Thursday, August 27, 2015

A delicious dinner at Little Bao

One of the dishes that gives Little Bao its name

 
As the above photo shows, this eatery has 
more than just baos on its menu :)

I know a number of people who pride themselves on being among the first to try out a restaurant after it opens in Hong Kong.  I, on the other hand, am perfectly happy to check out an eatery weeks, months, even years after it's opened; this not least since I figure this gives the restaurant time to iron out its early wrinkles and, if it's any good, prove this by having staying power.

In the case of the much hyped Little Bao, I actually had thought about trying it out on previous occasions (and had been wanting to give it a try ever since an Asian movie fan friend visiting from the US raved about it to me).  But on each of the previous occasions that I figured that the time had come to give this now close-to-two-year-old Asian take on an American diner a try, the crowd waiting outside at the restaurant -- one of a number in Hong Kong with a "no reservations" policy -- told me otherwise!

Earlier this week, however, I finally passed this (still) pretty popular dining establishment located on the border between previously "happening" Soho and increasingly popular "Poho" at a time when there were vacant seats waiting to be filled pretty much immediately.  So I quickly popped into Little Bao and after scanning the menu, decided to order its pork belly bao and a bowl of brussels sprouts (a vegetable I know that I love far more than most other folks!).

As the photo at the very top of this blog post shows, Little Bao's signature dishes aren't ordinary bao.  Physically, they resemble burgers -- with the Chinese-style steamed bun taking the place of burger buns in the assemblage.  Of the five different bao options at the restaurant, the beef bao would be the best to directly compare with a regular burger.  Maybe I'll go for it on my next visit but for my first ever order there, I opted instead for the pork belly bao whose contents include slow-braised pork belly, bits of leek, shiso and red onion dressed with sesame, slices of pickled cucumber, and what was described on the menu as "hoisin ketchup".

Smaller than the smallest burger I've ever eaten that was not a slider (from, say, White Castle!), the pork belly bao was gone in about four bites!  This wasn't quick enough though for the bottom slice of the soft steamed bun to stay whole, and its breaking up made eating the concoction somewhat messier than I'd have liked.  In truth though, I didn't mind too much, on account of the dish having been so lipsmackingly tasty! 

Even better was the brussels sprouts prepared with fish sauce caramel, chili, peanuts, lime and fried shallots.  Admittedly, I more or less have never come across any brussels sprouts dish that I've disliked (and it really was the case that at boarding school in England, I'd happily eat up my entire lunch table's allotment of what I looked upon as sweet miniature cabbages -- to the delight of the other girls on it!).  But I also reckon that it's entirely possible that I've eaten a greater variety of brussels sprouts dishes than most others, so it's saying something when I state that this may well be one of the most delicious I've ever had!

Put another way: When I return to Little Bao in the near future (like I plan to do), it'll be hard to not order the brussels sprouts again; this even though I would like to try other offerings on the eatery's menu!  Actually, even though part of me thinks I should try another bao option, Little Bao may be like Yardbird (which, incidentally, Little Bao owner and chef May Chow used to work at) for me -- in that the non-signature dishes might actually appeal more to me, with such as its twist on mac and cheese (which makes use of steamed rice rolls and mentaiko cheese sauce) sounding pretty enticing indeed! ;b

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

My kids don't like brussels sprouts. I remember I did not like its taste when I was a kid, but I would eat them if they were put onto my plate anyway. It might be an acquired taste. But as an adult I like it very much. It's just that they are not a common dish in the family.

The photo showed Little Bao had halved the sprouts. Hmmm..... this might help getting the sauce and oil into space between the leaves. I might get a handful of these for my next roasted spring chicken dish.

T

YTSL said...

Hi T --

I fell in love with brussels sprouts the first time I had them -- as a pre-teen, on my one and only visit to New Zealand thus far! To put things in context: I was one of those rare kids who preferred vegetables to dessert as well as meat... And yes, I think halving the sprouts definitely helps retain the sauce and oil that gets ladled onto them! :)

Patrick Tinkham, FCD said...

Now, I'm actually considering brussels sprouts as potentially edible!

-Pat

Anonymous said...

hi there,

Just roasted about a pound of Brussels sprouts ($40 at ParkNShop) earlier tonight. Very easy to cook. Just trim the stems if it hadn't already been done so, then shake or toss the whole lot up with a few table-spoons of Oil, with salt and grind black pepper of your choice. You would need to pre-heat your oven to a bit over 200 C, then put them in for about half an hour. Roll the sprouts once in a while so they could get an even brown colour.

Might cook them using some other methods next time. Likely cut them in halves and then stir fry with a spicy sauce......

Thanks & Best Regards,
T

YTSL said...

Hi Pat --

Brussels sprouts are VERY edible! But, then, I love them boiled, roasted, au gratin... even in place of meatballs with spaghetti! ;D

Hi T --

Er... I don't have an oven in my apartment, even a microwave oven! Also, I have to say that yesterday, I did notice some brussels sprouts at the Central City Super and was thinking how unpleasantly light colored they were rather than a healthier and darker shade of green... ;S

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Brussels Spouts is not that common among local Chinese in town. Only higher prices supermarket or those so called organic stores in area with more expats might carry them. Those I found in ParkNShop was alright, but even they did not carry many stock. I wish I could find some locally grown and try them out fresh.

I will try something with a frying pan next time. I've probably ate a bit more than I should earlier......

T

YTSL said...

Hi once more T --

I think brussels sprouts are not that common on many expatriate tables too. It seems to have a terrible reputation -- akin to, or worse than, broccoli (which many Hong Kongers like but George Bush senior infamously said that he didn't) -- which, of course, I think is thoroughly undeserved.

sarah sbk said...

