I’ve moved closer to the “west side” recently and have loved discovering new eateries and cafes on the other side of the river. The inner west has had an extraordinary transformation in the last few years and is now home to a burgeoning foods and arts scene. There’s Rudimentary Cafe, which is housed in an old shipping container, 8bit for gourmet burgers and hotdogs and my personal fave – Guerilla Espresso – which serves up specialist coffee and the best pork buns I have ever eaten.
One of my favourite discoveries recently has been the Bao Bros, a hidden gem in the heart of Footscray. The Bao Bros specialise in steamed delights called Gua Bao (more simply called bao). The pop up is currently being housed in the Littlefoot bar, and there’s hope for a permanent store on the horizon.
The three boys behind The Bao Bros are not actually brothers, but they are close as family. They have searched far and wide to find the perfect bao and ingredients to inspire their menu. The buns are made locally by a family business that has been selling Chinese buns for almost 20 years. They are steamed daily in the tiny kitchen. The result? A delicious soft and pillowy bun.
The Bao Bros hope to foster a “bao culture” in Melbourne, starting in the burgeoning food scene in Footscray. Hugely popular on the streets of Taiwan, the “”gua bao” is commonly called a “Taiwanese hamburger” – a soft fluffy steamed bun traditionally filled with braised pork belly, pickled vegetables and peanuts. Although baos make an occasional appearance on some Asian fusion menus, there are not many specialist bao eateries in Melbourne, besides Wonderbao and Baotime.
Inspired by Asian flavours, the Bao Bros menu is quite small with only a few types of gourmet bao fillings and side dishes.
My personal favourite is the chicken bao, which is chock full of deep-fried chicken with spicy sriracha mayonnaise and slaw to add a touch of freshness.
For vegetarians, there’s also a veggie bao on the menu, filled with lightly battered eggplant with snowpeas and salsa verde. There are also a couple of sides to sink your teeth into, like the Crispy Chicken Wings fried to a crisp in The Bao Bros secret spices and the Littlefoot Chips paired with garlic aioli.
I can only hope that the bao culture continues to blossom in Melbourne; these little beauties are certainly worth getting your hands dirty for. Can’t wait for the permanent store to open.
The Bao Bros
T 03 9396 1282