Media student and freelance writer, loving the Melbourne life!
Published September 7th 2012
An Evolution in 'Bao'
I fell in love with the sight of Wonderbao's little balls of white fluffy joy when they cropped up in a friend's Facebook photo. These little suckers needed no hipster photo-filters. I had to try them.
For those who don't know, the bao is a Chinese steamed bread-like bun which can be stuffed with all manner of delights- meat or veg, sweet or savoury. It makes a regular appearance at the yum-cha buffets which Melbourne has long been in love with, and is now superstar of a food-trend taking the world by storm.
Wonderbao's open kitchen showcases stacks of wooden dumpling steamers piled high. There's a grungy vibe yet a homely sort of warmth to the décor, punctuated with the soft hiss of little morsels steaming away.
The menu range at Wonderbao is succint, fitting on a single slip of A5 paper held to cute wooden clipboards. The staff are charming and quick to recommend.
After some discussion, I settle for a fried silky tofu gua bao ($3.80) and braised pork belly gua bao ($3.80). The gua bao, literally meaning 'sliced wrapper', is a Taiwanese type of folded burger, resembling something of a fluffy taco.
The tofu had a crispy skin and a silky middle, true to its name, and went well with the tangy pickled mustard greens and some sort of sweet soy sauce. It was generously topped with peanuts which was an interesting touch, even if I did end up making a mess everywhere.
The braised pork gua bao was probably my favourite, with a hearty slice of pork-belly fatty heaven. The texture of both buns was very soft and velvety.
Wonderbao also has a range of dessert bao from custard to taro fillings (both $1.70). There are also a number of vegetarian options, everything at very reasonable prices. A mini cauldron of home-made soy milk stands at the ready on the counter.
Lunchtime sees Wonderbao full with students from the nearby RMIT campus, but service is generally quite fast. If you manage to bypass the lunchhour rush, you might be able to snag one of the few window stools and peruse the magazines I noticed lying on the wooden counter-or just gaze wistfully down colourful Literature Lane and soak in the chill-out music.
The place has only been open for just over a month but with definite charm, a whole lot of flavour, and already a rave following, Wonderbao seems to be right on track to becoming a huge hit.