Wonderbao

Shop 4/19-37 A’Beckett Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9654 7887
wonderbaokitchen.com.au

It seems like the latest food craze to sweep Melbourne like the Storm did over the Bulldogs is the humble bao (包). The white, fluffy steamed bun may have been around for as long as the BSC girls stayed in the eighth grade but like all things from the 80s and 90s these days, there seems to be some sort of bao revival.

Recently and in the space of a month, two separate bao eateries have opened up in the city. The first of the two is Wonderbao, located in the newly formed arcade on a newly formed laneway opposite RMIT University. The second one, Bao Now, is on Hardware Street and I’m hoping to pay a visit sometime this week seeing as it’s not too far from my work. This morning, I went to Wonderbao. ‘Wait Libby, this morning?’ I hear you ask. Yep, I know such a high turnover is pretty unusual for this blog but enjoy it while you can okay?

Thankfully at Wonderbao, high turnovers are NOT a rarity. When I was there, the tiny eatery was packed to the rafters and baos were flying in and out of the giant bamboo steamers. There was no room for me to sit inside and the horrible, horrible Melbourne weather kept patrons away from the crate tables outside so I had no choice but to take away.

The default drink is homemade soy milk (either hot or cold) but you can get ‘F.O.B. drinks’ from the fridge if you feel like a small box of Chrysanthemum, winter melon, green and lemon tea from the Yeo’s line ($1.60).

Meanwhile, the menu is short, simple yet full of exciting meat and vegetarian options to keep everyone happy. The traditional da bao buns are ready to pluck, the gua bao ones are made to order which probably explained my almost 10 minute waiting time. While most of the patrons were patient (there were some who had been waiting longer than I have), I’m sure I wasn’t the only person wondering why there was only one person putting the bao into the boxes and only one person manning the counter.

But never mind. Here is the first bao I sampled, the roast pork belly gua bao ($3.80). The word ‘gua bao’ means sliced wrappers and this hybrid bao/taco snack is extremely popular in Taiwan, but was made famous by Momofuku. Wonderbao’s version came garnished with cucumber, pickled carrots, daikon and hoisin sauce – I’d dare say that his hybrid bao/taco has splashes of banh mi in it too!

Even though the pork belly had no crackling, the meat was tender and went well with the pickled carrots and the cucumber, with the hoisin sauce holding everything together beautifully.

The next two buns are more similar to what Melburnians are probably used to. I ordered a chicken da bao and a pork da bao ($3.20) and carried them up to my office.

The chicken one contained a quarter of a hardboiled egg and a piece of shiitake mushroom, and bits of water chestnut in between. It was a tasty bao and one that filled me up until the late afternoon, but I felt that there was something missing in it. Give me Nam Loong’s chicken bao any day.

The pork version was a little bit better, probably because there was one slice of Chinese sausage in it in addition to the egg and the mushroom that the chicken one also had. It tastier than the chicken bao but again, Nam Loong wins the prize for taste and price.

My homemade soy drink was served hot in a takeaway coffee cup ($2.80). It was thick, creamy and not overloaded with sugar like the ones you get at Asian grocery stores.

While Wonderbao’s da bao aren’t the best in Melbourne, they are still pretty damn good and provide a great carb-loaded snack in the early hours of the morning. I did like their roast pork belly gua bao a lot better though and I’ll definitely be back to try their braised pork gua bao as well as their tofu one. I will also return to see how their char siu bao fare with Melbourne’s best and may also be tempted to sample their dessert range (egg custard and taro, at $1.70).

Wonderbao on Urbanspoon

I eat too much.

36 Comments

  1. theragingcook
    October 7, 2012

    大包craze in Melbourne??? I don’t believe it hahahaha, adios Tacos, huan ying Baos lol. Peter already went, wants me and Mum to do some homemade ones lol

    Reply
    1. libishski
      October 8, 2012

      Homemade ones would be sick. Yum!

      Reply
  2. Lydia
    October 7, 2012

    sounds yummy!!!! ^_^

    Reply
  3. Choc Chip Uru
    October 7, 2012

    Mmmm I could use a place like this in the morning 😀
    Loving it!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    Reply
  4. hotlyspiced
    October 7, 2012

    It looks good and the prices are very reasonable but it’s a shame the service is so slow and that you didn’t find the food more tasty. The first one looks delicious though xx

    Reply
  5. Bryan
    October 7, 2012

    The fluffy looking photos of buns is going me big cravings! Have passed here a few times and laughed at the name, but think I’m gonna give it a go soon. 🙂

    Reply
    1. libishski
      October 8, 2012

      Yeah, the name is pretty strange but definitely worth trying 🙂

      Reply
  6. yummychunklet
    October 7, 2012

    What a great name for a bao place! The one in Chicago is called Wow Bao.

    Reply
    1. libishski
      October 8, 2012

      Wow Bao is a neat name. There is another one in Melbourne called Bao Now – I am keen to give it a go sometime this week :d

      Reply
  7. retep eel
    October 7, 2012

    This place is awesome; go there when I can. But I only do the char siu bao + the belly gua bao; like you said, the dai bao had something missing (came back for the pork dai bao the other day and was pretty underwhelmed compared to the awesomeness of everything else). Maybe I should drop out of academics, and open up my own bar/bao store/taco shop and get a bunch of hipsters to instagram my shit… Given the popularity, it seems to be the easiest way to make some $$$ today

    Reply
    1. libishski
      October 8, 2012

      Haha @ the hipsters and instagram bit.

