Buns and bright lights: the joys of Taiwan’s street food

Lured to south-east Asia by his love of Taiwanese squishy steamed bread, our writer finds a dazzling array of edibles on offer in Taipei’s markets

Bao, a tiny Taiwanese restaurant in London’s Soho (with outposts in Fitzrovia and Hackney), is a compelling advertisement for its country. Like a little culinary embassy, since 2014 it has been doling out soft power at reasonable prices to the endless queues at its door.

It specialises in gua bao, flat squishy discs of steamed bread, folded around whatever you care to put in them. Braised pork belly with coriander and ground peanuts is a traditional option, but almost anything works: deepfried daikon radish, stewed beef, spicy fried chicken. The bread is sweeter and more consistent than any western bun, and holds the fillings better. Even the word bao is a source of fascination. It even sounds like an expression of joy: bao!

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