A lot of people I know either love or dislike brussels sprouts. Around here in Vermont the majority of people seem to like them as fresh ones are sold in grocery stores for a good part of the year. They are sold individually by weight or still on the stalk. The stalks are usually about 1 1/2 foot long. My husband loves them and I don't so he buys them and cooks them himself. I don't like the smell of them cooking either. He adds a bit of butter and a little salt as he enjoys their distinctive taste....To each his own...I have to say a friend grills them and adds seasonings and they are tasty.

YTSL said...

Hi sarah sbk --

Believe it or not, I had never seen brussels sprouts on the stalk until your comment inspired me to Google to have a look! Maybe you could try brussels sprouts with some fish sauce. It's not a combination I'd have thought of -- but I thought it pretty tasty at Little Bao! ;b

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I think I would experiment on Brussels Sprouts on something equally pungent next time: vintage Balsamic Vinega. Working on the mix of ingredients in my head now...... I don't know if it works though.

T

YTSL said...

Hi again T --

BTW, I saw a brussels sprouts and sausage dish on the menu at Nha Trang today. Believe it or not, didn't order that though; went for a cold noodle dish instead! ;b

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Looking up recipes on-line I see Brussels Sprouts are usually used as side dishes in western menus. Mostly they are either roasted/broiled on their own with seasoning, or mixed with other ingredients (pig fat, nuts, fruits, just about anything and everything). Sounds interesting to explore.

My faint memory of the taste of Brussels Sprouts is that they are sort of green with a tang of bitterness. However my first attempt to roast them last weekend is that I found the bitterness was absent. I began to wonder if all of the Brussels Sprouts that I have ever tasted before had not been cooked properly.......

T

YTSL said...

Hi once more T --

Yes, I've never seen brussels sprouts offered up as a main dish. At boarding school in England, it was served boiled (and probably with not much seasoning besides salt) as a side dish for a roast.

And yes, ideally, brussels sprouts shouldn't taste bitter. At their best, they have a sweetness to them that is really lovely. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I walked around a bit and found very few stores offer Brussels Sprouts by weight. So far I have only seen some bigger Jason's Market Place Store offering at HKD10.5/100g. I have a faint impression that Oliver's at Prince's Building also have these at times but I am uncertain of their offer.

HKD10.5/100g is a bit cheaper than the pre-packaged offers at City Super stores, which is around HKD12/100g

Will let you know if I ever encounter any local organic farms growing these.

T

YTSL said...

Hi once again T --

I'd imagine that all the Hong Kong supermarkets that expats from the west are known to favor will have brussels sprouts. As a kid in Malaysia, we'd also find bags of brussels sprouts in the frozen foods section. If that's the case here, I'd imagine that those would be cheaper than the fresh ones but probably not as good tasting too! ;S

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

Now that I have been paying attention to Brussels sprouts, I found there is actually some wet markets having they by the pound some time of the year. Just saw one stall in Wanchai Market im Wanchai Road earlier.

On the other hand I bought a pack at Aeon Supermarket (formerly Jusco) last week at $32.X I did an experiment and use the whole pack for cooking them in congee together with Pak Choi. Surprise, they were good being cooked like that. No Spice, no special treats, just a simple pot of vege congee.

T

YTSL said...

Hi T --

I'm glad you've been enjoying eating Brussels sprouts! This discussion has also got me paying more attention to Brussels sprouts -- and noticing that some of those sold in supermarkets here in Hong Kong are way too light green for my liking! To my mind, those ones should be avoided. Sonds like the one you got at Aeon Supermarket were better. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Those I have bought so far are all having a bit darker shades. Just a little bit lighter than routine Choi Sum or Gai Lan. All from various supermarkets. The pack I bought from AEON was in sealed plastic bags while the rest were in a plastic basket bound in web.

For Supermarkets, Oliver's and some Jason's Market Place stores are offering them by the pound or Kg. Those from recent sighting in Wanchai at the Market are sort of bright green light lettuce. Might try it out next time I see them.

So far those being roasted tasted with extra virgin olive oil & black pepper tasted best. But I believe stirring in some aged balsamic ginegar into the mix for a sauce might work, especially if some pig or chicken fat are also thrown in.

T

YTSL said...

Hi once more T --

Sounds like you've been having more than your fair share of Brussels sprouts in recent months! I'm actually quite boring with the way I've cooked them: boiled (in water that's had a pinch of salt in it) and then slathered with butter! ;b

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Found something new today at Sogo. They have some pre-packaged small ones in dark green with a sprinkle of purple. $39.90 a pack about half a kilo. The big print in front prompted nutty flavoured. Let's see how it goes.

T

YTSL said...

Hi T --

Seems you're finding Brussels sprouts in more parts of Hong Kong than you or I may have thought could be the case!

BTW, taking this thread's focus back to Little Bao: I went there again recently and had their ice cream bao dessert. They were so yum! I'm thinking now that the next time I go back, I'll just have the Brussels sprouts dish and an ice cream bao (or two)! ;b

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

This is to report, I stir-fried half a pack and these purple-ish sprouts are good. I was also pan frying a few pieces of Welsh lamb racks thus I pour the remaining lambs oil/fats into the mix. Not quite nutty, but very delicious. I had only added a pinch of rock salt and a little bit of black pepper to taste.

The stir-fry took just around five minutes and I had the lid of the pan on from the very start. Maybe you should try stir-fry next time. Anyway, how you cook it is unimportant. What's important is to cook it properly and allow the heat go into their core.

T

YTSL said...

Hi T --

I'm much more of an eater than a cook. But when I cooked Brussels sprouts, it's usually by boiling them -- and have been perfectly fine with that! ;b