By Reuben Dongalen Jr.
Fusion food; one of my favourite categories of food that there is.
The idea of combining two, three different cultures and tastes is fascinating. It’s this question whether or not two great, stand-alone subjects can co-exist, like two alpha males on the football team; instead of competition and the occasional bicker, it becomes a near perfect partnership.
Bao Down found in Gastown in downtown Vancouver, is no stranger to the perfect fusion food.
Bao Down is especially known for its Asian baos, street-food inspired sandwiches and fusion snacks, combining all types of Asian cuisine with some Western favourites.
I’ve made two trips to Bao Down — the same location on Powell St. — and they have never disappointed.
Bow Chicka Wow Wow! — or not?
Both times, I had the Bao Chicka Bao Bao!! (yes, that is the name), lemongrass fried chicken, daikon, carrot, cilantro, fish glaze, garlic mayo and crispy garlic served in a soft, chewy bao bun.
The first bite into the bao was a loud experience: a ton of flavours from the fried and seasoned chicken, the richness in the mayo and the pickled blast from the veggies.
The combination of the Vietnamese-styled chicken and the universal garlic mayo flavours were enhanced by the Chinese-style bao bun, soaking in the juices and sauces like a sponge.
It was a delightful sandwich, with flavours that didn’t go overboard, but hit the right spot in the taste buds. The Bao Chicka Bao Bao!! is one that I’ll have nine times out of ten for every visit.
I strongly recommend it for first-goers, and it is to die for at a solid price point at six dollars.
Them Sides, Doe
However, for both visits, I had a different secondary item: the first time, Kimchi Fries, and the second time, The Big Bang.
The Kimchi Fries were as advertised, french fries, garlic mayo, bean sprouts, scallions, kimchi, and crispy pork belly — you get the choice between pork belly, or shiitake mushrooms, and size options between a small or large.
My first visit, I had a small, and it was a surprising blend.
Being Canadian, I’ve gotten used to all the various french fry combinations there are — poutine obviously being the heat for most of the true north, strong and free.
However, I’m not the biggest fan of kimchi; the spicy, preserved cabbage is not an item I grab the fork and dig into. I’m more used to in the noodle form we all know and love — or hate.
In this case, though, it was an interesting combination that I finished and came away satisfied.
The kimchi was modest, with more bean sprouts and veggies to match two-thirds of the fries, with the pork belly being a great bite for every occasional scoop.
The garlic mayo was perfection, adding a rich, creamy offset to the savoury pork and the sour, spicy bite of the kimchi.
At six dollars for a small, paired with a bao, made for the perfect meal.
I wish there was just a dab bit more pork, but for the most part, it was a delightful experience. This combo may be of an acquired taste, despite it being a well-known combination in Western food culture, because of all the different flavours tag-teamming in one dish.
The Big Bang was a nice change from the chicken, with more of a chinese influence throughout.
Crispy pork belly, sweet and sour sauce, pickled carrots and daikon and scallions; not a crazy bao, not one fusing different flavours together, but still a very tasty sandwich.
For those looking for something more safe, The Big Bang is perfect. Pork and sweet and sour sauce is a Western-Chinese favourite, and left me very satisfied.
Another six dollar bao. If you’re staying safe, and want a good sandwich to fill the Asian cravings or fill you up for the rest of the day, this is it.
If you’re wanting to be adventurous, there are some other great options your taste buds will be waiting to try.
Overall, Bao Down in my two visits have been terrific. The food is at a very good price point – suitable for students to our elders wanting to try something new.
Don’t be fooled by the portions, either. There’s a lot going on in their dishes, that sometimes, less is more, otherwise, you could easily get fed up with the mix of flavours.
However, a bao and a small side of fries was enough to get a foodie like myself satisfied. Not to mention a refreshing pop to cool it all down afterwards.
Bao Down is a must try. The prices are great, the food is damn tasty and there are options for everyone.
Junior Scale: 8.5 out of 10.