Thursday, 15 November 2012

A little morning detour

Last weekend I finally booked and paid for the tickets back to Hong Kong and China. I have been doing a very bad job in hiding my excitement for this upcoming holiday and trip home. There are so many people I want to see and lots of shopping to do, and of course the food...oh god. Please excuse me while I go wipe away the drool from my face.

Since there is still more than 2 months to go before my belly can finally embrace all that Asia has to offer, I will have to make do with whatever I can come across in this far far away land called Melbourne, Australia. Which is a lie, as the Asian food in Melbourne is pretty much on par with what you can get from their originating countries (hurray for multiculturalism!). But seriously, they really need to work a bit harder in the price matching department imo.. ha.  I mean, standard you tiao costs more than a coffee in Melbourne. I would rather save my pennies for the artery-clogging, cancer-inducing stuff from motherland thank you very much.

Anyways you tiao talks aside, I have been digging a particular Asian newcomer lately, that is the little hidden gem that goes by the name of Wonderbao. Despite the shop being tucked away in a tiny laneway off a small side street in typical Melbourne fashion, it hasn't made it too hard for foodies, local students and office workers in making their way to the eatery in search of fluffy, doughy goodness. Judging from the urbanspoon posts, I knew Wonderbao's popularity would mean that I would not be able to simply waltz in at lunch hour and find a spot to sit and enjoy a filling and flavoursome Asian lunch. I had to plan my move strategically. The only way I was going to do an efficient bao run would mean a detour to the eatery by getting of at Melbourne Central Station, eat and then head to work.

The first bao run happened a few weeks ago. I arrived at Wonderbao just after 8 and immediately  thanked myself for choosing not to come at lunch hour. Wonderbao was ever so tiny and there was only enough space for a high bench and a couple of stools by the front window.

For my first bao adventure I ordered a Da Chicken bao, a Taro bao and a cup of soy milk to accompany my breakfast.

Hot Soya Milk $2.80

I started with the Da Chicken Bao. And indeed it was very Da (big). The bao not only contained pieces of chicken but also chunks of mushroom and a slice of hard boiled egg. The bun was fluffy and not overly sweet.

Da Chicken Bao $3.20
Next to try was my taro bao. Whilst pulling the bao apart with both hands I was fully anticipating the bun to reveal a deep purple colour filling. Instead the contents of the bao turned out to be a rather neutral looking grey/brownish hue with the flavours being equally organic and nourishing. There was something so comforting about holding that bao in both hands and devouring it in hasty mouthfuls.
Taro bao $1.70

The soya milk was thick and lovely to start with but as it cooled down slightly, the sweetness overwhelmed me a little. I would love Wonderbao to have a unsweetened version of their soya milk.

My second visit happened yesterday. Alll this excitement about my Asia trip had me craving buns. This time I got the Char siu and Nai Wong accompanied by a lemon tea FOB drink.

Char Siu bao $2.00

The char siu bao again revealed very natural looking contents in comparison to the usual reddish type you can get at your local yumcha joint. These baos reminded me of the pork buns you can get from Japanese convenient shops, only sans the bamboo shoots which would make a worthy contribution towards the overall flavour and texture of the bao.
Nai Wong bao $1.70
Given how much I had enjoyed the taro bao last time, I thought it would be hard to top but this Nai Wong blew my socks off. It was not an amazing new flavour or texture that made me go wow, but to me this humble bao tasted like happiness. It made me a little nostalgic of my childhood in China, of the early mornings, the breakfast stalls, the people rushing in all different directions to work, to school..

Again it was a blissful 10 minutes of appreciation of good food and much-needed me time.
The laneways kept away the hustle and bustle of the CBD, and it was pure serenity - just me and the buns.

As you can see Wonderbao has definitely captured my tummy and heart. Although I am keen on coming back at lunch time to try their guabaos (only available after 10:30 am), the early morning calmness of this hidden establishment is undeniably therapeutic. This morning detour business no doubt will soon become a weekly ritual.

Shop 4/19-37 A'Beckett St
Melbourne VIC

Wonderbao on Urbanspoon

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