119 Hardware Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 9670 6394
With every food trend that sweeps Melbourne, there always has to be someone who has to add their own spin to what is normally a staple dish. And in the case of bao (Chinese steamed buns), the guys at Bao Now! decided to be the ones who dared to be different.
While traditional fillings such as BBQ pork are available, the focus at this little Hardware Street kiosk is unconventional fillings, borrowed from well-known dishes around the world. Think New York buffalo chicken and Indian butter chicken and countless others from a line of constantly-changing flavours.
They also have lettuce bao (san choi bao) for those on a gluten-free diet or phase. Flavours can come in anything from Thai chicken to Mexican pork.
I might be a sometimes (okay more like occasional) paleo eater but there was no way in hell I’d ever choose lettuce over dough. When I rocked up at the store one weekday lunchtime, they were having a $9 pack where you received three baos and one iced tea. Given that a savoury bao is $3 and a dessert one is $2.80, you’re essentially getting the tea (or water, if you prefer) for free. Done.
In addition to my three baos, I also decided to play good workmate by buying Sean a BBQ pork bao. The dude’s never tried BBQ pork buns before and hey, I wasn’t going to let him die without trying one. He LOVED it.
For lunch, I had a bacon cheeseburger and an Indian butter chicken bao with a vanilla custard one for dessert. I’m a bit of a bao purist so I wasn’t expecting much from these rather ambitious flavours. But you know what? They weren’t bad. The bacon cheeseburger bao was filled with meat, bacon bits, a gravy-like sauce and I could taste hints of tomato sauce in it.
Meanwhile, the butter chicken filling in the second savoury bao tasted a lot better than some butter chicken dishes I’ve had at Indian restaurants. Equally delicious was the vanilla custard bao which I only got because they ran out of Nutella bao. There were regrets, though, as my teeth sunk into the creamy and silky custard filling.
All this was washed down with an iced green rice tea – the only thing that would have made it perfect would be a handful of tapioca pearls on the bottom. Mmmm.
I was pleasantly surprised by how decent the buns at Bao Now! were. Sure, they will probably offend bao purists but I reckon that if something tastes good, who cares. That said, the buns only filled me up for a good 45 minutes before I started to get hungry again so I would only really recommend this place if you want a snack rather than a filling meal. For the latter, there’s always Maccas or Classic Curry Restaurant.