Showing posts with label chicken bao. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chicken bao. Show all posts

Lovely Pao (Toronto) for takeout

Note: Prices in post are based on regular menu prices and may be higher when using delivery services

Being a food blogger, it’s no surprise I ate out quite a bit before the quarantine started. Since the lockdown, things have changed…most days, I’m preparing all three meals at home. Lunch has been the most haphazard meal - on good days there’s leftovers from the night before, but often, it’s canned soup, a toasted bagel, or a lettuce salad with a slice of bread. In between all the meetings for the day, getting a tasty bite is difficult when there’s no food court and Ritual in my basement.

So, when I was invited by Lovely Pao to get six of their sio paos, little did I know I’d have lunches for the next three days – it could have been six, but I’m nice and shared with the hubby.

Sio pao translates from Tagalog as “hot bun” and are essentially big fluffy baos filled with a sweet and savoury filling made with pork ($12.75 for 6 buns) or chicken ($14 for 6 buns). Both have the meat cut in large chunks and are tender and flavourful thanks to the asado glaze. The sauce isn’t as sweet as what’s found in Chinese barbeque pork buns, but it also doesn’t need to be as flavourful as the bread, despite the bun’s size, is also thinner – especially the bottom, it almost melts into the sauce.

Slice into them and you’ll see there’s also half a hard-boiled egg in the middle. This isn’t traditional, rather a twist Lovely Pao made to their recipe. In fact, the business started off as a way to make ends meet, when the owner was unemployed and facing financial difficulties. She made the buns in her kitchen, selling them to friends and family, and worked at perfecting the recipe. Instead of making them too runny, she offered a thicker sauce on the side for people to add themselves.

As the business gained popularity, two stores eventually opened in North York and Guelph. And Lovely Pao even supplies some Filipino supermarkets around the city, for those who can’t get to their bakery.

If you do make it out, the store also sells other Filipino food items: bowls of noodles – mami and lomi, fried rice, the icy halo halo, and tons of other snacks and desserts. Even so, the sio pao are still their most popular item that can be enjoyed as a meal, snack, or to satisfy a late-night craving.

If you’re like me, a quick zip in the microwave with a damp paper towel on top, makes for an easy lunch! I do wish Lovely Pao would add a vegetarian option to the line-up, given I’m usually a flexitarian and refrain from eating meat on Monday to Thursdays. I’d imagine the same sauce with seitan would be delicious and possibly create a whole new market for these massive fluffy paos. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10 
Disclaimer: The buns were complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 756 Wilson Avenue
 Delivery: Uber
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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never order again
  • 6 - decent for delivery and takeout, but there's better
  • 7 - this is good, for delivery and takeout
  • 8 - great for delivery and takeout, it's almost like you're in a restaurant
  • 9 -  wow, it's like I'm eating at a restaurant
  • 10 - I'd happily order this for delivery or takeout instead of dining in any day!

Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:

  • Bake Code
  • Kin Kin Bakery

CLOSED: Momofuku Noodle Bar (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 190 University Avenue
Type of Meal: Dinner

The Momofuku ramen ($15) was good contrary to most reviews - chewy noodles and flavourful salty broth. Indeed it didn't taste that much better than what you can purchase at other ramen restaurants, but certainly wasn't bad. The egg was different, poached rather than hard boiled, however somewhat ruins the broth as it quickly mixes into it and I’d prefer the broth clear.
Momofuku ramen
I wish the Toronto location would have the spicy chicken ramen being offered in NYC; I found the pork belly accompanying the noodles to be too similar to what you get with the pork bao. Perhaps, Momofuku should consider offering a plain version (no proteins) and allowing customers to customize their ramen by paying for additional "side" choices - essentially using the pork belly, chicken, chicken wings, kimchi, etc. that they already serve.

What I miss most is the shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice powder) that you normally get at Toronto and Japan restaurants that you can sprinkle into your bowl.  Something about that bright orange MSG powder screams ramen to me!

In my opinion, the pork bao ($10) is more original although not recommended to health obsessed individuals. Two slices of fatty pork belly wrapped in a soft sweet white bread smeared with sweet hoisin sauce, boiled cucumber slices and fresh scallions, undeniably a decadent bun. I’d like to see how the bao would taste if the pork belly skin was crispy - I think it'd provide a nice contrast to all the soft ingredients and also set the bao apart from the Momofuku ramen's pork belly. If you like Peking duck from Shanghainese restaurants you will likely enjoy these.

Pork bao

I didn’t have it myself, but my husband advises the chicken bao ($9) was good.  Made with shredded chicken with pieces of crispy skin, likely what’s used in the chicken and rice dish, it’s similarly wrapped in the soft white bun and flavour with hoisin sauce. 

Chicken bao

The chicken and egg rice ($15) sounds uninspiring but is still decent.  Sticky Japanese rice with teriyaki sauce and the same soft poached egg in the ramen, it’s a relatively safe option for those who may not like the fattiness of the other dishes.  I did like the poached egg in this dish as it breaks and mixes in to coat the rice. The chicken was tender and had a great flavourful crispy skin.

Chicken and rice

Two items that was not on their website’s menu being offered that night included:
  • Very spicy noodles ($12) – unlike their chilled spicy noodles this is warm and vegetarian.  I had a bite and it was very spicy!  Luckily, it comes with cucumbers and scallions which help to calm down the heat.

  • Clams with vermicelli ($18) – very different from other dishes which is nice after having so many similar items.  The the vermicelli is pan fried so that the top part is crispy and becomes a noodle cake – similar to the crispy yellow Cantonese chow mein.  Compared to the ramen, the dish is a bit bland as the sauce covering the noodles isn’t flavourful enough.  If there was a bit more clam juices to soak into the vermicelli it should taste better.  But, there was a fair portion of clams that were cooked perfectly.

For sides we tried the smoked chicken wings ($12), glazed with teriyaki sauce, then baked (?) and finished off with a sprinkling of scallions. I like the freshness of scallion but other than that it’s nothing you couldn't make yourself quite easily.  The kimchi ($6) arrived in a mini mason jar and was actually a pretty decent sized portion.  The kimchi is fresh and crispy, not overly fermented, nonetheless not spicy enough for my taste.

Chicken wings

To end the meal we tried their rice pudding ($6) which is very thick and not too sweet.  I love when you mix in the watery caramel sauce in the bottom of the jar into the mixture.  We also had the chocolate mousse ($7) with crispy rice; rich tasting and certainly meant to be shared. 

Overall, Momofuku is good and I'd say serves tasty Westernized versions of Japanese, Korean and Chinese dishes. There wasn't a dish I didn't like that meal.  At the same time, I didn't experience a excuse me while I close my eyes and drool moment, so if there's a line-up I'd go somewhere else.  One day will try the other two Momofuku restaurants; hopefully, these will be more inspiring.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!
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