Theresa Nguyen’s venture goes far beyond the default options – her inventive menu includes dessert bao with a stowaway layer of lemon polenta, or one that hides an intense mouth-burst of hot, free-flowing Marou chocolate. There’s also a miso eggplant bao, topped with a coriander-ginger salsa that raids the Asian condiment box (there’s a bottle-tip of sesame oil and soy in the herbal mix).
And while Theresa taps into family recipes in her yellow chicken curry and beef bo kho buns – she does add a twist of her own. (That said, she remembers going “crazy” for her grandmother’s versions: “she’d cook up a whole heap of these baos and leave them in a recycled ice-cream container for us. This was one of my favourite childhood rituals.” And while her gran is older and frailer, she still makes the same snacks in a take-home ice-cream container pack when her bao-obsessed relatives visit.)
Theresa has reworked the basics – so while tradition calls for you to basically roll yum-cha-style buns in sugar, she has reduced the sweetness and subtracted the MSG. It means when you reach for her creations, it’s because you actually want more – and haven’t been chemically tricked into overloading on what’s in front of you. It also allows her fillings – whether they’re pork belly slow-cooked in coconut juice or pure chocolate sourced from Vietnam – to really stand on their own.
I was lucky enough to attend the Bao Town launch recently; I’m glad for the preview, as sadly, I won’t be in Sydney when it launches this Saturday. If you can’t make it, you’ve got a second chance to check it out on Saturday November 2 and a final opportunity to pick up a stash of lemon polenta and eggplant buns* on Saturday December 7. (*Or equivalent, as there’ll also be an ever-changing jackpot of flavours each time, just to keep things interesting). And make the most of the cafe setting by adding a chaser of Vietnamese coffee to your offer. Enjoy Bao Town while it’s here.