The Taiwanese specialty gua bao hit the Stockholm food scene in 2015, and one of the places to hail for getting these steamed buns of goodness onto the menus around town is Barobao. Located on Hornsgatan on Södermalm, this place offers baos in its purest form, it is cheap, it is fast and above all – it is delicious.
Baos in its purest form, it is cheap, it is fast and above all – it is delicious
First things first, what exactly is a bao? Well, it comes in many shapes and forms but it is a steamed white bun with some sort of stuffing that is common across Southeast Asia. The key elements are that they should be freshly steamed, chewy-soft and filled with fragrant protein such as pork and spices. The classic Taiwanese bao are snowy white, pillow soft and savory-sweet with the goodness of slow cooked pork inside with pickled cucumber, coriander and peanut dust. The bao dough is tricky to master, even though just a handful of ingredients are used. The biggest difference to Western bread is that the cooking method is with wet steam heat which makes them puff up nicely and cook to a fluffy finish, but in essence it is a Taiwanese take on a hamburger.
Snowy white, pillow soft and savory-sweet
At Matbaren chef Mathias Dahlgren has served his variations of steamed buns and it has become an iconic dish on the menu, and David Chang has done his take on pork buns at Momofuku across the world. But Barobao is far from fine dining, it brings the steamed bun back to where it is most commonly found in Southeast Asia – as quick and cheap street food. Kim and Jesper Kvarnefält are the owners and chefs at Barobao and they have made a business out of serving these buns in a creative way. The traditional bao is still there on the menu with pork belly, hoisin sauce, pickled cucumbers, peanuts and coriander – but they have also expanded the menu to include more creative items such as oysters with kabuso tapioca and yuzu hot sauce. But most of the menu is centered around the baos, and they can be found with different proteins such as chicken or lamb or vegetarian options such as parsnip and eggplant. The menu is divided into three parts, baos of course and then comfort platters and side dishes. And a couple of desserts. And for some reason the menu is all in English, not sure why. You will need about three to four items to fill your stomach, opt for the traditional one with pork belly (even though the hoisin sauce is on the sweet side) and the 64,8c egg. And one more depending on your taste. The bao dough is what make this place great, it is has that combination of light and fluffy and a bit of chewiness which sends your tastebuds back to Asia.
Creative items such as oysters with kabuso tapioca and yuzu hot sauce
Barobao is located on Hornsgatan on Södermalm, it is a hip area and there are plenty of options to find a bar nearby. And for a complete evening you need someplace more to go to, because Barobao is not a restaurant you stay long at. You order at the counter at the bar, take a seat and within a couple of minutes your order will end up on the table. Its quick, it’s easy and its cheap. But the interior design goes is sort of the same style, concrete floor, light wooden tables, plywood walls and tiny chairs with way too much lightning does not create a cozy or warm atmosphere even though the plants hanging from the ceiling is an attempt to create that. Rather a quick visit to get a good bao and then be on your way to the next stop. The prices are incredibly cheap for being Stockholm, so that’s on the plus side and the baos are good. Fast food at its best.