Ever since Eddie Huang closed the original BaoHaus, I’ve been meaning to make a trip to the second location. Eddie, whom I mentioned before, opened up a shack in the Lower East Side after his recipe was a finalist in Food Network’s Ultimate Recipe Showdown. Despite the lack of formal training, the food of this renegade chef quickly garnered a cult-like following. His recipes are original, with influences from Taiwanese parents and growing up in the South.
I started with BaoHaus’ signature bao, the Chairman Bao ($3), which contained Berkshire pork belly slowly braised for hours in rice wine, soy sauce, rock sugar, ginger, and star anise. Eddie deviates from his mother’s traditional recipe by adding a hint of cherry Coca-Cola for a caramel sweetness. It’s a subtle addition that you can only taste after being told it’s there. Besides the thick, fatty layer, the result was an incredibly tender and saturated morsel of meat between a fluffy mantou bun. Topping the pork is a sprinkle of crushed peanuts and cilantro that added texture to an otherwise mushy bao. There’s a pinch of Taiwanese red sugar in there as well.
The next bao was the Haus Bao ($3.50), which had the same ingredients as the previous one. However, instead of pork belly, this had Creekstone beef cheek and was cooked with moutai (100+ proof Chinese sorghum liquor). This bao also showcased another dimension of Eddie’s open-mindedness. Red cooking is traditionally confined to pork, but Eddie went ahead and did it with beef. Again, the result is an extremely tender piece of meat overflowing with juices collected while cooking.
The Sweet Bao Fries with black sesame ($3.50) were a nice dessert to finish my meal, especially since I wasn’t close to being full yet. It’s made of the same bread used in the buns, except deep-fried to a crispy brown finish. The warm bread is sliced and drizzled with a black sesame paste. The thick topping had a base of condensed milk, but wasn’t overly sweet at all. The mantou was uniformly cut and had a crispy shell with a warm, soft interior.
To wash it all down I got the house-made Taiwanese Ai-Yu Jelly Lemonade ($2.50). It was lightly flavored and tasted more like lemon-flavored water with bits of clear jelly. The drink wasn’t bad, but it was weak and unremarkable for the most part. I would have asked for the Ginger Maple Soda if it was available.
The vibe of Eddie’s BaoHaus is best described as being “chill.” He mentioned he has no experience running a restaurant, so treats the entire enterprise like operating a record shop or clothing store. I found the service to be very personal and friendly, and it was easy to feel comfortable with the family photos lining the walls. Unsurprisingly, there was a playlist of excellent music playing. BaoHaus is worth checking out if you happen to be around Union Square. I hope the menu expands, even if the focus remains on baozi. I may never get to try his Cheeto Crusted Fried Chicken because Xiao Ye (his previous restaurant) closed, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next creation Eddie’s creative mind can think of next.
BaoHaus (site) ★★★★☆
238 E 14th St (between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
Neighborhoods: Gramercy, East Village