Believe it or not, I totally missed out on the bao hype. Although, since writing this article, I’ve already had them again. Late to the party, but enjoying the food. That’s me in a nutshell, right. I do however love Chinese food, especially when it’s in a great venue with good company. The perfect spot for a taste of Hong Kong in London? Cha Chaan Teng.
Based just minutes from Holborn station, Cha Chaan Teng offers ‘playful’ Chinese fusion cuisine. The launch of their ‘Bao Bar’ means that rather than sitting down for a full meal, customers also have the option to enjoy a taste of one of their most popular dishes in a casual, relaxed setting. The venue takes inspiration from its namesake, the ‘cha chaan teng’ restaurants of Hong Kong’s 1950s cafe culture, with touches of modern Asian street art and art deco vibes.
To celebrate its launch, I got my hungry self down to Cha Chaan Teng for an extra special session with Executive Development Chef Jeremy Pang (who is lovely, by the way) to learn all about the ins and outs of putting together the perfect bao.
Every good bao starts with good dough. And thankfully for us, Jeremy had this part in hand. Using a very finely milled gluten wheat flour, he whipped up a big ol’ bowl of dough.
Grabbing small handfuls each, we began to shape the dough into burger-style bao buns, which went into the oven while we wrapped some BBQ shortrib filling up into small bao ‘pouches’. I found making the bao a lot easier than when I made dumplings with Mamalan – definitely something I can recreate at home without making too much of a mess.
Buns in the oven (in the cookery sense only), we settled down to a few more drinks while we waited…
For our burger-style bao sliders, we were able to choose from three different fillings. I’d made three bao, so obviously, one of each flavour was the only way to go. My favourite was probably the sticky sweet and sour chicken, but the pulled pork and squid fillings also went down an absolute treat. The rich Asian tastes were perfectly created with rich sauces, and the cooked dough was much lighter and fluffier than I expected. I popped some of my creations in a box to take home, but by the time I headed to bed, they were all gone…
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I was definitely impressed at the skill and time that goes into handmaking each bao, and they tasted absolutely fantastic. We did make slightly too many, so I took a box home too. No complaints there! The evening was a really fun insight into Cha Chaan Teng’s Bao Bar, and I’ll definitely be heading back with some friends soon to give the rest of the menu a try…
Cha Chaan Teng
38 Kingsway, London WC2B 6EY