These bland soft steamed buns, with shredded umami rich meat or (even better) yielding fatty pork belly… We’ve been waiting for them to arrive. (We, the residents of Barcelona.) After a good wait, they have descended, on a few menus around the city. At Bao Bao however, they’ve opted to do away with any distractions and just focus on the bun and what’s inside the bun. You can choose between tofu (Gandhi), pork char siu (Confuccio), BBQ chicken (Obama), Calamari (Ulises) and a fried Bao.
Bao Bao is a small place. Long and thin, almost a hallway. First is the cash register, where you place your order. Next, the kitchen, encased in a glass window, with metal bowls lined up with the prepped cold toppings. Then some bar stools, facing a too narrow bar. Dim multi coloured lighting make it feel a little like you could go through one of the doors and get a “massage”. Or maybe that is seedy side the of the Raval seeping into my mind. Or the “authentic Italian bakery” I’ve just passed selling large phallus shaped breads.
It’s a good location to sell food under a fiver that you can eat with your hands. This is where all the lower end (possibly inebriated) tourists end up. Why not get a kebab? Or a steamed bun.
I opt for both sides of the spectrum. I start off with a tofu. I am a tofu eater but I infuse it with flavours (spicy and salty) before pan frying it to sear it in. At Bao Bao, the tofu is unenhanced (not a great way to go for this protein) with the flavours coming wrapped around it. Eggplant, hoisin, silvered spring onion. It’s ok, the bun on the thick side. I am ready for number two – pork. With pickled carrots, daikon and perky perfumed coriander.
It’s food you want to have with a beer. Actually, it’s food you want to have after you’ve had a few beers. They’ve nailed their location. They must do a mad trade at night.
On that note, I read that they recently opened another branch in Sants which appears larger with some table seating.
Carrer de n’Aglà, 4,
08002 Gothic Quarter