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 bao, 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 bao; 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 Zhong 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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