Gua baos are a taste sensation. These Taiwanese steamed buns traditionally filled with braised pork belly and pickled vegetables were made world famous by David Chang of Momofuku fame, and are claiming their status as the ‘in’ food for the trendy. You can now get them in different versions, with chicken, tofu, beef and even soft shell crab. They are more regularly called pork buns, though I think of pork buns as the completely enclosed buns, not these half sandwich looking baos.
Gua baos have been spreading through Auckland before I left New Zealand. Blue Breeze Inn in Ponsonby made them a signature dish, and Chinoiserie in Mt Albert serves predominantly modern takes of gua baos in a bar setting. BL and I have been hunting them out since we moved to Sydney last year.
We’ve eaten downright terrible versions, mediocre ones and some excellent interpretations. Of the seven we have had, here’s the list from worst to best. (I have only included those that are easily available). A good gua bao has the right balance of salty, sour, sweet flavours and chewy, crunchy, soft textures. All in one bite. The bun should be warm, fluffy and soft, not dry or tacky. The meat is tender and well seasoned; the pickled vegetable still has a crunch. Continue reading