Also known as steamed buns or “baozi” (包子), a bao is a warm, soft, fluffy bun. Typically, they’re filled with a pork mixture–though there are essentially endless filling possibilities–and they’re most known for being round, smooth, and soft.
Though baos are similar to dumplings, they differ in a few key ways–bao buns are steamed while dumplings are boiled or pan-fried, dumplings are smaller in size, and bao buns are made from fermented yeast dough, contrary to the dough used to make dumplings which is unfermented.
If your mouth is watering right now, first of all: don’t worry–ours are too. Second of all, fear not, because we’re sharing with you our top five places in NYC for the absolute best bao buns.
1. Nom Wah Tea Parlor, Multiple locations
Nom Wah Tea Parlor has been serving New Yorkers since 1920, so you know they had to have a place on our list. They originally operated strictly as a bakery before eventually also serving dim sum–something we’re all grateful for because we cannot get enough of their roast pork buns.
Where: Chinatown – 13–15 Doyers St. / Nolita – 10 Kenmare St.
2. Golden Steamer, Chinatown
For some more out-of-the-box bao flavors, Golden Steamer has what you’re looking for. This little bakery on Mott Street serves several different bun varieties, including roasted pork, salted egg yolk, red bean, and more. Arguably one of their most popular flavors, however, is their pumpkin bun.
Bonus: Find some more of our favorite Chinatown restaurants–as well as our favorite Chinatown spots in general–in our guide here.
Where: 143 Mott St.
3. Vegetarian Dim Sum House, Chinatown
This one is catered specifically to any vegetarians or vegans who so desperately miss biting into a soft, warm, pork bun. Their vegetarian, mock roast pork version is mouthwateringly delicious, and it’s so real tasting that it may actually scare you. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be day dreaming about these baos day in and day out.
Where: 24 Pell St.
4. Mei Lai Wah, Chinatown
According to New Yorkers Mei Lai Wah makes some of the best pork buns in the city. This dim sum spot serves a variety of buns, including steamed and baked. Steamed buns include roast pork, chicken, red bean, egg yolk, and their “big bun” is the best of them all, filled with pork, chicken, egg, and sausage.
Where: 64 Bayard St.
5. Fu Zhou Wei Zhong Wei Jia Xiang Feng Wei, Chinatown
This place isn’t the easiest to find (it’s located at the East Broadway Mall), but their pork buns make the hunt well worth it. Their small steamed buns (which ironically aren’t that small) are to die for, and are filled with the most delicious ground pork mixture. The best part–you can purchase bags of their baos for an incredibly cheap price, and they have other delicious bites beyond their baos.
Where: 88 E Broadway