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Baohaus - real taiwanese gua bao in the LES

  • l

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.

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  1. Thanks for the report. Based on the name I could have mistaken it for a place run by the Baoguette/Obao guy and avoided it like the plague.

    Maybe we can get them to add dan bing to the menu...


    4 Replies
    1. re: Peter Cherches

      yah i strongly dislike that baoguette guy's restaurants, they are pretty bad...the name and the names of the dishes were part of the reason i was skeptical. I would love for them to add more taiwanese dishes to their menu, but we'll see.

      1. re: Peter Cherches

        I assumed it was a Michael Hunyh place too. This is good to know.

        1. re: Wilfrid

          ouch! gotta set the record straight!

        2. re: Peter Cherches

          I too thought this was somehow Baoguette connected pun, and I had just had a crappy sandwich at Baoguette the day before, so I didn't even peek in the window.

          Thanks to your post drawing attention to the name confusion, and the OP review, I'm actually intrigued now. Unfortunately, it sounds like had I even peeked in yesterday, they were closed for their special event anyway. Hmmm. I was actually in the area looking for a new place to try for a snack, and Meatball Shop wasn't open for lunch either. Sometimes you can't win.

        3. I also assumed it was a Michael Huynh place. Baoguette does something horrible to the name bahn mi.

          In terms of my vote for favorite Taiwanese street food - fan tuan, bao bing, and fried mantou (you know the kind with the insides that get all crispy and look like noodles where the bread is fried and sweet tasting. yum) I'll drop by soon - I'm super psyched to have Taiwanese street food in Manhattan. Usually I have to head to Ren Ren in Flushing.

          Also I agree with your blog on the list of places that suck: http://thepopchef.blogspot.com/

          1. Damn, that's a nice rundown Becky... Well played. Baohaus was already at the top of my list, this just reinforces what my friend who lives in the building above it keeps saying. The time is now...


            1. loving that we can make requests direct; might be worth it to shift some of the attention to this thread as well:

              definitely missing TW representation in manhattan; easily echo what everyone else's requests are:

              + sao bing would be awesome; does that require the special tandoor-like oven?
              + bao bing but with condensed milk added to the water, called snow shave ice
              + da bing bao xiao bing, crunchy cracker inside soft crepe with toppings
              + zu xue gao, to walk down the street with

              peep the snow ice pic:

              1. thanks for the report! are the pork buns better than momofuku?

                1 Reply
                1. re: daffyduck

                  yes i think they are, but they're different than momofuku

                  momofuku's are based upon the cantonese version of peking duck replacing duck with pork belly and it uses hoisin sauce. you can see my description of baohaus's version

                2. Went today (Friday) around 1 p.m. and it was closed! Is this place open for dinner only? I was so disappointed!

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: uwsister

                    no they have a chinese new year's dinner going on all weekend..so i expect they will be back to normal hours next week sometime.

                    1. re: uwsister

                      yes, i tried to go twice today. Once in the early afternoon with an out of town acquaintance who was also from Taiwan, was told they're open this evening at 5. Then when I went back around 5:30/6, was told that they can't serve anything as they are behind schedule in their prep for the New Year weekend's 8-course special reservation only dinner....

                      Maybe this is as far as I'll ever get to Baohaus if I take it as a sign.

                      On a nice note, between the two failed Baohaus attempts,went to the Doughnut Plant, and found the quality of both the raised and the cake doughnuts improved by leaps and bounds compared to my last visit over a year ago. This time no heaviness of the dough, nor off taste of the oil for the raised doughnuts (passion fruit, coconut, both had great flavor and perfect sweetness and lightness). The rose petal cake doughnut was also airy light and moist with very edible refreshing rose scent and petals. The Creme brulee was a krispy cream donut-sized delicate pillow filled with custard and topped with glistening caramelized sugar.
                      Looking back to the late 90's when i just got to taste their doughnuts at Balducci ONCE, and then to never find it again until the Doughnut Plant and the story of how the baker used to bake in his basement and sell to Balducci....It's come full circle.

                      1. re: HLing

                        FYI they extended the Chinese New Year's Dinner special to Tuesday 2/16 so try going after that.

                        1. re: HLing

                          How funny, I also ended up at Doughnut Plant :)
                          The man behind the counter talked me into getting that rosewater cake donut (in addition to three other donuts I was already getting) even though I knew it would taste like perfume -- and it did. Glad you liked it though! I did like their crystallized ginger cake donut for CNY quite a bit.

