Oh how people love steamed buns. The dish – in particular versions inspired by the Taiwanese guabao – has become so popular with Londoners that it is the specific speciality of several restaurants in London, from Flesh & Buns to Daddy Bao.
According to research by market insight company CGA and condiment maker Lee Kum Kee, bao is a favourite for 5% of consumers, making it one of the most popular up-and-coming oriental options, right behind Korean barbecue.
Back in China, however, they are coming up with new ways to jazz up the age-old favourite.
Originally launched in Beijing, the ‘baozza’ is a combination of steamed bun and pizza. It was masterminded by Loren Heinold and Alex Cree, a pair of expats living in the capital, who recruited Chinese bao experts to help them perfect their fusion recipe. Unlike the chopped fillings that stuff authentic bao, the ingredients are layered by hand to mimic pizza.
At the beginning of the year, the concept spread to Shanghai, where the Chinese-Italian mash-up is now sold out of of a grab-and-go storefront. It is also available via several other eateries in Beijing and Shanghai.
Flavours include margherita, pepperoni and Hawaiian, and diners can opt to have their choice steamed in the traditional style, toasted or coated in melted cheese.
The baozza can even be ordered direct from the company in frozen four-packs to cook at home.
Beyond the baozza
Baozza isn’t the only way China is evolving its bready bun. Pushing the limits of good taste, the bao has also been adapted into a cheeky treat that features a boy’s bottom squirting out chocolate.
Elsewhere, prodding pig-faced buns sees the nostrils leak salted egg yolk custard snot.
How about it, Sparkie, is this something you’d poke your nose into?
The baozza is an interesting product, but it’s difficult to say really if it would work here. It does look pretty good, making it a bit more difficult to immediately dismiss. That being said, it does feel like something that one branded outlet is going to do on its own with the potential to spread and expand into other cities.
The experimental and humorous versions will definitely draw the Instagram crowd, which is good for initial sales figures as usual. The producers just need to make sure their regular product is up to scratch in order to maintain customers beyond the initial hook.