I saw one of my friends talk about the Chairman Bao food truck one time on Facebook, and since it parks for lunch right near work, I decided to gather a bunch of my co-workers to go check it out.
I’ve eaten at other food trucks before, but I thought it worth commenting a bit on the whole food truck trend. Unlike the traditional food trucks of yesteryear which typically sold burritos, burgers, sandwiches and fries for well below $10 a meal, the new generation of food trucks are a snazzier looking mobile bunch and offer fancier, almost chi chi-er edibles than their predecessors. I can’t say I ever have nor ever would follow a hot dog truck across the city or stand in line for longer than 15min to buy some Mexican tacos or quesadillas no matter how good they are. Yet somehow…. this new breed of mobile eateries have been able to garner such attention.
The Chairman Bao truck looks more like a circus mobile with a huge picture of a Giant Panda head in a Mao uniform painted on the side, so it obviously attracts a lot more attention. The menu consists of a variety of meat and vegetarian-friendly fillings in steamed and baked buns and a couple different fruit shaved icee drinks. They also offer a set meal where you can get 2 steamed buns and a fresh fruit shaved ice drink or 1 baked bun and a fresh fruit shaved ice drink, each for $9. I couldn’t decide between the steamed or baked buns so I went rogue and ordered a la carte. I got the Red Sesame Chicken on a baked bun, the Pork Belly on a steamed bun, and a Pineapple Salted Caramel shaved ice drink.
The Red Sesame Chicken comes with nice big morsels of chicken, some sauteed bok choy and scallions. I’m not exactly sure what the red sauce was made from… even though it looked spicy, it really wasn’t. It was a pretty big bun almost hamburger bun-sized and there was a healthy amount of good tasting filling inside. My main critique was that the bun itself wasn’t warm or soft enough. It also didn’t have the same fluffy consistency of a Chinese baked bun. Instead it was a little bit on the dry side, and although the chicken filling was tasty and saucy, it wasn’t enough for me to forgive the not so good bao bun.
The Pork Belly steamed bun came with 2 decent sized pieces of pork belly and a hefty helping of pickled daikon…. almost too much actually. One of my co-workers pondered if these were better than the pork buns from Momofuko…. probably not, and it wasn’t for lack of effort on the pork belly. It was fatty, tender and flavored reasonably well, but I think it might have been a couple notches bellow Momofuko mainly because of the quality of the pork belly and especially the preparation of the steamed bun. Again, the buns weren’t warm and as a result seemed sort of dry and chewy. It really took away from the overall taste of the bao bun.
The Salted Caramel Pineapple drink came with boba. I felt torn at drinking it, because it’s been so long since I’ve had boba. Anyways, tapioca balls aside, the pineapple icee part of it was pretty good. I don’t think I really tasted any salted caramel, but it might have melted too fast.
Overall, my lunch cost me like $13 so it’s definitely on the pricey side considering there were some criticisms I had about both buns, but I would be willing to give it another try. I like the creative use of the Chinese bao, and it makes for a nice little snack bite… even though it may not be so little.