                          1. re: uwsister

                            Funny indeed, assuming "uw" means upper westside, that's another likeness in the general direction. I was deciding between Katz's Deli and Doughnut plant at the point of Baohaus rejection, neither of which I've visited in a long time.

                            The "Chinese New Year" doughnut WAS the crystallized ginger I think? I only saw the raised Doughnut that had crystallized ginger bits, and was tempted by it. I wasn't aware of the cake doughnut version. But 4 doughnuts split between 2 people was just right at that point. Coffee there was a bit weak, but then I've been drinking home roasted home stone ground aeropressed brew, so I think it's good to get a reality check.

                            1. re: HLing

                              There were two versions of crystallized ginger donuts, yeast and cake. I'm generally not a fan of yeast donuts so I got the cake one.

                              Yes, UWS in my name is for Upper West Side. I know it can be real effort to get down there sometimes!

                              Going back to OP, I enjoyed his blog and would like to try the place sometime soon -- back to normal hours, I imagine?

                      2. A few weeks ago I was planning on eating in Flushing for chinese new years and then after readings about the chinese new years pre-fixe dinner at Baohaus I decided to do that instead (unfortunately, my family is way too far away in CA to make sense for me to fly back for such a short period of time). I thought it would be something different and would be fun (plus walking 2-3 blocks away from my apt is pretty damn convenient).

                        Here's what we had:
                        - Old Beijing Vinegar Peanuts: these were roasted peanuts (out of shell) in a mixture of a dark vinegar, maybe some soy sauce (although i'm not sure if there was any and it was much more vinegary than salty) and chopped up cilantro. I really liked these alot, its got this vinegar taste you get in some sichuan, taiwanese and northern chinese dishes. Pretty simple and self-explanatory dish, but my gf and i both liked it alot
                        - 3 cups fried fish bao: this was my 2nd favorite dish and my gf's favorite dish of the night. It was a play on a taiwanese style "san bei" dishes (three cups for the sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine; the most common one is chicken, but i've had squid and fish as well). It was a fish filet (not sure what kind, but a white fish filet) battered and fried with a "san bei" sauce and cilantro on a steamed mantou bun. The fish was fried perfectly, crispy, but not oily. The fish was very tender and the sauce was put on lightly so it didn't overpower the fish or the mantou, really good.
                        - Beer braised sichuan pepper and fennel beef dumplings: these sounded really fancy, but to me they just tasted like typical shui jiao (steamed dumplings). They actually tasted similar to the ones you get at 144 East Broadway (the lanzhou beef noodle soup place), but i'd say the interior was a little more delicate. That said I like those type of dumplings, so I liked them.
                        - Fried Fresh Tofu Bricks from Chinatown's Tofu Guy: i loved this, definitely my favorite dish of the night. Prepared the way you prepare chou dou fu (stinky tofu), it was fried golden and covered in a chili sauce that is very lightly sweet with some minced garlic on top as well. It was fried perfectly again just like the fish, the chili sauce and garlic complimenting it perfectly. I really liked this dish.
                        - Taiwanese Fried Chicken Poulet Rouge Chicken: i think what they were trying to do here was this type of fried chicken cutlet that is popular in taiwan night markets (really awesome), but the chicken was a bit on the dry side. I liked the breading itself which is the type of breading that is on a lot of taiwanese fried food, its a bit sweet and then they put on a chili powder. It would've been good if the chicken was more juicy / tender.
                        - Eddie's Dumb Good Taiwanese Sausage Fried Rice: this was typical fried rice, but it was good, nice and fluffy not too oily and I love la chang (chinese sausage), so this was a hit for me
                        - Clear Broth Lion's Head Casserole Pork Meatballs: these were lion's head meatballs, where the meat was mixed with clear noodles, in a broth filled with cabbage and clear noodles. The meatballs themselves were good, nice and light and i liked the noodles they used. The broth was decent, but a bit on the salty side. Overall, it was good but not great. To be fair lion's head meatballs is something i like but don't love, so i might be biased.
                        - Fried Mantou Bread Pudding with Moutai Sauce: this tasted like typical bread pudding to me although i like bread pudding, so it was good to me. By moutai I think they meant "mao tai jiu" which is a strong clear chinese liquor (think moonshine), the sauce was a bit too sweet for me with a hint of coconut which i did like. Overall, I liked the dish, but i would've liked it more if the sauce was less sweet.

                        All and all, it was a very good meal and alot of fun. Everyone sat at the big communal table and my gf and I happened to sit across from one of the server's parents who were very nice people. Felt much more relaxed than a regular dinner at a restaurant almost more like you were at someone's home, which is nice b/c i never get to go home for CNY. I look forward to them doing something like this again as I'd definitely make a reservation.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Lau

                          thanks for sharing your report...I had wanted to go myself but this filled up pretty quickly. nice to see it was a good meal.

