Bao Buns, Un-dough-tedly Good Food!
Bao Buns (pronounced bow buns) are light, mildly sweet, steamed dough buns typically filled with an array of sticky, unctuous, savoury delights. The buns, made with a mixture of milk, flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder and oil, come in two main varieties – closed buns (Mantou) with the filling wrapped inside the dough before cooking and open buns (Gua), where the filling is added after cooking. Mantou Bao are round buns with pinched tops; Gua buns are a flatter, sandwich style (traditionally named lotus leaf buns because of their leaf shape).
Originating in Northern China, these buns have been around for centuries. If the myths and legends are to be believed, they began life as a decoy to save the lives of a returning war party from the demands of a local deity. However they came into existence, the recipe for the steamed delicacy quickly spread from the north to the rest of the country and neighbouring Asian lands. The Bao Bun was eaten as an accompaniment to meat and vegetable dishes. Simple and versatile, the bun became a hugely popular street food to be eaten on the go and usually for breakfast.
Recently, the Bao Bun's popularity has extended from China and other Asian nations to become a worldwide food phenomenon, with Bao Bun restaurants popping up all over the shop and many restaurants incorporating them into their menus, especially in Asian eateries. While sticky belly pork, BBQ pork, and other Chinese-style meats and vegetables have traditionally been paired with Bao Buns, their worldwide popularity has diversified fillings. Bao Buns can now be found with a host of traditional and non-traditional fillings to suit every taste, sweet and savoury. The popular buns are eaten as all-day foods and not just as grab 'n' go dishes; you can find the humble Bao Bun on breakfast, lunch and dinner menus and in fast food kiosks to luxury restaurants as fine dining plates.
You can find many places to eat these fluffy and delicious edibles in Doha. There is an abundance of restaurants serving food from Asian shores across the capital, many of which include Bao Buns on their menus. However, this article lists four fantastic and favoured eateries for your consideration – bon appetite!
Bao Bun Restaurants in Doha
The following lists Doha’s best Bao Bun eateries bringing the bun to the masses:
Image: Bao Doha
Located along the cool, calm and quiet streets of downtown Msheireb, stylish Bao Doha offers a Pan Asian menu in a clean, comfortable and modern environment. As one would expect from the restaurant’s name, homemade Bao Buns are in good supply. Using fresh, flavoursome ingredients, Bao Doha takes traditional recipes and elevates them, delivering mouthwatering treats, such as the Short Ribs Bao (cooked beef, garnished with pine nuts and drizzled with Wasabi mayonnaise), the Duck Bao (duck cooked for 3 hours, with pomegranate, green onion, black and white sesame seeds and Hoisin vinegar sauce), and the Popcorn Bao (shrimp popcorn, with spicy mayonnaise and garnished with Kani).
The restaurant menu also offers a myriad of other Asian dishes, cooked to order in the open kitchen, such as sushi, maki rolls, poke bowls, curry, stir fry, rice and noodle dishes, tempura, spring rolls and an array of mouthwatering salads.
Dessert lovers will also be happy to note that Bao Doha serves sweet dishes, including various Mochi ice cream flavours and the scrumptious fried Bao topped with ice cream.
Location: Sharawo Street, off Skkita Al Ghaith, Msheireb
Hours: Sunday to Wednesday, 12 pm – 12 am
Thursday to Saturday, 12 pm – 1 am
Costs: Baos range in price from QAR 22 – QAR 49
Call +974 7479 9466
Three Peppers Restaurant
Image: Phase Changes
The Three Peppers Restaurant seems an unlikely contender for our finest four Bao Bun eateries, not least because it only offers one type of bun across its extensive Chinese cuisine menu. However, while The Three Peppers is in the city's bustling back streets, filled with traffic, a hotch-potch of shops, apartment blocks and businesses, and is relatively far away from the city centre's ordered streets, manicured parks, sparkling skyscrapers and grander restaurants, it is one of the best authentic Chinese restaurants in town, and its Bao Buns are excellent.
The chicken and vegetable Bao Bun at The Three Peppers is a succulent, flavoursome and hearty bun. Fashioned as a closed bun and served on a warming plate, it is bigger than a man's fist and super filling. Plus, the buns are very affordable, as is the entire Three Peppers menu.
