Bow Down to the Bao

Tamara Palmer
MaliNumNum's sio-bao.
​With all the trucks, carts, and folding tables out there, you can pretty much get any kind of taco you want on the streets of San Francisco, whether your fancy is regional Mexican or upscale French. But there's another meat-and/or-veggie-vehicle that's gaining in popularity in the open air: The bao. The fluffy, steamed or baked bun made with yeast, flour, and sugar is being wrapped around fillings other than the traditional Chinese barbecued pork or sweet custard.

Folding-table maven MaliNumNum Treats, for example, uses them for her sio-bao, a Filipino-Chinese hybrid with fillings such as pork belly, chicharrones, and tomato or shrimp and mango salsa. The truck Chairman Bao is dedicated to both the steamed and baked varieties, excelling at original creations such as lion's head meatball with kimchi and crispy garlic tofu with miso greens.

The Filipino cart Adobo Hobo is betting on the trend with a recently-debuted menu item called the adobao, a steamed bun with chiccharon-encrusted Visayan- (i.e., Southern-Philippines-) style pork belly adobo with acharra (pickled carrots), radish, and cilantro.

"There are so many fusion/nouveau tacos out there right now that baos offer a new vessel to put meat and stuffings in that isn't overdone yet," reckons Hobo's Ed Chui.

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