I have been on a mission for the past couple of weeks – to find somewhere that sells ready-made bao buns. Over the past couple of weeks, my friends have been asking me about bao buns – where can I buy them? How do you make them from scratch? Are they easy to make? As I cook a lot of Asian cuisine, they knew where to direct their question.
Funnily enough, I’ve never made, cooked or looked for bao buns (above is my attempt at making steamed bao buns, recipe coming soon.) Every time I walk in to an Asian grocery store, I don’t usually check out the fridge or freezer section as I normally go in there for other things. Plus, they’re full of dumplings and gyoza, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just I’m not sure if I trust imported dumplings – that’s just me, you may love them.
Where we live in Melbourne, we’re very spoilt for choice. We are surrounded by a huge Asian community, from Footscray to Richmond, Melbourne CBD to Springvale and Box Hill to Chapel Street. Wherever we look, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese restaurants fill our streets. Asian grocery stores, both in markets and on the streets are becoming more and more evident around every corner. And I just can’t get enough of them!
In my search for bao buns, I first head to Victoria Street, Richmond. Thinking just about every store would have bao buns, I was soon put in my place – I only found them in three stores! Two of them had a big variety, selling three or more brands and sizes, the other store only had one brand and size.
I was actually quite surprised to find so many varieties of bao buns! Obviously every country has their own way of using bao buns or they have a preference for size and flavour. But I seriously thought I would only find filled boa buns, like pork steamed buns.. I was so excited to know that I could actually make my own filling – pulled pork, spicy pork mince, etc – with my choices of salads and make them my own 🙂
To not get confused, bao buns and pork steamed buns are two different kinds of dim sum. A Bao bun, or Gua Baos as they’re correctly known, is usually stewed meat with ‘salad’ placed in steamed bread/buns – which is what we’re looking at.
Above is a pork steamed bun, or Cha siu bao as they’re correctly known, are enclosed buns filled with barbequed flavoured char sui pork.
If you are heading to Victoria Street, Richmond, these are the two places I would go to, to buy my bao buns:
Minh Phat Supermarket
Both grocery stores are worthy places with great variety, although Minh Phat had a huge range of not just bao buns but sauces, flours, spices, frozen dumplings, oils and everything you can imagine you might need for creating delicious Asian meals at home.
I had bought my 3 packets from Tan Dai. Prices vary from $4-$6 per packet. The ingredients are pretty much the same with all buns although some are sweeter than others, this is a matter of trial and error to see which ones you prefer.
Out of the three packets of bao buns we tried, our favourite was the Taiwanese Gwa Pao buns. They were the perfect size and not as sweet as the Chinese Bahn Bao buns. The Taiwanese Koah Pau buns were way too big – everything fell out of them when you were eating them which made eating them quite messy and not enjoyable. All of them were super soft just as you might have enjoyed them at an Asian restaurant.
Great thing about bao buns is that they can be steamed straight from the freezer, no need to eat them all in one sitting, unless you’re really hungry! We now have a few stored in the freezer for later use 🙂
The next place I ventured to was around Chapel St, Commercial Rd and Cato St in Prahran. There’s a couple of Asian grocers around that area but the only place I was able to find a small range of bao buns was In the Pantry, four doors up from Prahran Market, heading towards the city.
In the part 2 of where can I find Asian bao buns, I will be heading to Footscray and Melbourne CBD, to see what goodies I can find. Until next time, enjoy your steamed buns 🙂 and let me know what you enjoy stuffing your buns with. I love hearing from you xx