The Fatty Bao, Mumbai, Chef at Large, Kunal Chandra

Take a Bao at The Fatty Bao

The BaoWow Festival at The Fatty Bao has much to recommend it. With a huge selection of flavourful fillings there’s a bao for everyone – meat lovers, vegetarians, sea food fanatics, porkaholics, everyone!

The Fatty Bao in Mumbai is a hugely popular restaurant and earlier this week I found out just why. The hubby and I went to check out their ongoing BaoWow Festival and came back convinced that The Fatty Bao deserves its popularity completely.

The BaoWow Festival celebrates that delicious little Chinese bun – the bao. Packed with a variety of fillings ranging from aubergines to duck meat, there were 13 options to choose from. Since we’d been invited specially for the BaoWow Festival we decided to ignore the regular restaurant menu and try out as many of the baos on offer as we could. The baos are served in pairs so we requested that they serve us just one bao of each sort – I wanted to taste as many as possible without wasting any food. There are five vegetarian baos on the special menu so don’t assume that there’s nothing for vegetarians.

Teriyaki Glazed Chicken Bao
Teriyaki Glazed Chicken Bao – Photo credit – The Fatty Bao

As we waited for the baos to come we had a cocktail each. I sipped on a Bora Bora (INR 400) which was a delicious concoction of vodka and gin with passion fruit, green apple and coconut water. I’m not a great fan of fruity flavours but somehow I was feeling adventurous – I was so glad I took that chance. The husband had The Fatty Sour (INR 400) which was a blend of raspberries, whiskey, lime, sugar and egg whites. Though it was nice, it wasn’t great.

The first set of baos arrived – Spicy Wild Mushroom and Chickpea Bao drizzled with Chilli Garlic Mayo, and Fried Eggplant Bao marinated in Miso with Khimchi and a drizzle of Sriracha. The mushroom and chickpea bao didn’t impress me much – there was barely any mushroom flavour, the chickpeas ruled the roost. But that fried eggplant bao was sheer poetry! I’d go back for that in a blink.

Then came the Five Spice Fried Chicken Bao with Mustard Mayo and Lettuce, and Teriyaki Glazed Chicken Bao with Pickled Cucumber and Shichimi. The five spice fried chicken bao was quite lacklustre and though the teriyaki glazed chicken one was better, it wasn’t something I’d want seconds of. Maybe I’m biased because chicken is not among my favourite proteins but even the flavours didn’t excite me much.

Chilli Crab and Prawn Bao
Chilli Crab and Prawn Bao. Photo Credit – Rhea Mitra-Dalal

We were served the seafood baos next – Wasabi Fish Bao with crisp fried Sea Bass, and Chilli Crab and Prawn Bao. The crab and prawn bao had a crab-prawn cake with pickled watermelon rind, Asian slaw, and fried garlic. It was nice and spicy and my tastebuds were awake and dancing! A complete contrast from the more reserved and understated flavours of the preceding baos, this one was a killer. Since the hubby is allergic to shellfish I had this one to myself and I wasn’t complaining. The sea bass in the wasabi fish bao was juicy and cooked to perfection but I didn’t get the expected pungent hit of wasabi, which was a little disappointing.

Then the piggies arrived. The Fatty Bao is really well known for its Char Siu Bao made with bbq pork belly, and I was happy to see it on the BaoWow Festival menu accompanied by a Pulled Pork Bao with Curry sauce, crisp Shallots, Cucumber, fried Egg and Kafir Lime. There was a reverent silence at our table as we sank our teeth into the two most perfect baos of the evening. Any restaurant that cooks pork that well gets my stamp of approval.

The Mandalay Bay
The Mandalay Bay. Photo Credit – Rhea Mitra- Dalal

By now we were feeling quite stuffed so we took a break. On the recommendation of our server we tried another cocktail – the Mandalay Bay (INR 400). This had jasmine tea infused vodka with lime juice and ginger ale, served with orange slices. Not only was it a pretty looking cocktail it was also one of the best composed drinks I’ve ever had – the flavour of jasmine, the slight tannic taste of tea, and the citrusy freshness of the lime juice and orange slices just worked wonderfully together. Of the three cocktails we tried this one got the winning vote from both of us.

The final pair of baos – Roast Duck Bao, and Lamb Char Grilled Bao – arrived. Refreshed with sips of Mandalay Bay we dug into the baos. The roast duck bao flavoured with Hoisin sauce, cucumber and scallions was excellent. Succulent slivers of roasted duck meat sitting cosily in that fluffy bao and lightly coated with sauce made for a delicious mouthful. The lamb bao was a complete contrast in flavours with a mint mayo, pickled carrots and a light chilli-tamarind glaze. Another winner.

The BaoWow Festival is on till  14th February 2016 and has baos for everyone – meat lovers, vegetarians, sea food fanatics, porkaholics, everyone! Priced between INR 260 + taxes and INR 380 + taxes for a two piece portion, a bao eating session at The Fatty Bao will not leave you bankrupt.  In fact, you’re going to be saying “Take a Bow, Fatty Bao”!