Nearly every culture has their own version of a meat pie; the Brits introduced the cornish pasty, Latino cultures gave us the empanada, Greeks put a smile on Popeye’s face with the spinach based spanikopita & Russians created a rich coulibiac. While each of them is unique, they all share one thing in common: they are hearty fare.
In Northern China, hundreds of years before the Dutch would settle New York, legend claims that Zhuge Liang, a military strategist would invent his own meat pie. It would be known as “bào.”
After a successful run in the West Village, the owners of Bao Tea House have brought these light, white delights to their second outpost in Times Square.
The pillowy pies are much less dense than their cultural counterparts, primarily due to the way in which they are made. While other pies are baked, these are steamed. The process is more complex than one might think and those who perfect the art are called “bàoists.”
It’s fair then, to apply this label to the hard-working chefs at Bào Tea House, where 14 types of the fluffy delicacy dominate the menu. A recent trip included the chicken, beef, and fried chicken bào. Each was generously stuffed and surrounded by an airy, flaky crust with an ever so slightly browned top.
The impossible bào was a true stand out and a win for vegans. “Impossible” is an appropriate moniker as I was certain that it was the real fried chicken. Upon inquiry, I was told that fried chicken would be next; I was eating the impossible bao. Bravo for tricking my taste buds!
Sweet bào are also available: a green-hued matcha bao filled with sweet red bean and egg bào finished the meal.
A generous variety of hot and cold teas are also available: cold, London Earl Grey accompanied my meal-served with the perfect dash of honey.
The new Times Square location is located on a somewhat unappealing block, cozily clustered between the old Grey’s Papaya and a tobacco shop near 42nd and 9th avenue. That, combined with limited counter and chair space, makes this more of a grab and go spot.
Each order comes with two Bào. One wishes however that they would rethink their packaging. There is a significant amount of waste with bulky cardboard containers.
That withstanding, this is certain to be a favorite among rushed, midtown New Yorkers in search of a light bite.
Bào Tea House 578 9th Avenue NYC https://www.baoteahouse.store/