Mantao (Bao) + Pork Belly = Gua Bao

I’m not sure how the history started but we grew up with Mantao (Chinese Steamed Bread) paired with a pork belly dish with pickled vegetables (Khao Yok) This trip to Taiwan I was determined to try some – Many opened in Bangkok and i saw a few in the USA but i felt it seemed uniquely Taiwanese although i have read that it was inspired or brought by immigrants from Fujian Province. For those who haven’t heard a Gua Bao or Bao as it’s popularised from USA is the Bao (Mantao – Steamed Chinese Bread) + Pork belly cooked til soft and in 5 spice powder + sweetened roasted ground peanuts + pickled mustard greens + fresh coriander. In my next article i will explore how to make it on my own but this is what we had in Taiwan.

Hamburger Sized at this Tourist Market

I think this store had their own take on it which consists of the traditional 5 Spice Pork Belly + A thin Peppery Pork Chop Patty + a slice of Cheese and the traditional flavorings.

You can see the Peppery Patty & The Pork Belly Peaking Out

I thought it tasted alright but if they could melt the cheese somehow it would have been alot better.

Huge Steaming Buns Ready to Go
Condiments in big pails.

Will try to create a homemade version soon, anyone with recipes please share them 🙂

Eating Ramen Alone – The Ichiran Experience.

Working abroad isn’t bad. Working in Tokyo isn’t bad.   However when the weekend arrives this is what happens:

  1.  You live in CBD district where it’s surrounded by Offices and restaurants and Cafes that ONLY OPEN during Monday to Fridays.
  2. Colleagues spend time with Family.  Left all Alone.

It actually is a lonely feeling but after days of eating one pot noodles and what ever is selling at Lawsons or 7 – 11; due to many restaurants do NOT offer English Menus and even have signs not accepting Non Japanese Speakers you find yourself going to the Tourist Spots.  Shibuya.  Ueno.  Shinjuku etc. Japan is actually one of the most polite cultures I encountered and I’m Thai….  Thailand is a different concept – If you don’t speak the language they will guess something until they get it right.  I assume in Japan it’s not worth the hassle.

So i found myself getting off in Shibuya mercilessly trying to follow the google map. (which from personal experience and  my sense of direction had a part to play) It took me 30 mins to find – apparently google map doesn’t work so well in Japan and especially South Korea.

When you arrive its on the basement floor but theres a sign before you step down on the staircase.  Being remarkably early there wasn’t any ques as of yet.

You wont miss it! The sign is quite big.

Walking down a flight of stairs you will see a vending machine. This is how you order:

Choose your options according to preferences.
You can opt for plain or with Sliced Pork, wood ear mushroom, and seaweed.

They also have something called the second round noodles. Kan Dama – Which means after you finish your bowl they will refill it with 1 order of noodles – 190 Yen or half bowl of Noodles 130 Yen. Interesting! I assume it’s not to waste any of their thick broth. There are extras such as their special vinegar, half boiled eggs and extra onions for toppings.

Closer look at the additional toppings you can order.

After you paid, a waiter will show you to an empty booth.

Check your preference and hand your order with your receipt.
Choose how you prefer your ramen. Luckily it’s in english!
I ordered their premium vinegar. Quite pricey.

Walking to your booth there are hangers to hang up your coat as well as tissue paper and toothpick dispensers on the wall.

This is your little booth – Water dispenser is on left side.
They will lift up the bamboo divider to take your order and deliver your order.
The sides – My egg and a wet napkin is delivered first. Smells fantastic. Albeit a bit lonely.
Bowl is quite big and the red paste is a blend of some spice and red chilies i presume.

The food arrived and you can smell the porkiness. Mine was with 1 clove of garlic, extra rich soup, medium dashi and medium noddles. The noodles was on the thin side which i prefer i’m not a fan of too thick ramen noodles. The broth is very fatty. I’m sure there’s alot of pork richness in there as well as lots of pork fat emulsified into the soup and probably marrow. The mouth felt like cream. Light, yet a dense texture. The pepper paste wasn’t too spicy maybe should have ordered 10. I think the best way to go is to eat some of the noodles with the broth, then with the chilli paste and then with the vinegar to cut the richness. The egg was a half cooked egg with a slightly runny yolk, the pork felt a tiny bit dry to me although dunk it in soup and it’s fine. The wood ear mushroom i think helped give that nice texture. The vinegar has a slight body to the acidic taste. Expensive but you need some vinegar to cut through the fat. Quite an interesting experience. Lonely eating but not bad. Honestly i preferred this to Ipudo. However, i had Ippudo in Thailand so maybe it can’t be compared. Do buy their instant ramen home as a souvenir to friends and family. Maybe you can bring a bit of Japan back home.

Arrive early to beat the ques and dont get lost! Allocate about 1500 yen per person or 1000 with plain with no additionals.