I have been keen to try the Bao Noodle Shop in Shoreditch for a while. I am a fan of the London centric Bao chain in general (having enjoy their (h)eat at home and eat in offerings in the past) and the thought of slurping on a bowl of noodles bathing in an intense beef broth (the noodles, not me) certainly appealed.
Now things (at least on the Covid front – all but forgot now, due to the beast from the East) are returning to a semblance of normality in terms of eating out, a trip up to London to see my father, provided the opportunity to give the place a go and I duly booked a solo spot (the stool set up was not really suitable for the old man these days) prior to my train back to Cardiff
Nice place, although if you are a fan of a chair rather than a stool it is not the place for you I think.
The seating makes it more an in and out place rather than one to linger in, but it served it purpose and I was comfortable enough on my perch.
The Argos ordering system of the other Bao outlets is replicated here and the menu offered that rather nice dilemma of wanting everything.
I started off with a prawn croquette bao.
Nice crisp croquette, with bountiful amounts of not over cooked or watery prawn. Despite the seeming allure of a cod roe mayo and black garlic glaze, I thought this was a touch on the bland side and pricey (£6.75) for what it was (quite dinky).
Next up was tripe. I have never eaten tripe before, maybe because it gets such a bad rap. The smell of it cooking is allegedly bloody awful and it isn’t exactly enticing looking in it bare state (but then look at a squid, with tripe often referred to as Lancashire calamari, or an oyster). You can tell how lowly it is viewed by the fact that the term (as alluded to in the post title) is used to some thing false, worthless or rubbish.
As I get older, however, I am more willing to broaden my food horizons and I am always happy to try things I have shyed away from in the past, bar from tangerines, mandarins and clementines which will always be gawd awful, fruit of the devil.
We wouldn’t have had orginal sin if it had been one of those hanging there as the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve undoubtedly feeling no temptation whatsoever to try the vile thing after giving it the merest sniff🤢 (as an aside what the bloody hell has happened to satsumas, the more battery acid sour the better in my book, which are actually nice and seem to be rarer than hen’s teeth these days).
Anyhow back to the tripe dish on the menu, which intrigued me. At a mere £4.35, I thought if I can’t stomach it (😏) so what. Nothing ventured nothing gained as the saying goes.
When it arrived I was quite impressed by the portion size, although tripe is still cheaps as chips to buy these days I suspect.
A lovely crisp, well seasoned and spiced crumb coating gave way to the slightly gelatinous tripe, with just a hint of chew to it. The tripe itself had a quite subtle flavour, with just a soupçon of liverishness (calves rather than pig or lamb). It came with a nicely punchy spring onion sauce, which worked very well as against what was a quite rich dish.
On the basis of this dish, I can see why some (particularly the Madrileños and Romans, who both love their grub) rate tripe so highly. Really enjoyed these and would definitely order again.
Next up were fried oggleshield cheese roll (£5.00).
Crisp, filo style, pastry encased sharp gooey cheese, with a zingy coriander chutney and (the star of the show) a really good sour plum chutney. Be warned these are gone in two bites max and they are very moreish, such that I was tempted to immediately order some more. I resisted only because my noodles arrived.
On to the main noodle broth event, I was somewhat torn between the lighter Tainan broth (that sounded a bit like a pho) and the, heavier and slow cooked cuts, Taipei one. J (we discussed the menu at length prior to me going) counselled against the heavier number on the basis that I was intent on going large on the sides. I ignored her and ordered the Taipei number (£12.50) and added a cured egg yolk (£1) for good measure.
Lovely stuff this, with an intense beefiness to the midnight dark broth and big chunks of full on flavored cheek and short rib.
Slippery noddles, bag loads of fragrant herbs, beef butter and the soy cured egg yolk made for a fabulous dish.
I finished the lot in double quick time. I love the fact they actively encourage you to drink the broth directly from the bowl.
As I am a total pig, I couldn’t resist a dessert bao and I have always had a softspot for a horlicks. So the horlicks bao it was.
Possibly a bao too far as I was fit to burst after this, but I still rather enjoyed it.
On the drinks front they have some interesting stuff on offer,
on the booze and non alcoholic front.
I am not much of a cocktail drinker and wasn’t in the mood for sake so was at a bit of a loss as to what to order.
I defaulted to what seemed like the easiest choice in the form of a Taiwan Beer (£5)
Perfectly nice, if a tad unexciting, it performed its role of wetting the whistle commendably. I also liked the dinky “zurito” glass it came in. Made the can seem to go a rather long way for a fiver.
I rather enjoyed this extension of Bao Dynasty. There is something deeply satisfying about a bowl of noodles in a rich deep broth and this one certainly hit the mark.
The sides on offer were pretty good too, with the use of the much maglined tripe a pleasing revelation.
In these days of every increasing costs (for the younguns I remember mortgage rates of 15% and inflation at 14.5%) and the benefits of using all of the animal in terms of sustainability, it is perhaps high time that the likes of tripe made a come back.
Needs a bit of rebranded, by the marketing whizz kids. My shxte starter for ten is honeycomb beef (that’s what comes to mind when I look at tripe – other non beef forms of tripe are available) or maybe just default to the Spanish name “callos”. Lancashire calamare is fun, but apt to cause confusion.
Regardless of the name, Bao are certainly showing the way here in terms of making tripe a more than edible option.
Would I go back? Absolutely, all very enjoyable and tbe added bonus of being converted to tripe (Mrs. SF will be pleased).
With the clear London focus, there is little chances of an expansion westwards as far as Cardiff, but we do have the Matsudai Ramen for your noodle needs here in Cardiff (and beyond, with mail order). Very different, but rather lovely nonetheless.
The recent Lazy Goat Ragú – Men kit collaboration with Tim Anderson
was an absolute triumph.
Address: 1 Redchurch St, Shoreditch, London, E2 7DJ