a member of the lettuce entertain you empire, chicago's very own wow bao offers hot asian buns in the heart of downtown. if you are looking for the traditional chinese steamed bao you might find in chinatown, you might be a lil disappointed. wow bao offers a variety of bao with their personal twist and asian fusion flavors.
few good things to know: 01 | ordering online is possible and bicycle home delivery (so old school! hehe) available for areas around downtown. 02 | you can order at the kiosk at one of the three locations instead of having to wait in line. 03 | wow bao sells frozen baos so you can steam them buns at home on your own.. which also means they ship across us if you're in another state and would like to try them. 04 | they serve breakfast version of the baos. 05 | wow bao has secret word wednesday which they would either post via their facebook or twitter and you could get a free bao and say the word at any locations. 06 | contrary to their name, they also have other things besides baos such as noodle salads, rice bowls and frozen yoghurt if you'd like some variety. my friend's favorite is the spicy peanut noodle salad and i kinda like the rice bowls which is essentially the filling of baos atop rice instead of being inside a bun. not much of a fan of the pad thai salad.
for my lil blog entry, i decided to try all their lunch/dinner baos - all eight of them to see which ones are my favorite. i had them all to go, of course.. i don't need ppl to think i am a pig eating them all! :p
savory | bbq pork bun
needless to say, the taste of this bao resembles the traditional chinese steam bun. sweet bbq (think chinese style) coupled with savory. but still not the same thing you get from those asian bakery in chinatown. it's still lacking compared to the ones i've grown up eating but pretty good. and i wished there was more meat filling in the bun.
savory | teriyaki chicken
this might be my favorite of the wow baos. in the same respect as the bbq pork, it has savory sweetness in filling so the taste profile of the two is almost the same. it probably explains why i prefer these two over the rest of the savory baos.
savory | spicy kung pao chicken
i'm not a huge fan mainly because it tastes too peanut-y, granted that the textural element is mostly contributed by the peanut as it should since it is kung pao chicken. it has the savoriness and a very slight spicy kick. if you are a fan of kung pao chicken, definitely give this a try. i have several friends who like this a lot.
savory | spicy mongolian beef
a few words: some crunch, some spicy kick, savory and could taste the vegetable in the filling. not bad.
savory | thai curry chicken
the filling is almost bright yellow in color. the predominant flavor i could taste was the kaffir lime leaf flavor and the herbs with some curry flavor. not a favorite of mine but have a few friends who would beg to differ.
savory | whole wheat edamame
their vegetarian option for those who'd like to take a break from meat. (some would sneer at this thought...haha) the bun itself is whole wheat which is different from the other baos. it tasted....healthy and i don't think in a bad way. a whole lot of the slight natural sweetness of edamame flavor which suprisingly went well with the whole wheat bun. personally wouldn't be one that i would automatically go for but not bad.
sweet | coconut custard
a lot of ppl might be weirded out by baos with custard ( i have to admit i was quite apprehensive at first even though now that i think about it, i've had red paste baos). this was really good. soft, sweet coupled with the coconut flavor and the texture given by the coconut shavings - it was a nice surprise. i actually liked it. the first time i had it was when christina offered me half of hers so i would give it a try and now i would get one for dessert whenever i go to wow bao.
sweet | chocolate ginger coconut
an alternative dessert bao. a friend of mine swears by this and said that it is delicious. i trusted his recommendation so i got one and actually enjoyed it. the bitter-sweetness of the chocolate is mellowed by the bun itself. its chocolate-y-ness is enough to satisfy most chocolate lovers. the chocolate somewhat masks the coconut and the ginger and the other two components are mostly there for textural sake. it's good nonetheless.
with three locations in chicago downtown, you can get a quick asian fusion snack/meal on the go. the buns are slightly smaller than the ones you would get from chinese/asian bakeries so at $1.50 each or $8.50 for a six pack, it can be considered to be slightly pricey. but for the convenience for a quick asian bao fix although not entirely authentic, wow bao is a place to keep in mind.
disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others