“Bao” has been one of the trendiest food for the past year. Just like bubble tea, not a lot of people know that it’s originated from an island, Taiwan. It’s most commonly known as steamed buns, pork belly buns, or ambiguously, bao, in North America. Gua bao consists of a thick slice of braised meat that’s wrapped between a folded flat steamed bread. People often refer and describe it as the Chinese hamburger, but to me, it’s more like taco!
Taiwanese like all sorts of braised pork, such as minced braised pork rice (lu rou fan 滷肉飯), pork belly rice (kong rou fan 控肉飯)…etc. When we talk about braised pork, we can’t forget the famous “gua bao” that’s now a hipster snack food across North America and Europe!
Lan jia gua bao, located around Gong guang, is one of the well known destinations to get the best gua bao in Taipei. Opened for more than a decade, Lan jia gua bao subtly established a gold standard for it in Taipei. For any food lovers, it is definitely a Taiwanese snack that you wouldn’t want to miss. Though there’s always a line up, don’t worry, it goes fast. Not to mention that they’re just right across the even more popular spot, Chen Shan Ding (陳三鼎黑糖粉圓專賣店), a bubble tea spot that you’ll deeply regret if you skip it! The combination of gua bao and bubble tea will get you the most authentic Taiwanese experience!
Besides gua bao, Lan jia is also known for the rice dumplings. There are quite a lot of ingredients wrapped in it, including salted egg yolk, shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimps, pork…etc. As most of the Taiwanese dishes, it’s finished with soy sauce and a handful of coriander.
The bun is as important as the sushi rice of nigiri. The size of the bun isn’t as exquisite as the ones in North America. These buns are the size of pita, and with one end longer than the other. The dough of the buns are similar to those used in mantou (steamed bread). The surface looked flawless and smooth. They also seem so delicate and steamy.
Not all the gua bao stalls do this, but at Lan jia gua bao, you can have it with choices of combination of either fatty or lean pork or half and half. Personally, I would strongly recommend half and half! Because if you opt for lean meat, you’ll lose the flavor, but full fat would be too heavy. A mix of both – harmony of flavors.
They start to assemble as soon as we placed the order. The buns are sitting in the steamy steamer, and the pork was already pre-braised and shredded. The bun is finished with pickled mustard greens, which was braised in a dark sauce, sprinkled it with sweet crushed peanuts (a must for Taiwanese bun!), and topped it with some fresh cilantro. The bun was very pillowy and tender in my hand.
It’s actually quite different than the gua bao in the south of Taiwan. In the south, it’s similar to the ones in North America, which is a whole piece of pork belly, not shredded. The bun was soft and airy, but not chewy. The pork was succulent, the saltiness paired with the sweet peanut powder was absolutely perfect. Everything added up was good, but wasn’t mind blowing-ly good to me.
Lan Gua Bao (藍家刈包)
No. 3, Aly. 8, Ln. 316, Sec. 3, Luosifu Rd., Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei City
Tel: +886 (2) 2368-2060