I generally do not think much of cafes and do not visit them, but a friend highly recommended Bao Makers. They had a pop-up booth at Takashimaya recently, I tried and was sold. Unlike most generic cafes which serves the same old breakfast fare or waffles, Bao Makers serves a way more unique menu and none of the boring stuff. As the name suggests, they make Baos.
They do have other main courses like pasta, bowls and dessert, but Baos are the essence of their menu. They use traditional style Chinese steamed buns aka mantou, and played around with the fillings. They have the traditional Kong Ba Bao too (Chinese braised pork bun), called the Belly of Pork, which I suppose should be the inspiration for this format of food. Just a fun fact – I actually seldom ever have traditional Kong Ba Bao and the more impressionable instances were in Western countries, served at every Ramen shops in New York City like Ippudo or Momofuku, compared to Chinese outlets. (Westerners seems to love the idea of “pork buns” but can’t seem to discern that it doesn’t actually go with Ramen in Japan eh?)
But anyway, point is, while I don’t have anything against Kong Ba Bao (it is nice!), I just don’t really order or even see it at Chinese restaurants/ eateries. I don’t think it’s just me. Kong Ba Bao is something slowly but surely disappearing, save for from Ramen shops in Western countries. Having this old dish modernized and made attractive to the new generation will perhaps help keep it alive!
Besides the kong ba bao, most of the other Baos on the menu are one of a kind. Fusion food fails most of the time, but this Bao concept actually works!
Satay Chicken ($5.80) and Belly of Pork ($5.00)
Well honestly, the Belly of Pork aka kong ba bao could have been better. The meat wasn’t the softest most tender that fatty pork belly can be, and the taste of ginger was kind of strong. I actually preferred the pork buns from Momofuku or Ippudo New York.
The Satay chicken was better, thankfully! The chicken was very well marinated in satay marinade and it was fully absorbed through the chunks of chicken. Unlike usual satay where the pieces are small and tend to be dry, they used bigger chunks here and the texture was better than regular satay. The flavour was good too.
Chilli Crab – $5.80/ piece
Probably the most interesting looking on the menu, the Chilli Crab bao which is served in a fried version of the Chinese mantou, filled with real crab meat in chilli sauce. This, guys, revolutionizes how we eat chilli crab. Ever loved the taste of world famous Singaporean famous chilli crab but hate the action of having to dig your fingers to peel the crab? Well I for sure, am one of them. As much as I like crabs, the hassle of getting my hands all gross puts me off and I rather give it up. This one gives you the same good taste without any mess! They have disposable gloves too so you can bite straight into it.
And it’s only $5.80! Another problem with old fashioned chilli crab is that I can never have it as a casual meal – it always has to be shared in a communal setting because it’s never portioned for 1 or 2 pax and costs a bomb. This single bao solves all my problems with chilli crab.
Of all the Baos I’ve tried here, the Chilli Crab gets my vote if I had to choose just one to recommend!
Another hot favourite is the Salted Egg Yolk Prawn ($5.80) which is served in a black sesame mantou. The salted egg yolk sauce craze in Singapore seems to be staying for some time. At the pop-up booth, I tried the Salted Egg Yolk Chicken ($5.80) version which was served in the same black bun and was not bad.
Seeing Nanban Chicken ($5.50) as an option on the menu, I knew I had to try. I am a Nanban Chicken fan. This one was decent, but probably not the best Nanban Chicken around as the sauce could be better in terms of Nanban standards. But overall as a Bao, I did enjoy it.
The Salmon Mentaiko Cheese ($7) was an option from a special menu. I usually like mentaiko, but I felt that this one had lots of room for improvement. Firstly, the salmon was way too oily! It was deep fried, but I think this cut is a fatty one like salmon belly or something. I had similar salmon belly deep fried strips before from Teppei Syokudo’s booth and the oiliness felt the same. And then the mentaiko sauce was salty. Salty + oily isn’t the best combination. Perhaps it would have been nicer on grilled salmon instead.
Other flavours on the menu aside from those mentioned above include BBQ Pulled Pork, and Veggie, which I hope to try soon. The minimum order each time is 2 pieces of any Baos, and I do think that 2 pieces is enough to fill up one person, 3 if you’re greedy. For Bao orders you can also add on salad ($2) or truffle fries ($5) to make it a fuller meal.
Just after I visited, they announced online that they will be shifting from 24th Oct. I do hope this cafe is here to stay, wherever they move to!
Overall: Modernized version of old fashioned Baos done right, especially Chilli Crab.
The Bao Makers Cafe and Bakery
78 Horne Rd
Mon – Fri: 12pm – 10pm
Sat: 11am – 10pm
Sun: 11am – 6pm