Notable Nosh: Bao Wows
Bao, or Bao Zi, are Chinese buns (chiefly made using a leavened bread-type dough) that are steamed with a filling of some sort. One very popular variety, almost always available in dim sum restaurants, is the famous Cha siu bao (叉燒包), which comes stuffed with Chinese BBQ Pork.
The rather cutely named items you see pictured above were not served at a dim sum restaurant, but rather at a little place called Tomo in Ottawa’s Byward Market. Tomo is primarily a Japanese restaurant, serving sushi, and other favorites, but they also do a number of non-Japanese items, including Pad Thai. The Bao, I was served here , are actually the specialty of ‘Daisy’, the wife of the owner and, while very much in the spirit of Cha siu bao, they are unique in including caramelized onions along with the pork.
I am not actually featuring the buns because they ‘Wowed’ me, so to speak, rather because the idea is one very much worth borrowing even if it wasn’t, in this case, terribly well executed. My main issue with the buns was that they were a little too sugary. The dough itself was quite sweet (more like a desert variety) and the filling even more so (due in part, no doubt, to the onions). This could, fairly easily, have been offset by providing a dipping sauce that was either sour, salty, or spicy (or a combination of these), but, surprisingly, not even soy sauce was offered.
The other aspect I though spoiled the buns was that pork was ground rather than chopped and did not have a nice meaty ‘bite’ to it. There was also, in my opinion, not enough of it in ratio to the onion and, on the whole, too little filling for the amount of ‘bun’. That being said, though, I like the idea of sweet onions with pork and I am going to try making a ‘spin-off’ of my own using pork belly and crispy fried onions… I’ll share the results as soon as I do…