When is a burger not a burger? When it's a bao. Forget ‘traditional or panini’ where's our soft, steamed bread option, burger chain that shall remain nameless?
That doughy goodness stuffed with sweet barbecued pork? That's bao. Soupy dumplings you pierce with a chopstick and suck all the brothy juices out of? That's bao too. For the purpose of this list, we're specifically talking burger bao—a pillowy, c-shaped bun known in Taiwan as gua bao or 'cut bread'. These are the contenders we reckon bust out the best bao in Brisbane.
Bottomless bao. Need we say more? Every Monday night, Junk in South Bank dishes up all the baos you can eat in two hours for just $25. ALL THE BAOS YOU CAN EAT. Fillings change every week, but you can expect the likes of karaage chicken and char siu pork in quantities you’ve never experienced before.
Lord of the laneways, Same Same is your destination for a post-party feed that doesn't come in a paper bag. Their bao-based bar snacks are a Fortitude Valley icon from Longtime days, with soft shell crab piled with Asian slaw and hot and sour dressing, wrapped in a pillowy cloud. Take a bao, Same Same. You've nailed it.
Chop Chop Changs
Any venue named after an astronaut chimpanzee is alright in our books. While Chop Chop Changs has been part of the West End dining scene for two years, they're as fresh as the day they opened. Among their pan-Asian lunchtime eats are baos filled with simple yet tasty combos like fried tofu and spicy ginger sesame sauce and BBQ duck with hoisin.
Did someone say Asian Fusion craft beer bar? Zero Fox has been serving up Korean and Japanese bar snacks to pair with craft brews for yonks, and there's nowhere we'd rather chow down on the combination. There are a few bao options that are sure to satisfy, including spicy pork, bulgogi beef and soft shell crab. And if you’re meat-impaired, don’t worry: munch your way through the mushroom and sweet potato—you won’t regret it.
Nom Nom Bao
As you’d expect from somewhere dedicated to the fluffy morsels, Nom Nom Bao dishes out some of Brisbane’s best bao. From tempura prawn to pork belly and seared salmon, these guys are easily one of our top picks when in need of a feed before hitting the bars in the Valley.
The Bun Mobile
All Over Town
Original bao-slingers The Bun Mobile were trailblazers when it came to introducing us to the novelty of steamed burger. The rolling bao factory never fails to draw a crowd, wherever it decides to chuck on the handbrake. Old faithful flavours include twice-cooked pork with hoisin and pickled cucumber, and slow-cooked wagyu with pickled shitake mushrooms and red dragon sauce.
Mr Bunz’ gourmet, pillow-soft steamed fluffy buns will make your mouth water as your palate experiences a taste of contemporary Asian flavours. Start off with some crispy popcorn chicken then choose your bao filling, but if you’re craving a little something sweet, the peanut butter ice cream and strawberry jam bao is a seriously good time.
This is street food done differently. Located on Fish Lane, with a new, weather proof (but still featuring that shipping container kitchen we know and love) venue to enjoy your Asian feast in, Hello Please boasts a menu of scrumptious Vietnamese street eats, including a crispy chicken bao with kimchi and coriander aioli worth writing home about.
Umami knows all a-bao-t Asian burgers. Their smiling buns are stuffed with pork belly or finger-lickin' fried chicken, perfect to mix and match with their delish menu of Asian tapas. Vegetarians are catered for too, with a crispy salt and pepper tofu loaded bao.
If you’ve not yet made the trek north to Black Tan, North Lakes' Asian-fusion gem then, simply put, you’re missing out. Start your journey with a serving of their deep-fried soft shell crab bao, move on to crispy pork belly bao and end with bulgogi beef bao. Are you drooling all over your keyboard yet? We thought so.
Prefer the OG burgers? Check out our list of Brisbane’s best here.
Image credit: Junk, Grace Elizabeth Images