Posted 31st May 2013
The opening of Bao Wow on Baldwin street has caused something of a stir. An Asian sandwich shop and noodle bar with £5 meal deals (including drinks) and a choice of sandwiches, pho soup and rice pots in the menu. Owned by the Thai kitchen in the fish market, this place caught my attention and was reminiscent of Clifton’s thai deli, Thaiphoon which closed a couple of years ago (a sad day)
So what exactly is a bao? The answer, a sandwich filled with meat and spices served in a small steamed bun.
I opted for the chairman bao: braised pork belly, crushed peanuts, coriander, and palm sugar served in a sweet, almost dumpling-esque steamed bun. The flavours were really great. The coriander gave a fresh and invigorating zing, cutting through the sweetness of the bun and belly pork.
The buns are pretty small, you can either buy two for £6.50 or as a meal deal you can get a bun, crisps and drink for £5 which is more than enough to satisfy a lunchtime appetite.
The rice pots consist of a circular tub filled about ⅔ with sticky rice then topped with your choice of tender chicken, pork or tofu, steamed pak choi, coriander, cucumber and chilli. The spiciness and sauciness of the pots is variable depending on who is preparing your dish. I’d request spicy or not spicy if you have a particular preference.
I would advise diners to mix the meat and spices at the top with the rice before digging in though to avoid the final part of your lunch becoming just plain rice. At £5 a pot including a drink I think its pretty good value though. It certainly fills you up without leaving you feeling sluggish or bloated (no carb comas here)
Finally is the pho soup. I think this is as good as you could get anywhere for a lunchtime, and at a fiver it’s also a bargain. The chicken and pork are well cooked, the noodles filling and the soup really flavoursome.
A word of warning, there are chillies lurking in the depth of this soup so expect it to get hotter the more you eat! I liked this however did leave the last few mouthfuls when the chilli concentration had got a bit too much! Drinking the remains of the soup once you get to the bottom is to only be attempted by those who are particularly hard core when it comes to spice.
I’ve heard mixed opinions on the rice pots and pho soup amongst my colleagues. Some feel it’s really authentic and loved it, some felt the rice to meat ratio was a bit too much rice, and not enough meat. Personally, I really like both and think they are spot on. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference.
Also on the menu is thai sweet tea, something I hadn’t tried before. I have to say, regretfully this wasn’t to my taste. It was fresh and light but just too sweet for me – almost like drinking pure nectar or honey. For those with a sweet tooth or whose palettes are more accustomed to such sweetness of flavour however, it’s definitely worth trying.
Prices are reasonable for what you get I think although it would be nice to be able to buy the food without a drink for a bit less on a lunchtime. They’ve been very busy whenever I’ve gone in which has meant there can be a bit of a wait and a queue. If Bao Wow could get their serving process a bit quicker and more efficient they would have nailed it.
Overall a great lunchtime spot and a real asset to Baldwin street. The food is fresh, flavoursome and filling and not at all greasy. Bao Wow has already established itself as a firm favourite of mine for a quick and tasty lunch.
Baldwin Street, Bristol