Is there anything better than holding a piping hot bao on a cold day? It’s like a mini-hand heater and a tasty, toasty treat all wrapped up into one. I recently introduced the kidlets to bao. When I brought a box home for Sunday breakfast, the little scallywags gave me the stinkeye. “What is this blob of dough you’re handing me?” I’m sure their suspicious little minds were thinking, “Is it full of something disgusting? Anchovies? Natto? Liver?” When I described it as being a Chinese Hot Pocket (work with me here, they’re kids) and stuffed full of BBQ pork, they let down their guard and took one. Kidlet #2, Mr. Picky Picky, even liked it!
If you’re unfamiliar with bao, they are steamed or baked buns stuffed with a variety of yummy fillings like – cha siu pork, Chinese sausage (lap cheong), coconut custard, egg and mung bean, black sesame paste or pickled, spicy veggies. The steamed bao are a pillowy white and a bit chewy. The baked ones are breadier, with a shiny glaze.
For the past year or so, my favorite place to buy bao in Sacramento is at a little hole in the wall shoppe called ABC Bakery in the Pocket/Greenhaven (although Lam Kwong Market downtown is a close second). ABC Bakery is located off Florin Road in the “Old” Bel Air shopping center. (If you’re looking directly at Bel-Air, it’s along the right side, around the corner of the building.) It’s a very small store and there’s almost always a line. Items run out quick- so get there early if you want the best availability. On a recent Sunday, I got there around 9am and bought some of their baked cha siu pork bao, curry chicken bao and a few hot dog bao (slices of hot dog and green onions mixed in with the dough). I'll be honest, I do normally like a little more meat in my bao than what ABC does but I like the fact that everything there is freshly made. On my last visit, I also picked up some shrimp dumplings which were quite delicious. The egg tarts here (I wish I knew their recipe for their wonderful flaky crust) and (seasonal) moon cakes have also been really good during past visits.
Some people I know have bitched about the customer service at ABC citing that’s it’s very abrasive but everyone I've encountered there has always been polite. They aren't usually Chatty Kathys but then again they’re trying to keep the line moving. Here’s a tip, look at the menu and know what you want before you get to the front of the line. That'll keep you from catching flack from the staff as well as the patrons behind you. ☺