                          1. re: Lau

                            Lau, I'm curious what you thought of the value proposition since the dinner wound up being about a hundred dollars for the 2 of us. I thought the food was fine, and lord knows I've been aching for a Taiwanese place in Manhattan, but I thought it was sorta pricey for what it was. I also liked the san bei yu bao and the fried tofu best. The fried tofu had a great contrast between the fried outside, the slight sweet, tangy heat of the sauce and the insides which kinda reminded me of the texture of a homemade marshmellow (in a really good way.) The fried chicken was on the dry side and the fried rice was not particularly special. I probably liked the soup more than you, but overall I agree with your assessment including the dumplings. I'll have to drop in for the pork belly and other bao to compare.

                            I was full but my friend was still quite hungry afterwards so we had to head over to Cafe Habana for a second dinner.

                            1. re: windycity

                              it was $38 / person (fyi, since most people on the board didn't get to go). However the price and menu were obviously pre-announced beforehand, so i knew exactly what i was paying for beforehand. On other hand, i agree it was on the expensive side as none of the food was particularly expensive to make. I thought it was the right amount of food and I was full at the end of the meal.

                              I'm intentionally trying not to compare this to flushing or chinatown b/c these guys aren't in chinatown / flushing and nor are they trying to be a restaurant in chinatown / flushing, so I don't expect to pay those types of prices.

                              I guess what i mean is at the end of the day, i agree it was a bit on the pricey side. That said I was happy with the food, so I was fine with it. I'm willing to pay up for food if its good quality (although given where I like to eat i also don't believe that higher prices have much correlation between tasting better and i also can't stand paying alot for mediocre food)

                              1. re: Lau

                                Regarding negative value proposition, and food being not "particularly expensive to make", I find this is a comment that consistently bandied against Chinese cuisine, and often by members of the Chinese community themselves, which I find particularly insulting. I take umbrage at this when the ingredients in a $30 dollar Di Fara pizza costs $3 or less, $22 eggs and bacon at Norma's costs $2 or less, $31 scallops and cauliflower at Union Square Cafe cost $5 or less.

                                For the variety of food and skill involved in the multicourse meal you received at Baohaus, $38 sounds more than reasonable. Why do other cuisines command a lofty premium. To use Bershire pork like Craft, in their gua bao, I should certainly hope they charge more than the vendors in Chinatown.

                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                  well if you read the post carefully i was actually fine with the price. of course everyone would like to be lower (if yasuda cost $10, i would eat there everyday literally), but that doesn't meant that i really think anyone is going to lower their prices, restaurant biz is a tough biz and they need to be profitable and earn a reasonable return on their investment. given that most of these restaurants are highly successful restaurants there is clearly demand for their product at their given prices. In fact, I hope baohaus can continue to charge the prices they do and run a successful operation so that i can continue to enjoy their food

                                  I almost never complain about price b/c i always know how much something costs (its on the menu) and if it really was too expensive then i wouldn't order it.

                                  1. re: Lau

                                    the owner of baohaus has a blog that's pretty entertaining. this post actually addresses teh pricing differential he has versus chinatown. pretty interesting.


                          2. Did anybody see this in today's NY Times? Apparently, a Chowhound post ticked off the owner of this place.


                            10 Replies
                              1. re: Lau

                                Sort of amusing that we were sort of pounced upon for "mildly" indicating vinegar was not a usual flavor in Taiwanese boiled peanuts - I don't care what's in the peanuts, the more Taiwanese food available in NY the happier I am. A tangential reference in the NYT, whoop-de-doo!

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  it was my comment on this other thread:

                                  NYT has been giving some coverage on baohaus (last week's $25 and under, [http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/24/din...) and I really like how Eddie (still haven't eaten there, or met him) is really letting his personality come out on the blog, and in the restaurant. that's how it should be. as a Taiwanese-American, I can almost understand how he feels, and that he should not feel the need to repress himself towards any "norms" in the NY dining/restaurant/chef scene.

                                  1. re: bigjeff

                                    Yes I noticed that - it's interesting how much coverage he is getting in the NYT. The blog is fun. I am not Taiwanese or Taiwanese-American but I spent a couple of the best years of my life in Taipei and love the city and the food. It was a joy to be there, I didn't want to go back to the States when our time was over.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      Well, being controversial (intentionally or not) is one way to get press coverage. I enjoy the attitude, but sugartoof has voiced the central question.

