This was our second visit to Bao Bao. For those who don’t know, BaoBao is a small eatery located inside Boxpark Croydon, specialising in Taiwanese Street Food.
The first time we were there, we tried some of their baos and main dishes. So this time we decided to adopt a slightly different approach and order a range of small plates (of course, we had to order the baos too).
From the Xiaochi section, we tried the Takoyaki (£4.85), Taiwanese Fried Chicken (£4.65) and Hakka Salted Pork (£4.85).
The Takoyaki (ball-shaped small snack made of batter and filled with octopus meat) had a soft texture. It was nicely savoury and full of flavour. It is always fun to watch the tiny bonito flakes (dried, fermented and smoked fish) dance on top of your food like it’s alive and happy!
The piping hot Taiwanese Fried Chicken delivered strongly on its promise of crispy, golden crunch on the outside and soft chicken meat inside. The secret to this dish is the tapioca starch in which the chicken is coated and fried after it has been marinated for three days in a special Taiwanese spice.
The Hakka Salted Pork was revelatory. It had a rich, fatty taste similar to pork belly and all sorts of salty goodness.
From the Baos, we covered the full spectrum except the veggie ones. We revisited the Signature Beef Bao (Slow Cooked Beef Shin, Cucumber Pickle, Green Chilli Sauce, Dry Chilli Slice). I don’t know why but, unlike last time, this time I really noticed the fresh, zingy, spicy kick of the sauce that worked wonders with the meat. The cucumber added a raw, cooling and soothing contrast. The beef itself was as good as I remember from last time.
We were immediately drawn to the Cumin Lamb Bao (Pulled Lamb Neck, Cumin, Red Onion Pickle, Mint Sauce, Coriander). I particularly loved this one as it had some curry-inspired flavours, making it a a nice fusiony flavoured bao.
The Prawn Cake Bao (Home-made Prawn Cake, Red Cabbage Pickle, Guacamole, Coriander) was also a new one for us. It was a lighter bao, more mellow compared to the others and would definitely appeal to seafood lovers. The creamy avocado and crunchy pickles were deliciously complementary ingredients.
Last but not the least, we had the Pork Belly Bao. The belly was fatty and full of flavour, barely snuggled and ready to spill out, but it was the inclusion of the crushed peanuts that added a scrummy nuttiness to it.
Any two baos can be purchased for £8.50, which makes them really good value for money. The buns are as good as they get – soft, warm, yielding, generously filled, fluffy pillows of joy. The sizes are much bigger than their Central London counterparts and can easily be cut in half and shared between two.
We washed all that lovely salty and meaty food with some cold and refreshing Asahi. In terms of drinks, they have wine, beer and sake available, but their speciality is Bubble Tea.
For locals and non-locals making a trip to Boxpark Croydon, I would recommend stopping by this place. The food is delicious and reasonably priced. The food is all Taiwanese, but with cultural influences from Japan, Korea, China, Vietman and Thailand. I have never visited Taiwan so don’t know what local Taiwanese street food should taste like. However, judging by the busy lunchtime service and queues of people (a lot of whom were Oriental Asian), they must be doing something right. The staff are humble and polite, vibe casual and decor is simple and functional.
So pull together a bunch of mates, order all the tapas and baos on the menu multiple times and chow down with some ice cold beer on the side! You are guaranteed to linger for some time here.
Location : Unit 44-45 Boxpark Croydon, 99 George St, Croydon CR0 1LD
More information can be found here.
N.B. I was invited to review but all photos and opinions are mine.