The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry | A Sydney Food Blog

Bao Town Pop-Up, Vella Nero, Sydney

October 10th, 2013  |  Published in Events, Restaurants  |  2 Comments


Lifting the lid off bamboo steamers is a standard Saturday ritual, but the Bao Town Pop-Up at Sydney’s Vella Nero cafe offers an inspired take on this bun-savouring custom.


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.

Bao Town Pop-Up at Vella Nero, Shop 3, 259 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 0411 771 361, Follow Bao Town on Facebook and Instagram.

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  1. I’ve been keen to try these baos for a while but didn’t get a chance to visit!
    Sounds delicious though, esp. the miso eggplant!

  2. Oh man, I’m so bummed that I happen to be away on both Bao Town days! What a shame. They look delicious though!

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Hi, I'm Lee Tran Lam. When not blogging with my mouth full, I'm usually writing, presenting Local Fidelity on FBi radio, making zines, producing podcasts or continually breaking promises about how I really am gonna get through my book pile one day.

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This is a blog about eating and drinking in Sydney, Australia (with the odd cross-border or off-topic detour). BYO appetite.

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