I have a new happy-place. And it is called Wonderbao. However, it’s an absolute pain to find without some prior research, so definitely check out the map online beforehand.
Wonderbao is a tiny shop on Literature Lane that specialises in, surprise surprise, bao. Think David Chang’s pork buns (aka gua bao) and those char siu bao you get from dim sum places. The menu is small, perfect for those, like yours truly, who are often inclined to try everything. And prices are sufficiently reasonable to enable you to do so. Vegetarians are also well catered for, with two savoury and one sweet bao available.
First up, Da Pork Bao; a steamed bun filled with a mixture of pork, shiitake mushroom and lap cheong sausage. One of my favourite things in the world, I always look forward to visiting my grandma because she makes these for my breakfast. So I feel horrible for saying this, but Wonderbao’s version is better than my grandma’s. The bun is beautifully sweet and fluffy, with an excellent filling-to-pastry ratio.
There are three versions of the popular Taiwanese gua bao. Braised pork belly with pickled mustard greens, crushed peanuts and coriander. Quite traditional and a very good rendition; sweet, marinated, melt-in-the-mouth pork belly, fragrant roasted nuts to provide some textural contrast and again, that perfect fluffy bao pastry.
The vegetarian gua bao is very tasty; fried silken tofu with a light, tempura-like batter, pickled greens, coriander, crushed peanuts and a sweet soy sauce. A nice, light combination with bright, fresh flavours.
Thirdly, another pork variation. A thick slice of roast pork belly with crunchy crackling, tangy pickled carrot and daikon and sweet hoisin sauce. Can’t really go wrong with pickles and hoisin sauce.
We followed with some sweet bao for dessert. Egg custard nai wong bao are one of my favourite desserts and this version was much better than what you typically get from dim sum stores. The beautifully creamy, egg-y filling was sweet and piping hot. Love that fragrant wisp of steam that rises when you pull apart a fresh bun. The taro bun also received a big thumbs up from S; add that to the list for next time.
For drinks, there’s a fridge filled with aptly named F.O.B drinks. Queue childhood flashback; the funny stares and questions I used to get from kids with their juice poppers when I pulled out my chrysanthemum flower or winter melon drink.
However, I would definitely recommend a hot soya bean drink. Ladled out from a pot on the counter and strained through a sieve into a coffee cup, the milk is thick and just lightly sweetened. Not at all like the highly processed varieties you normally get from Asian grocers.
Wonderbao is a small store and seating is limited to stools by the window. It’s a bit of a shame because trying to eat a sauce-filled gua bao on the run is not particularly pretty. The decor has a very organic feel, courtesy of the branded steamers that serve both as cooking implements as well as decorative features. The branding is amusingly pervasive. Even the paper on the base of the buns is printed.
Already trying to find another opportunity for some bao. And best news of all this week? Wonderbao is now open on Saturday!