I’m Hokkien, so I grew up eating kong bak baos. Almost every other weekend, my family would cook fluffy white loaves of steamed bao. We’d sandwich a thick and luscious slab of braised pork belly in-between the bao and slather it with a thick soy-based gravy… Mmmm.
When I heard that Bao Makers made kong bak baos with popular local fillings like chilli crab and salted egg chicken, I knew I had to pay it a visit.
Bao Makers is located along Jiak Chuan Road, which is near Keong Siak Road.
It’s actually situated within a century-old Peranakan house, so you won’t have any problems finding it — just look for its bright exterior, which is decked out with vintage Peranakan tiles.
I absolutely loved Bao Maker’s interior decor because it had just the right amount of minimalistic, wooden and industrial elements.
Its ambience was hushed, relaxed and warm because of the sporadically-placed warm lighting. Stepping into the cafe made me feel like I had left the bustling city behind and I immediately felt warm and welcomed — a huge plus in my books.
Bao Makers was established in 2015 and is Singapore’s first bao concept store that introduced kong bak baos with popular local and international fillings. Other than chilli crab, it also has other fillings like salted egg chicken and salmon mentaiko.
Other than baos, Bao Makers also serves Japanese makis, rice bowls and other interesting sides, such as Kecap Manis Chicken and Beef Steak Teriyaki.
We ordered three baos, and it came on a pretty little porcelain plate.
Though I’ve got to admit, with prices between S$3.80 to S$4.50, I thought that the baos would be bigger than that. Each bao was slightly smaller than my palm and looked as though I could finish it in three large mouthfuls.
The first bao, and the one I was most excited to try was the Chilli Crab Bao (S$4.50). Fresh crabmeat and our ever-popular chilli crab sauce was stuffed within a deep-fried bao.
Every bite I took out of this bao was absolutely heavenly. It was just as if I had ordered chilli crab at an established seafood restaurant and slathered a deep-fried mantou with its luscious sauce.
Though slightly oily from deep-frying, the bao was delightfully crispy and buttery, soaking up the chilli crab sauce well.
The sauce was on the sweeter side, with an underlying tanginess from the tomato, and I thoroughly enjoyed its silky smooth texture thanks to the eggs that were added. At the end of it, there was that characteristic sharp and spicy kick, which made me want to go back for seconds.
The Salted Egg Chicken Bao (S$4.30) came in a steamed sesame bun, and with Bao Makers’ signature salted egg sauce and a piece of fried chicken.
Prior to eating, I gingerly pressed the sesame bun and was delighted to see it bounce back quickly — a definite sign that the bun was soft and fluffy. My tastebuds confirmed that later on, but sadly I couldn’t quite taste the sesame flavour.
The golden salted egg sauce was a little sandy and gritty, just the way any salted egg sauce should be. And it was gorgeously rich and buttery, which I absolutely loved. It went really well with the fried chicken, which was crispy and tender.
The last bao we tried was the Blackened Chicken Bao (S$4.30), which comprised a steamed sesame bun, a charcoal-seasoned fried chicken, and Bao Makers’ house blend garlic mayo sauce.
This bao was absolutely delicious, exploding with flavours in my mouth.
The creamy and tangy garlic mayo sauce reminded me of mentaiko, with both salty and umami flavours.
The blackened chicken was tender and I bit through the entire bao with ease. There was even a faint smoky aftertaste thanks to the charcoal.
Other than baos, Bao Makers also sells a variety of intriguing cafe fare, such as Kecap Manis Chicken (S$8.80), which is great for sharing.
I thought that kecap manis fried chicken could be too over the top because of all the strong flavours, but Bao Makers surprised me with a secret ingredient — vinegar.
I tasted the sweetened soy sauce from the kecap manis while the vinegar gave it an acidic kick, and the coriander added a fresh and minty addition to each bite.
Maki is something I’d only expect at traditional Japanese restaurants, so I was quite surprised to find it in Bao Makers’ menu.
The Salmon Mentaiko Roll (S$16.80) came with seared salmon, egg, cucumber, crabstick, mentaiko sauce, and the roll was topped off with a generous amount of ikura.
This was such a joy to eat. Each slice was doused with mentaiko sauce, and the little mountains of ikura on top popped in my mouth with each bite.
What I especially loved about the Salmon Mentaiko Roll was the sauce. It was smoky, creamy and savoury, and it made me close my eyes and let out an audible “mmmmmm”.
Last but not least, we tried Bao Makers’ Teriyaki Beef Steak (S$17.80), which was a rice bowl with pan-seared beef steak, an onsen egg, and its house blend teriyaki sauce.
Our tip on how to eat this rice bowl: Break the egg and mix it in directly with the rice. Then, pair every scoop of rice with a slice of tender beef.
Though the beef wasn’t melt-in-your-mouth tender, it was still smoky and soft with a nice bite.
The rice was fluffy and mildly sweet, but I wished it had been a tad more salty with the addition of furikake or soy sauce. Sadly, it was only towards the end of my meal that I discovered the teriyaki sauce, which had collected into a pool at the bottom of my bowl.
I really love Bao Makers’ concept. It’s intriguing and cool, and it’s enough for me to want to come back just to try all the different baos again with my friends. However, it’s a little pricey per bao considering it’s only the size of my palm.
My advice: Don’t expect to fill your stomach up with baos alone. Order enough so that everybody gets at least one tiny bite, and then move on to the rest of the side dishes and mains.
Expected Damage: S$3.80 – S$17.80 per pax
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 3 / 5
4 Jiak Chuan Road, Singapore 089261
4 Jiak Chuan Road, Singapore 089261