                                    2. re: bigjeff

                                      It just strikes me as if he's over compensating to put on a NY persona with self references to what he perceives as a Hip Hop attitude. I hope the food can keep up with his bravado.

                                  2. re: Lau

                                    lol. i haven't tried his food yet but I like his style. He admitted he probably messed up the tofu dish that one time and he offered free tofus.
                                    lol. I thought his post about places that sucked was pretty funny. I did exactly what he posted about and ate at Republic because I was on a date with a really hot girl and she wanted to eat there. I remember all I could think was "I can't believe how bland this pad thai is" (LOL the same girl took me to Rice, but that wasn't as bad, I remember a terrible ratatouille but liking the banana sticky rice).
                                    However, I remember loving soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai's which he finds horrible. Not sure if having them at Elmhurst makes a difference but it's been years since I've had it and I'm not a soup dumpling expert but I've had much worse than Joe's. I definiatly have to get some soup dumplings my next stop into the city.
                                    I didn't really read through the ny times article that carefully but if someone posts something negative about a place it shouldn't matter too much if the place is really good. Poor execution can happen once in awhile but if a place consistently pulls out great dishes, people will defend negative comments.

                                    1. re: daffyduck

                                      go to nan xiang in flushing for soup dumplings, i just posted about it, ive always thought joe's was mediocre...unfortunately nyc is doesn't have alot of great shanghainese food


                                      1. re: Lau

                                        yeah ill definately check that out the next time im in flushing

                                    2. re: Lau

                                      I love his blog. It's got attitude, and I agree with him about every restaurant he's dissed or praised. I love the artichoke guys too.

                                    1. re: bigjeff

                                      i certainly hope not!!....hyunh's restaurants are pretty bad

                                      1. re: Lau

                                        haha, ya, and he really hates him too. there must be a maxim about that, like, don't fall into the footsteps of those whom you hate, etc.

                                        the menu/concept is great, looking forward to it.

                                        1. re: bigjeff

                                          would certainly be nice if there was a place doing proper taiwanese food

                                    2. i go here pretty regularly probably every other week and normally i just get the gua bao (chairman bao) and the boiled peanuts. Today, I got the bao fries today and wow those are really good, they are like a more fried version of zha man tou (lightly fried man tou with condensed milk), they've got a bunch of different flavors now like durian, pandan etc. I got the black sesame sauce, super good although probably horribly unhealthy (fried carbs in a sugary sauce haha) but whatever...highly recommend these

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: Lau

                                        Have you tried their Beef Noodle Soup yet? I've wanted to but they do not serve it on the weekends and I've not been back that way since...

                                        1. re: scoopG

                                          i think that was just a special they had for a while, i dont think they serve it anymore...i actually tried to order it tonight

                                          the menu for xiao ye (their new restaurant) looks good, they told me it opens in June

                                          1. re: Lau

                                            Oh - the Beef Noodle Soup was on their menu when I was last there, only served Monday to Friday. I was there on a Saturday and they had no peanuts either! Small place, even smaller kitchen! The new menu does look interesting. Wondering how they will manage Stinky Tofu with the neighbors! My only complaint: $2.50 for a cup of hot water and tea bag! Oh Oh, I can see Eddie in the distance through the haze coming after me now..!

                                            1. re: Lau

                                              Great name for a restaurant, and the menu looks v v interesting indeed.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                I love the name too. I've been meaning to go there forever (as seen upthread) but still haven't gotten a chance. Now I love pandan so pandan-flavored bao fries might finally lure me in.

                                          2. re: Lau

                                            I live for this place! I have to try the bao fries - I don't normally go for sweets, but you had me at durian.

                                            I always get the Haus Bao to go for myself and my boo, and it's hard to keep from eating them on the way home. They've been a little different each time I've had them, but the complexity of the spice is to die for. And somehow the beef has an unusual richness while still seeming lean? I don't know what to say - it's magic.

                                          3. went to baohaus today to try their "birdhaus" which is their new fried chicken bao...it caught my attention b/c it looks like ji pai you get in taiwan. Looks like this in taiwan (this place is in shi lin night market and is amazing)

                                            It tastes very similar to what you get in taiwan, chicken was juicy and tender and the breading is the way they do it in taiwan. It's a small piece of fried chicken (i can't explain, but taiwanese fried chicken is way different than the fried chicken you get in the US) dusted with a spicy red powder, cilantro and a little bit of the sweet asian mayo in a mantou. It was really good, I ended up getting a second one even though I have dinner later on tonight.

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: bigjeff

                                                its definitely very good..ull like it