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Belly Bao

This instalment of our burger specific series will zero in on the combination of two of my favourite cuisines, i.e. burgers and Asian.

It was during my stint in China that I first developed a weak spot and appreciation for steamed buns or baozi (包子), which essentially is a complete meal conveniently stowed away in a white, warm, soft bun and which at least in mainland China is traditionally based on a pork base.

The continuous process of creating a bao has always appealed to me, starting with the meticulously timed mixing of the yeast-leavened dough via the steaming process to the idiosyncratic smell the bamboo baskets imbue on the final product.

Paired with vinegar, chili and garlic pastes, it constitutes a fantastic take away treat that I frequently helped myself to after letting a long day culminate with a visit to the local markets.

During travels to other Asian countries, I discovered local variants, e.g. the Malaysian halal ones filled with your choice of curry and quail eggs or the ones in Indonesia, which curiously enough at times also include chocolate, sweet mung bean paste or marmalade, or the Philippine meatball and flaked tuna filled variant, at times containing cheese, not dissimilar to what is proffered in Thailand. Needless to say, Japan has perfectioned its own version on the bao, adding its own twist.

Given my appreciation for the humble bao, I was intrigued when I learned about Belly Bao, i.e. an eatery specialised in fusing the DNA of original Taiwanese baos with the concept of burgers (resulting in the portmanteau “baogers”, i.e. a cheeseburger napping between toasted bao buns) to Sydney.

What might sound like novelty territory could not be further from it, as every single item off Belly Bao’s menu I have sampled proved to be on point and a culinary delight: Having originally emerged out of the context of Sydney’s mythical and much fabled about Good God Small Club, Belly Bao’s team has refined alchemy over the years and established itself as a veritable insider tip for both sophisticated and fussy foodies as well as aficionados of substantial savoury fair.

Located in Sydney’s suburb Newtown, Belly Bao’s expansive menu features a range of burgers, baos in their original form as well as noodles, fried chicken, desserts and much to my delight, amongst other offerings, Japanese whiskey and one of the better IPAs Australian’s craft beer scene has to offer – what better accompaniment could there be than an OZ-Japanese boilermaker.

The texturally fantastic baogers are soft, squishy and fluffy and as dangerously moreish as the soft shell crab filled baos and the soft bao / slow braised beef short rib baos. One is well advised to exert some moderation as those beauties go down too easily,

Needless to say, ordering dessert was way too much, however, it proved hard to say no to what is being announced as “two cheesecake spring rolls served with vanilla ice-cream and house made berry sauce”, which tasted exactly as indulgent as what it sounds like – an exorbitantly decadent culmination of a great meal.


image from company website

T • December 9, 2021

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