The restaurant - BAO 'Sweet & Savoury' as they call it - has an enormous menu. The owner of the burgeoning franchise of restaurants Samit, said "Our menu has a typical inclusion of appetisers to desserts covering Pan Asian influences except for Bao's fillings which are uniquely developed by us with continental, pan-Asian inspired fusion."
Samit Bin Salim first launched BAO in Dhaka in 2017, he was first introduced to steam buns during his higher education abroad. Enamoured by the cuisine, Samit wished to compete with burgers via offering a healthier alternative. This led to the conception of BAO, based on the Chinese traditional bao aka 'Mantou' or Chinese steamed buns.
The Business Standard tried some of the popular items from their menu and shared the experience.
Creamy Prawn Bao
With prawn as the main ingredient of the filling inside this bao, there is garlic blended in with the cream and milk. As you take the first bite, you will feel the juiciness of the generous quantity of prawns in the bao and the extreme kick off the white special sauce, which will have you wanting more.
All the baos are served with fries that are thick as wedges along with a fresh salad. The salad is a mixture of very thinly cut cabbage, green chilli, and also capsicums with a garnish that is not quite identifiable but has a fresh finishing to it.
Firecracker Chicken Bao
FireCracker Chicken Bao's filling contains small pieces of deep-fried chicken that is served with a house-made special sauce of Bao, Sriracha sauce, mayo and also sweet chilli sauce.
This bao is crispy to the bite, the chicken is tender and also well seasoned and marinated with spices. Even though the filling has a familiar taste, it is good enough to compel you to finish the bao. It is served with finely chopped cabbage and with fries.
Naga Rojo Chicken Bento
Naga Rojo Chicken Bento contains Indonesian fried rice, naga Rojo chicken, two pieces of prawn tempura, two prawn summer rolls, cabbage slaw, and a sweet carrot pickle.
Indonesian fried rice is a refreshing meal with a kick of lime. It feels light and is a self-seller. The naga Rojo is a curry with small pieces of chicken, oozing with a thick sauce but the taste is ordinary and so are the prawn summer rolls.
However, the cabbage slaw and carrot pickle make up for it. The quantity is good enough for two even though it is a 1:1 meal.
The strawberry lemonade is a must-try. It is made with pure strawberries and a hint of mint. Like any other drink containing mint, this is also refreshing and has a cooling aftertaste. This drink works as a revitalising conclusion to heavy meals.
With a strong creamy filling of dark chocolate, condensed milk, Nutella and butter, this dessert will definitely give you a sugar rush. With every bite, you will find the dripping chocolate filling making its way out of the bun. It is a heavy dessert and is substantial on its own.
Regarding the future of his fast-casual dining endeavour he said that judging by the response from their patrons, they are happy in the knowledge that Bao has become comfort food for many in the city.
Lazina Mona, co-owner of Bao shared, "When the restaurant took off, we only sold baos. Then we saw the same customers returning and we understood the potential of this cuisine. Thus we extended our menu over the years. Now, we want to maintain the authenticity of bao."
Even though some items at BAO may sell better, especially the ones that cost relatively less, the quality of the items on the menu is top-notch. Available for ordering on Foodpanda, HungryNaki, and Pathao, for those who are not in close proximity to the eateries. BAO has two physical outlets in Dhaka- one at Gulshan-1 and another at Chef's Table at Courtside, Madani Avenue.
"We have also started cloud kitchens in Kalabagan, Dhanmondi and Uttara. In the coming days we would love to open Bao flagship locations in Dhanmondi and Uttara," said Samit.