A long time ago, in a galaxy that much resembles our own; a group of high school boys sat around a table at a Vietnamese restaurants. The boys meant well but were having an incredibly vulgar conversation about girls. Let’s present a highly edited version that won’t get me thrown out of the community:
Boy 1: I’m a breasts guy, I always appreciate things I don’t have.
Boy 2: Yeah, but you can’t go past a nice face. It’s what you’ll see most of the time.
Isaac: I’m a fan of personality (heh).
Boy 3: I’m an ass man.
Yeah, I was part of that group of boys. And yes, the unedited version of the story may or may not have involved me saying “I like the personalities on her chest” and doing a bit of a dance but none of you were there so you can’t prove it. I remember boy 3 saying he was an ass man and me looking confused. I just didn’t understand the appeal of buns.
Then I went to Belly Bao and had my moment of clarity.
Buns changed the game long before Nicki Minaj realised her greatest assets were her ass-ets. Freshly steamed buns with delectable ingredients are available in almost all Japanese establishments across New York and in Taiwan before that. Eventually, they made their way to Australia with some of the more famous proponents being Momofuku, Ippudo and Wonderbao.
Located in the Hudson Ballroom (formerly known as Good God); Belly Bao deserves to be on that list and might even be the best of the lot.
Shall we have a closer look at what I’m talking abaot?
Before we get to that:
My affinity for sweet potato fries is incredibly well documented during my food chronicles. It’s one of the most common menu items I use to gauge the overall quality of the restaurant I had. Is that a scientific approach? No, but it works for me.
Belly Bao was off to a hot start with the chilli aioli laced sweet potato fries. One of my initial observations that these were all long fries. No burnt ends or random crunchy bits (though crunchy bits are awesome). These are long strips of sweet potato that are ridiculously delicious. If anyone tries to talk you out of ordering them, you have my permission to defry them and get them anyway.
Speaking of frying…
Going in to Belly Bao, I did not expect to be blown away by the fried chicken. I considered myself a fried chicken connoisseur and my expectations for this was moderate at best.
Who knew that Belly Bao’s chicken is amongst the best I’ve ever had (shout outs to Drake). The honey soy sauce coating the crunchy fried chicken was the liquid equivalent of cash. You think you have enough but you always want some more. Incredibly tender and coated with a light batter, this BBC is a monster to be reckoned with.
Speaking of chicken to be reckoned with, let’s get to the abaondance of delicious baos I got to sink my teeth into:
As I was chicken this out, I couldn’t help but admire all the little details that the Belly Bao chefs had placed into creating these baos. They’re not working with a lot of real estate but they’re definitely working with a lot of flavoursome tenants.
The chicken is my favourite bao of the non-pork variety. The crunchy chicken is different from the fried chicken yet excellent in its own right. You get a choice of chilli or pesto aioli and I always opt for the extra heat. It blends perfectly with all the other active ingredients and you get a raucous rave romping in the roof of your mouth (sorry, I was feeling it and alliteration seemed appropriate).
Can we just stick a pork in the race and declare Belly Bao the home of the best bao in Sydney?
No? Still need some convincing? Ok.
This braised pork belly is the epitome of how I like my pork. Well marinated and seasoned, incredibly fatty, tender and accompanied by ingredients that enhance the its flavour.
Let’s get to the best bao in the building:
As all fans of pork know, the crackling can sometimes make or break your pork belly. Yes, fatty meat will usually net you a passing mark but if you’re anything like my parents, a pass will never suffice. You need to pass with flying colours.
Well, Belly Bao’s passes with flying rainbows shooting all across the sky with in a psychadelic manner.
Ok, I may be exaggerating slightly as I had the pleasure of sampling this delicious morsel back in Belly Bao’s humble Paddington beginnings but I was still preparing my body for the possibility that this moment might not ever be topped again.
The tenderness of the pork is accentuated by the incredibly soft hand-made bao and then juxtaposed against the crunchy crackling (there’s also a pretty generous serving of it by the way considering they’re housed in a small bun). The creamy kewpie mayo and accompanying salad are all perfectly in sync as well
It’s baonanas I tell you.
Speaking of baonanas:
Confession: I was really sceptical about this. The baos I had enjoyed were all savoury and I loved how soft and fluffy the steamed buns were. Deep frying them felt excessive and unnecessary.
Never ever forget that I’m an idiot.
The buns were lightly fried and weren’t greasy whatsoever. You can imagine how big of a mess it could’ve been if you had tried housing ice cream and banana in a greasy bun with oil seeping everywhere. It was awesome, I loved how well the banana and ice cream blended together. Throw in the contrast provided by the peanuts, buns AND you drizzle this bad boy with Nutella.
Awesome. Split might be the name but opinions can’t be split, this is a winner.
And that’s all for tonight.
Wait, what’s that bao-nd I hear?
Is it a bird?
Is it a plane?
No birds in sight and this baoger is the complete opposite of plane. Only available on Thursdays, this baoger has received more hype than LeBron James in 2003.
I was sceptical about trying this baoger at first. As much as I love baos and bugers, I just wasn’t sure if they would work together. One of the most underrated aspects of any good burger is how well the bun holds up to its contents. If you have s poor foundation, your burger is going to resemble a puddle of grease and goo. How would the bao handle the grease, cheese and sauce?
Spoiler alert: It handled it incredibly well and it absolutely as-bao-nded me
The bun slightly toasted yet incredibly soft and resilient. The baoger sauce has a slightly sharp and hot flavour vaguley resembling mustard and goes incredibly well with the patty. Its charred flavour and juiciness had me shaking my head in absolute disbelief.
I would like to be bao-nd to this baoger for life.
I’d be ok with being baond to this one too:
Yes, there’s more than one baoger on the Belly Bao menu and it’s all a-bao-t to go down.
The eggplant baoger is completely vegetarian with its supporting cast consistiny solely of loyal cucumber and dependable shredded lettuce. That doesn’t mean carnivores won’t enjoy this incredibly satisfying baoger with the eggplant being crunchy on the outside and deliciously gooey on the inside.
It’ll make you want to (egg)plant your ass in Belly Bao until the end of time.
Full disclosure: I haven’t been this excited to get my hands and mouth all over a breast since…ok, I’m pretty excited every time I get to get my hands and mouth all over breast meat.
Very few breasts I encounter come coated in sarsaparilla sauce though. The sweetness of the soda reduction and onion cheese sauce is a concotion fused in Heaven.
Ordering this baoger will turn you Pamela Anderson in the 90’s as Every patron who didn’t order this will be chicken your breasts out.
Here’s the TL;DR for everyone who’s abaot that life:
– I honestly am a guy who likes great personalities. I mean personality.
– I’d love to see an all out war between all the best fried chicken places in Sydney and see the shocked looks on everyone’s faces when Belly Bao emerges from that brawl the winner
– Go with the pork and chicken baos (tofu, beef and soft shell crab are also solid)
– Get any one of the baogers and don’t look back.
Belly Bao, CBD
Located inside Hudson Ballroom
53-55 Liverpool St Sydney
Wednesday – Friday