From Baos to Baogers – Belly Bao hits Newtown

Belly Bao NewtownRemember back to when you were a child and your first moment of tasting ice cream? As adults we rarely get a chance to bite into something we have never tried before, let alone can spell or pronounce.

A few years ago Sydney was bitten by the Bao bug (no relation to our sweet fleshed Balmain crustacean). This soft steamed bun, split in half and stuffed with goodies from pork belly to Korean fried chicken created a cult like following. One of the earliest bao ‘founders’  were Sylvia Tran and Kiren Chua (ex GoodGod Small Club) who started cooking theirs at a market stall.

Busy King’s Street is their new bao home-base. A mural by Simon Wheedon depicts a tropical scene of swinging palms, sunsets, white moons and blue skies which isn’t quite loud enough to compete with the staff’s Hawaiian shirts. This joint is all about Asia from the dark wood ceilings to shelves which are decorated with ABC ketchup Manis, Panda Oyster Sauce tins and Kikkoman soy sauce along with Taiwanese teapots and fresh palm leaves. The sit up bar is the focal point if you want to chat whilst your soda is being made.

Belly Bao

Photo @asianfoodninja

But we are here for the big ‘B’s; is it wrong to want to order all six? The Crackling Roast Pork Belly Bao has a layer of mayo, soft pork, pickled slices of radish, coriander and a crispy wafer crackling, it’s gone in a few bites. Panko Crumbed Chicken is amped with a coriander pest aioli while the soft shell crab with spicy watercress and chilli aioli has better harmonies than the Von Trap family. We move onto the bigger buns, a new sensation called Baogers (cross a burger bun with a Bao) – it’s a genius metamorphosis which squishes gloriously together as you bite into braised eggplant, pickles and fresh iceberg lettuce. Arguably Sylvia’s finest moment isn’t a bun but a new noodle she has invented from the bao dough. This is gloriously chewy with attitude, a silky mouthfeel but holds the house-made spicy sate and soy sauce beautifully. Add BBC (Belly Bao Chicken) big wings of sticky or spicy sauce with salted egg and perhaps five spiced mushrooms.

BYO and bring hungry bellies, ready to be fully loaded.  This is one spot which is worth making a B-line for.

Belly Bao
184 King Street, Newtown

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).


Forrester’s Pub on the corner of Riley Street in Surry Hills has been a much loved watering hole for almost 100 years, it’s seen different owners, changes of prime ministers, generations of friends and family along with periods of being laid ‘fallow’ to rest. It took hospitality favourites, Applejack to rescue this local gem and bring it back to life. A budget of $1.5m doesn’t get you much these days but the renovation its both sensitive to its history and of this era, reflecting a new, more feminine, organic and lighter approach to interior design.

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