The Bao Makers: doing justice to the modern bao

Everyone knows this: Artbox Bangkok market has been here for 2 weekends already, bringing their Thai food and clothing brands to Singapore. Upon checking the place out, I realised that there are local food and clothing brands setting up stalls in Artbox too. I read the reviews before going to Artbox: everyone raved about how fantastic the food was, making me more than determined to check it out. There was good music, a nice, chill atmosphere to immerse myself in, and a variety of food aromas wafting throughout the place. Yet to my dismay, most foods were expensive and there were such long queues at almost every food stall. I decided to try out only one food amongst the hundred over food stalls there. Limiting myself to only one food option was a tough decision. I walked down the food alleys a couple of times, squeezed my way through numerous people, but there was no food that seemed enticing. That was until I caught sight of a stall selling buns — traditional Chinese fold-over buns. It is ironic really, that Artbox is a mini Bangkok flea market with so many interesting and mouth-watering Thai foods that smelled as good as they looked, yet I chose to have Chinese traditional buns instead. Honestly, I was expecting myself to get something Thai, like mango sticky rice or chocolate goreng pisang with cheese. But apparently, my love for buns and breads is too strong. In my defence, I did attempt to resist temptation and told myself to try something new, walking down the food alleys countless times to find “the one”. However, the buns were constantly at the back of my mind, and my subconscious was nudging me to just get the buns. So I caved in.

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ARTBOX comes to Singapore!

I ordered the salted egg chicken bun. I like how the bun used was different from the traditional Chinese ones in terms of flavour. Mine was a black sesame bun. The bun itself was soft and fragrant, yet the black sesame flavour which I expected to be strong, was overpowered by the salted egg sauce. Hence, though the buns look appealing with little black flecks of sesame dotting the surface, the taste is not that special nor different from the traditional (normal) all-white ones.

I liked the salted egg sauce. It was creamy and captured the perfect balance of sweet and savoury. The stall owners were also generous enough to coat the entire chicken with the sauce too. Mine was overflowing with salted egg sauce. And who could forget, the chicken that was fried to near perfection. It is really crispy on the outside, you could hear the crunch when you bite into it, and the chicken was juicy and tender, easily pulled apart. Nonetheless, I did thought that the chicken piece could have been thicker and meatier. Overall, the bun was scrumptious and “finger-licking good”. Though I thought that more lettuce could have been placed in the bun (they only gave one leaf), I liked how every ingredient complemented one another to create this delectable bun. The fact that I ate it while the bun was still warm and the chicken just fried increased my satisfaction tremendously — truly the greatest creation ever.

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Salted Egg Chicken Bun: Poor Picture Quality but High Quality Taste

The best part? It’s a local food chain! That’s right, you can have it whenever you want (as long as you’re willing to travel the distance). And I was willing to travel that distance. Their salted egg chicken bun left a such huge impression on me and made me crave more of their other bun creations that I went to Google their location and menu right after I devoured my bun. So I travelled (all for the love of buns), and ended up at the doorstep of the Bao Makers, in huge anticipation of their other bun creations that I would be trying.

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The Entrance of The Bao Makers

The place featured simple décor: plain-coloured chairs with wooden tables that had small potted plants on them. Even their menu cover adhered to the theme. Its quaintness gave off a cosy vibe and I liked how comfortable I was feeling there.

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Simple and Minimalist Decor

I ordered three buns: salted egg chicken (again), salted egg prawn, and chilli crab. I realised that the black sesame buns were only paired with salted egg sauce. Their other bun creations like the satay chicken used the traditional white buns, and their chilli crab creation was the only one that featured fried buns — an adaptation of the fried mantou that we usually order with chilli crab. The food was served quite quickly too. Within minutes, all three buns were placed in front of me, on a wooden plank, yet again following their theme of simplicity.

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From Left to Right: Salted egg chicken, Salted egg prawn, Chilli crab

I first tried their chilli crab bun. It was delicious! The Bao Makers were really generous in stuffing the bun with lots of shredded crab meat to the extent that the meat kept falling out of the bun when I was cutting it. When paired with the Chilli sauce they provided, the taste was enhanced even further. The spiciness gave me a kick — my taste buds were literally awakened. It is not the overpowering sort of spiciness where you taste nothing but the chilli burn, but rather, a tangy sort of spice that is refreshing. One flaw which could be improved on is the bun itself. The fried buns are soft, which is good, but I do wish that they were fried longer to make them more crispy, and show off that golden-brown tan that I expect all fried food to be blessed with.

Next, the salted egg prawn bun. Paired with the soft black sesame bun, the black sesame taste was yet again too mild to highlight the uniqueness of the bun. The salted egg sauce was churned to perfection just like the other time in Artbox, and the prawns were definitely a surprise. The meat was firm, a sign of fresh prawns being used, and the exterior of the prawns provided an extra crisp which I did not see coming. It was a delightful surprise to me when I bit into the bun itself. The soft bun, together with crunchy prawns and flavourful salted egg sauce, was a heavenly match. No flaws for this bun except for a more distinctive black sesame taste for the bun — it already has my high praise and approval.

Lastly, the memorable salted egg chicken bun. It tastes exactly like how I had it the previous time- the chicken was fried to a perfect crisp yet still retained its tenderness inside, the salted egg sauce was sinfully good and the bun itself needs no further critique. However, the salted egg chicken bun was quite disappointment overall. As compared to the one in Artbox, the chicken was less meaty. It was good that the chicken still retained its crispiness, perhaps even more crispy than the one I tried at Artbox, but as there was too much of the crispy skin and not enough tender meat, the meat to crisp ratio was off. Negative returns in that regard. A juicier and more succulent piece of chicken, I believe, would have remedied the dish.

Generally, I was still satisfied with how the buns tasted. The buns weren’t bad — all three of them were delicious, and I was merely making a passing remark on how they could have been better. Furthermore, I had really high expectations for them so my judgement might have been more on the critical side. Personally, I feel that it is worth the trip down to the Bao Makers for their buns, and I would definitely take time to go there again as there other buns that I have yet to try. To all the bun lovers out there, I think that the Bao Makers are quite legendary, and would recommend that all of you head there to try their bun creations at least once. You never know for it might be a hit-and-miss kind of chance, and you’ll be lucky enough to try the better versions of their buns. I might have gotten lucky with their salted egg shrimp bun, and even though the other two buns I tried fell short of my expectations by just a little, I’m telling you that it is still worth checking them out. So head down to the Bao Makers to get your baos made now!

The Bao Makers:  78 Horne Rd, Singapore 209078

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