CAMBRIDGE - Harvard Square in Cambridge is home to higher education and high culture. Now it's also home to the next big food phenomenon, a unique Chinese style sandwich known as the bao. You can get your fill at Tom's Bao Bao.
"A bao is something that is soft and warm and filled with juicy fillings," explained COO Rosamund Lu. "Bao, or baozi, in China, is one of the most iconic foods. Kung Fu Panda even eats it."
"When Tom [founder Tom Tong] came to the U.S. and realized there is nothing like this here made fresh. You can only buy them frozen in the supermarkets. So, he decided to bring his chain of baozi restaurants to the U.S," she continued.
"We make the bao fresh from scratch in the store, from mixing the dough," Rosamund said. "Then we wrap different fillings in it. We call our kitchen chefs baoists because they are craftsmen making baos. They train for three months before they can be productive team members."
What is it about the bao that is so difficult to learn how to master it?
"The connection from the dough to your heart," declared Training Coordinator Gerry Furtado. "Every step takes so much of your personality, that if you're having a bad day, or you're just not feeling it, or you just want to go home, it really shows in the bao."
The size of a bao is just right. It's between a snack and a meal; between a dumpling and a full size sandwich.
There are plenty of flavors at Tom's Bao Bao, but the Juicy Pork Bao accounts for half their sales. It is similar to a traditional Chinese dumpling. You have that Chinese style char siu pork, with ginger, scallions, and a little bit of wine.
"It's almost like a theater," Rosamund said. "You walk in, and on your way to the register you walk by the baoists making the bao. You see every step of it. Our customers are going to taste the freshness; they're going to see the steaming in front of their eyes. They're going to get very hot, juicy bao."
You can find Tom's Bao Bao at 84 Winthrop Street in Cambridge, and online at tomsbaobao.com.
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