Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chairman Bao - Steamed Pork Belly Bao

A good rule of thumb for food trucks is that if there is a crazy long queue, the food is probably spectacular. My sister-in-law, who was visiting from New York, knew nothing about Bay Area food trucks but used this rule to queue up for Chairman Bao. She made the right choice!

If it was Roli Roti that started me on my love of pork, then it was Chairman Bao that solidified it. One taste of their Steamed Pork Belly Bao and I was hooked for life! I actually thought to myself while eating it, "Why did I go all these years not eating pork?" I feel I need to eat Chairman Bao everyday for a year to make up for all of the lost pork. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration, but I really adore their Steamed Pork Belly Bao.

Chairman Bao offers up both steamed and baked buns, and the Pork Belly is one of the two porcine items off Chairman Bao's menu, which also includes Pulled Pork. I chose the steamed bun, and it's served taco-style, open faced and filled with delicious, mouth-watering pork belly. Pork belly, which is enjoying a surge in popularity these days, is a fatty meat that is derived from the belly of a pig and literally melts in your mouth. Chairman Bao cooks theirs perfectly so that the fatty part isn't tough or stringy but merely dissolves in your mouth. The meaty parts were crisp and tender and had the aroma of Chinese five spice. Going with a modern interpretation of traditional gua bao, Chairman Bao tops theirs with pickled daikon, adding a crisp, tangy layer to accompany the delectable, salty pork. The bun is soft and typical of traditional bao buns. Every individual ingredient complements the others, and a mouthful of them all together is divine. I have had both of the Chairman's pork offerings, and they are both tasty. But if you are going to choose only one then you simply must try the pork belly.

I have a three-year old who is quickly turning into a foodie, and I am happy that my repeated visits to Popeye's haven't killed his taste buds. Whenever I mention we are going to Off the Grid or visiting the food trucks, he breaks out in a chorus of "Pork belly belly belly!" that is an ode to Chairman Bao. It's his favorite, and every time we go he insists that the first thing he eats is a Steamed Pork Belly Bao. I always hope that the queue will be short and it never is, but I still have to wait in it because it's my son's favorite. I have spoken to many people who say they never visit Chairman Bao because the queue is too long, and I tell them all the same thing: suck it up and wait because you won't be disappointed!

Rating: 4.5/5 ** (Son's rating: 5/5) (ratings guide)

Chairman Bao on Urbanspoon

Chairman Bao (@chairmantruck) $3.75 for one steamed bao

** Why it's not a 5 - I eat these every week and most of the time -- 90% of the time -- they are fantastic. But there have been weeks where it's just not as amazing. If I had only ever eaten the pork belly during that 10% of the time I still would have thought they were great, but since I know how amazing they can be, I want that consistency.

The Chairman on Urbanspoon

Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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