So based off a tip on the board, i walked into Baohaus today, which is in the LES. I read their website before and the guy who owns the place is a taiwanese-american guy who decided to start a place specializing in gua bao b/c of influence from his mother.
Interestingly steamed pork belly buns are now becoming somewhat of a fad probably due to momofuku, who accidently created something very similar to a gua bao when trying to combine pork belly with the cantonese style peking duck buns (btw i'm happy to have this as a fad given it is my all time favorite street food) and Baohaus seems to be part of this trend although i was very pleased that this wasn't some Baoguette type place, which puts poor quality versions of the original out to capitalize on the trend.
For those unfamiliar with gua bao, its a white steamed bun that has stewed pork belly, suan cai (pickled vegetable), crushed peanut and this sugar stuff in the middle. It's a classic taiwanese street dish although it's not nearly as common as other dishes like stinky tofu.
The place is very small with one large blue communal table and then an ordering counter. I chatted with the guy for a minute, really nice guy and he said they opened at Christmas. The menu is very small (http://www.baohausnyc.com/menu) and basically just has a few different versions of gua bao (a beef one, the original pork belly and tofu version, they've also got fries and boiled peanuts). I got my food to go.
I got two things:
- gua bao: I got the original pork belly version called a "chairman bao". They give you two small gua bao, i probably could've eaten three b/c the two are pretty small, size wise i'd say that if you compared the combined two bao at baohaus to the one bao at temple snacks in flushing, they'd still be smaller than the temple snack one. Anyhow, the bottom line was that it was surprisingly good. The mantou (bun) was nice and fluffy with that slight sweetness that I love. The pork belly was flavorful and tender, it was sort of clean and light tasting for pork belly, the fat part was perfect, the meat part wasn't quite as tender as it should be, but still quite tender and good. The condiments (suan cai, crushed peanuts, sugar stuff) were also good although they didn't put enough on it, next time i'd ask them for extra suan cai. Overall, this was very good and tastes very authentic.
- boiled peanuts: these are classic taiwan street food as well, you can get them off the street just about anywhere. The version here was a bit more flavored than normal, they seem to flavor them with some vinegar, salt and maybe some star anise. They're pretty tasty.
I have to admit I was pretty skeptical, but I was very pleased by his place and they're doing a really good job bringing real taiwanese food to manhattan. Highly recommend.