      I need to try their char siu bao next time then. And yeah, you SHOULD do that – I am keen to see how your folks would react to your news, though!

      Reply
  8. Vien
    October 7, 2012

    I was there not too long ago! And I agree with you- the service could have been faster and Nam Loong’s paus are one step ahead of them. They definitely have room for improvement but still yummy!!!!! 😀

    Reply
  9. Mr C @ The Food Diary
    October 7, 2012

    Oh those chicken and mushroom buns look so delicious 😀

    Reply
  10. cquek
    October 7, 2012

    Yum! Looks absolutely scrumptious. And, as always your photos make the food look so tempting.

    Reply
  11. ChopinandMysaucepan
    October 7, 2012

    Dear Libby,

    I’m not sure if I would like julienne carrots in that Momofuku lookalike. It’s not too difficult doing a version at home with the crispy pork crackling though. You might enjoy this simple recipe.

    http://chopinandmysaucepan.com/momofuku-pork-buns

    Reply
    1. libishski
      October 8, 2012

      Thanks for the recipe. I’ll give it a go when my bao cravings hit 🙂

      Reply
  12. squishymonster
    October 8, 2012

    Someone told me that there’s a bacon shortage…tell me it’s not true!!! :/ This looks amazing and don’t know what I’d do without pork belly—case in point ^^ your amazing food!

    Reply
    1. libishski
      October 8, 2012

      Yeah, I heard about that! Probably explains why bacon at the market has been a bit more expensive lately… 🙁

      Reply
  13. What a cute new food! I love baos if they’ve got enough filling-I don’t love the fluffy outer as much as I love the inner 😀

    Reply
  14. I wish I worked in the city…so many gems I’ve been wanting to visit like this place!

    Reply
    1. libishski
      October 8, 2012

      Yeah but you get to visit non-city gems!

      Reply
  15. Daisy@Nevertoosweet
    October 9, 2012

    Wow they’re so busy even on a Saturday! 🙂 these new bao places sure are getting popular! Do you mind waiting for me and then we’ll go to Wonderbao together again and we’ll try ALL of the dessert boas! Please please please with a macaron on top? 😀 no stress if u can hehe ~

    Reply
    1. libishski
      October 9, 2012

      Yes! That sounds wonderful! Are you doing anything tomorrow or next Monday after work?

      Reply
      1. Daisy@Nevertoosweet
        October 9, 2012

        I’m sorry love 🙂 I can’t do tomorrow but next Monday after work is PERFECT!!!! Text me and we’ll meet up there or something hehe ~

        Reply
        1. libishski
          October 9, 2012

          Okay, sweet!

          I am at uni all day so will be done by 4:15. More than happy to wait for you though 🙂 but yes, will text you. Can’t wait 😀

          Reply
          1. Daisy@Nevertoosweet
            October 9, 2012

            WOO HOO 🙂 that’s super! I finish at 4:15 too! so it’s really good timing for us to meet up! I can’t wait hehe can we can ALL of the dessert baos??!! 😛

            Reply
            1. libishski
              October 9, 2012

              Sweet. I’ll be there at 4:30pm.

              Haha I think there are only like, two dessert baos there (sweet egg custard and taro) but that’s okay, I’ll get some savoury ones as well 🙂

              Reply
              1. Daisy@Nevertoosweet
                October 9, 2012

                I’ll need savoury too 🙂 but just want all the sweet ones I can find hahaha ~ I want the char siu one hehe and need to get a few for Mr Bao to try too!

                Reply
                1. libishski
                  October 9, 2012

                  Yeah, I definitely want to try some char siu ones. Baos for Mr Bao, haha nice! (though I’m sure I’m not the first person to have said that to you!)

                  Reply
                  1. Daisy@Nevertoosweet
                    October 9, 2012

                    HAHHAA i know LOL it’s very appropriate since his name is Mr Bao on the blog hehe 😛 I’m craving for baos now! kinda hungry hehe

                    Reply
  16. Neeno
    October 10, 2012

    Bao Now! Hahahha Look forward to that review 🙂
    I am yet to visit Wonderbao, but I’m around the corner from Nam Loong so thats my regular Bao go to!

    Reply
    1. libishski
      October 11, 2012

      You work near Nam Loong? Lucky you!

      Reply
  17. thehungerpangs
    October 11, 2012

    I’m losing track of all these crazy Melbourne trends! Don’t know if I’m way ahead of the curve, though, because I’ve always loved pork buns (not so keen on the chicken ones, they taste a little odd). I usually get them from Springy, but that Momofuko-inspired roast pork belly gua bao looks so good, I’m going to have to venture into the city to get my hands on one! 😀

    Reply
    1. libishski
      October 13, 2012

      I’ve always loved those steamed buns too but they didn’t really become ‘mainstream’ until only very recently. I guess we can somehow say that we’re the trend-setters and all the hipsters are laggards 😀

      Reply
  18. […] Melbourne started going crazy over steamed buns (bao) thanks to Wonderbao and Bao Now, David Schindler and Kevin Xu were already quietly serving up dumplings and bao at […]

    Reply
  19. […] Melbourne started going crazy over steamed buns (bao) thanks to Wonderbao and Bao Now, David Schindler and Kevin Xu were already quietly serving up dumplings and bao at […]

    Reply

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