Do you believe in the saying, “If you don’t like something, change it”?
House of Bao’s owners, Darren Dy and Ryan Ang, believe so.
During a business trip to Taiwan, the two grew fond of eating sheng jian baos. These meat buns, which some would consider the bulkier and doughier cousins of xiao long bao, were sold by locals at night markets.
Having jian baos as snacks gave the pair the idea to reinvent the Philippines’ local version of siopao. The goal was to offer authentic meat buns that weren’t heavy on the dough and short on filling.
But changing how Filipinos like their meat buns is a hefty feat. To make the dream a reality, the pair searched for a jian bao business where Darren could become an apprentice. He spent two months in Taichung selling jian baos in a public market to truly learn the process of making the buns.
After returning to the Philippines, Darren further enhanced his recipe in order for it to suit Filipino tastes. Knowing that meat buns were staple snacks in Taiwan, he and Ryan were confident that if they produced good products, Filipinos would learn to appreciate eating jian baos as a regular snack option as well. In April 2017, they established House of Bao.
What makes their jian bao special is the amount of effort the crew puts into making each piece, which costs P30. They start working at 3:00 a.m. and produce almost a thousand baos by 9:00 a.m. After painstakingly preparing and mixing the filling, which is composed of pork, jicama, and leeks, the crew carefully wraps each in freshly made dough.
The result is a dainty meat bun that not only looks pretty, but also smells and tastes unlike anything we currently have on the market. The juicy pork, crunchy jicama, and aromatic leeks combine to please all your senses. Aside from the filling, the dough is also special–it has a slightly toasted bottom and a soft, fluffy top.
It’s important not to confuse House of Bao’s Taiwanese jian baos with the fried dumplings you can get off the streets of Shanghai, however. Darren explains: “The Shanghai version has less bread-y dough [and it also] has soup inside. Mine’s the Taiwanese version. After cooking, there will still be soup, but the bread-y dough will eventually absorb it.”
To add an exciting new layer of flavor to the jian bao, you can sprinkle a bit of Daddy Mikks Chili Crunch. You can order the bottles of toasted garlic and chili for an additional P230. This is the only condiment House of Bao will offer since they take pride in the fact that their baos are already packed with flavor; there’s no longer any need to add sauce. “In other countries, they never put sauce in siopao because malaman lagi,” Darren shares.
In the future, Darren shares that he plans to add a few more bao flavors to the mix. They’re also planning to set up a physical store once they’re able to secure a good location.
For now, it’s too early to tell if House of Bao will really raise our local standards when it comes to meat buns. But the social media frenzy it has caused since it opened early this year gives us a glimmer of hope that maybe, in its own way, it just might.
Order baos for delivery by sending a message to House of Bao’s Facebook account or by calling them at 09178780035