Restaurant Review: Tom’s BaoBao

The lobster bao with lobster, corn, scallions and butter from Tom's BaoBao. (Image courtesy of Tom's BaoBao.) 甘其食龍蝦包子的餡有龍蝦肉、玉米、香蔥及奶油。(圖片來自甘其食。)

The lobster bao with lobster, corn, scallions and butter from Tom’s BaoBao. (Image courtesy of Tom’s BaoBao.)

Tom’s BaoBao opened its first international outpost in Harvard Square on July 12, bringing authentic steamed baozi or bao from Hangzhou. Owner Tom Tong’s bao concept GanQiShi has more than 200 eateries in China, where nearly 250,000 bao are consumed in a day.

The menu features six bao, with a seasonal option. Traditional staples such as juicy pork ($3.25) and vegetarian ($3.50) are available, along with curry beef ($3.75), lobster (market price), sweet potato ($3), chicken ($3.50), and seasonal pork and apple ($4).

Handmade bao are showcased at the Boston location, with bao artisans or “baoists” producing 2,000 bao a day. Each apprenticed for at least three months — many in China — to make bao that weigh precisely 100 to 102 grams each and have 16 to 22 hand-pinched folds to seal in the stuffing. None of the ingredients are frozen, with the bao made from scratch daily.

Each bao is pillowy, thanks to whole-wheat flour with less gluten shipped from China. The filling packs flavor from high-quality ingredients, without overdoing the seasoning. A perfect example is the lobster bao: the rich lobster flavor shines through, enhanced with sweet corn, butter and scallions.

Another favorite was the chicken bao. The chicken and carrots had deep flavor, accented with a sweet smoky sauce.

Juicy pork was deceptively simple but sublime. The filling’s pork, ginger, scallions and Shaoxing wine came together as an unctuous whole, soaking the bao in aromatic juices.

The pork and apple bao featured naturally sweet ingredients, tempered with soy sauce in the pork’s braising liquid. It was a familiar flavor, with the apple melting into rich fatty pork.

The lobster bao is filled with braised pork and apple chunks. (Image courtesy of Tom's BaoBao.) 甘其食的滷肉蘋果包子。(圖片來自甘其食。)

The pork and apple bao is filled with braised pork and apple chunks. (Image courtesy of Tom’s BaoBao.)

Curry beef wraps beef, carrots and potatoes in mild curry, a bold complement to the tender bao.

The curry beef bao from Tom's BaoBao. (Image courtesy of Tom's BaoBao.) 咖哩牛肉包子。(圖片來自甘其食。)

The curry beef bao from Tom’s BaoBao. (Image courtesy of Tom’s BaoBao.)

The vegetarian options are hearty. Our sweet potato bao had large chunks of orange zest, adding texture without being too sugary. The vegetarian bao features bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and smoked tofu from Cambridge’s Chang Shing Tofu, which also provides the soy milk ($2.50). Boy choy and mushrooms for the vegetarian bao are cooked, chopped and drained for the filling, a labor-intensive process hard to replicate at home.

Vegetarian bao from Tom's BaoBao, filled with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and smoked tofu from Cambridge’s Chang Shing Tofu. (Image courtesy of Tom's BaoBao.) 甘其食香菇青菜包子的餡有中有青菜、香菇和來自劍橋市長興豆腐的豆干。(圖片來自甘其食。)

Vegetarian bao from Tom’s BaoBao, filled with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and smoked tofu from Cambridge’s Chang Shing Tofu. (Image courtesy of Tom’s BaoBao.)

Boston was the logical choice for Tong, as a sister city to Hangzhou with rich history and cultural appreciation. A second U.S. location is set for Providence, opening in fall 2016.

Tom’s BaoBao elevates street food with wholesome ingredients and exacting preparation. One bao is perfect for a snack, with a second making for a satisfying meal.

 

This was an arranged tasting, so Sampan’s experiences may be more pleasant than the norm.

 

Tom’s BaoBao

84 Winthrop Street

Cambridge, MA 02138

(617) 945-0067

www.tomsbaobao.com

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About Ling-Mei Wong 黃靈美

Editor of the Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England 舢舨報紙總編輯。舢舨是全紐英倫唯一的中英雙語雙週報。
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