The restaurant itself is basic but clean, colourful and decorative, with plenty of plants, water fountains and kitsch Chinese knick-knacks. Plenty of tables are available across two levels for groups and smaller parties. The good, homely food and cheap eats draw plenty of guests, from residents to locals and many of the Chinese community living in Qatar. It is definitely an eatery worth visiting if you love Bao Buns, Chinese food and a buzzy atmosphere.
Location: Al Muntazah Trading Centre, Hiteen Street, Al Muntazah
Hours: Sunday to Saturday, 11 am – 11 pm
Costs: Chicken and Vegetable Bao Buns - QAR 15
Call +974 6649 2626
Shanghai Garden Chinese Restaurant
Shanghai Garden in Al Saad is a popular venue for diners of all nationalities hungry for authentic Chinese food. The eatery offers an a la carte menu, which includes an array of Chinese soups, salads, sushi, sashimi, dim sum, dumplings, noodle and rice dishes, fish, chicken, duck, beef and pork plates, Sumai and kimchi, as well as a buffet and a buffet-style hot pot option. Plus, Shanghai Garden also offers Bao Buns.
The Bao Bun option at Shanghai Garden isn't particularly extensive (only two types of buns are available – steamed chicken bun and beef bun). However, the fried beef bun definitely makes this establishment worth a visit. The fried bun has all the delicious flavours of a steamed bun but adds a light, crispy outer exterior, which is a true delight when paired with a generous helping of BBQ-style Chinese sauce.
The eatery itself is spacious, bright, clean and modern; each table has its own hot plate (perfect for sampling the extensive hot-pot menu), the kitchen is open, and the venue is filled with Chinese décor from red and white lanterns on the ceiling, Asian paintings, pictures and tiled murals on the walls to ornate screens dotted around the room and a terracotta-style guard at the entrance. The restaurant has a sister food kiosk in Doha Festival City Mall, but the sit-down diner at Al Saad is worth spending time in for its buzzy atmosphere and Asian style.
Location: Barwa Towers, C-Ring Road, Al Saad
Hours: Sunday to Saturday, 12 – 11 pm
Costs: Baos range in price from QAR 30 – QAR 34
Call +974 4493 3688
Han Shi Fu
Han Shi Fu is a modern Chinese and Asian Fusion restaurant and needs to be on our list of favourite Bao Bun vendors simply for their exquisitely presented buns (don't worry, they taste extraordinarily good!). Part of Han Shi Fu's winning USP as a restaurant is its beautifully plated dishes. Fresh, colourful ingredients, vibrant herbs and spices, delicate flowers elegantly arranged on banana leaves, black slate, clay plates and iconic blue and white willow pattern plates, beverages served in mugs, cups, and glasses shaped like owls, koi carp, elephants, whales and vases, and soup served in Chinese-style mugs are typical. Even the tableware at Han Shi Fu is unique, with chopstick holders shaped like origami cranes and pandas and salt and pepper shakers like Bao Buns. So, it's no surprise that the buns are as beautiful as the other dishes served at the restaurant.
Baos can be ordered steamed or pan-fried, savoury or sweet. Savoury buns include chicken, lamb and rib eye beef varieties, and sweet include chocolate, custard and sweet sesame. And each bun is presented as a cute character creation – cats, dogs, monsters, dinosaurs, rabbits, tigers, chickens, pandas, etc. However, if you're looking for something more stylish, the Umami Bao, filled with rib eye, pepper and soy, with a charcoal-coloured bun dusted with gold, is always a winner.
The restaurant in the Mall of Qatar is ultra-modern, sleek, stylish and beautifully decorated in dark wood, black and red leather seats, and modern art on the walls. It is the perfect place to come for traditional food blended with contemporary flavours and designs.
Location: Mall of Qatar, Al Rufaa Street, Off Dukhan Highway, Ar Rayyan, Doha
Hours: Sunday to Wednesday, 10 am – 10 pm
Thursday to Friday, 10 am – 12 am
Saturday, 10 am – 11 pm
Costs: Baos range in price from QAR 12 – QAR 15
Call +974 5107 7666
If you like Bao Buns and Chinese food in general, why not try a Chinese Hot Pot? For the top Hot Pot restaurants in Doha, check out our Share Some Foodie Fun With A Chinese Hot Pot article.
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