Momofuku vs. Baohaus. China vs. Taiwan. Chang vs. Huang. Which will reign supreme?
The ultimate NYC bao in my opinion is the Chariman Bao from Baohaus in NYC. It’s not that I’m biased coming from a Taiwanese-ish upbringing. In fact, if I’m partial to anything, it is tastiness. This bao is just that. It is a simple thing done well. The succulent Berkshire pork belly is braised to perfection. Low and slow. The accompaniments of tangy ‘Haus relish’, cilantro and peanuts are typical of a taiwanese bao–no tricks or gimmicks. They help balance the simple taiwanese cheap eat.
Chairman Bao from Baohaus
On the other hand (literally), there is the Momofuku pork bun, or as I like to call it, a bun bun. I see where David Chang was going with the concept. He took a classic Peking Duck bun bun comprised of scallion, hoisin sauce and pickled cucumber and subbed the quack with the oink. Not that David’s pork is bad or anything but when the accompanying flavors call for crispy duck, I want crispy duck! (Don’t blame me, blame China-me for spending a year in Beijing eating all the duck a girl can eat in a year.) The pork itself is very good, very porky. (I think he also uses Berkshire pork.) Compared to Eddie’s bao at Baohaus, however, David falls short specifically in belly succulence. Plus, the bun to filling ratio is off. You can see in the picture comparison that the Momofuku bun is thinner than that of Baohaus, while its pork belly is thicker (and two slices!). Lastly, the flavors of the Momofuku bao lack depth, intensity and contrast. There is little crunch, even if you count the cucumber pickles, and there is no nutty, earthy peanut goodness.
Momofuku Pork Bun
For an inexperienced bun bun eater, Momofuku may be a rewarding culinary endeavor, as critics have raved. However I frankly believe it has been over-hyped by even my favorite critics such as Tony Bourdain and Frank Bruni (listen to Bruni’s response here). As big a fan as I am of these three amigos, I have to disagree (what a rare occasion!). Rather, I have to challenge them to try Baohaus or even better, my house 🙂