, was deeply satisfying. 


Another regular on Bao’s menu is soya milk fried chicken.
Soaked overnight in homemade soya milk, succulent pieces of chicken thigh, rolled
in a spiced panko crumb and fried crisp were served with a nutty hot sauce that
had quite the kick. Deft with the deep fat fryer, there were no translucent
signs of excessive grease in the white paper bag they were served in, and I
could have easily eaten another helping without feeling deep-fried queasy.


Based at Netil Market in London Fields, with
regular pitches at Kerb and Street Feast, Bao are well worth making a trip for.
I look forward next time to try their slow cooked lamb gua bao special and crunchy, tangy,
pomelo salad. In the meantime, for a taste of split steamed buns closer to
home, try BaoWow on Baldwin Street. Ask for the Chairman Bao, with braised pork
belly, radish and hoisin –not bad. 
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