Where to Find Hip Vegetarian Taiwanese Snack Food


When we walked into BaoHaus (238 East 14th Street; 646-669-8889), the rapper Young Thug’s newest mixtape, Barter 6, was blasting over the speakers, and an employee in a Stussy bucket hat was singing along. The tables were tagged with stickers, and the walls were lined with Polaroids, framed pieces of art, and newspaper clippings. This laid-back, anti-pretentious atmosphere is exactly what owners Eddie — the restaurateur, chef, writer, and attorney — and Evan Huang wanted for their restaurant. A place where young people can go to eat good, reasonably priced food and shoot the shit.

BaoHaus first opened on Rivington Street in 2009, but moved to the current 14th Street location three years ago. The restaurant serves authentic Taiwanese food — its specialty is bao, a Taiwanese snack food.

BaoHaus’s vegetarian bao is the Uncle Jesse Bao — named after one of Eddie Huang’s friends, and not Uncle Jesse from Full House, a common, mistaken assumption. Baos aren’t typically vegetarian, but Evan and Eddie took fried tofu, a snack commonly found in Taiwanese night markets, and adapted it to their menu.

“We are Taiwanese. This is a continuation of our culinary history in the diaspora,” says Eddie. “Authenticity doesn’t stop at the border. We took the flavors we grew up with and evolved them. We don’t fuse Taiwanese food with anything else — we take ingredients already present in the Taiwanese canon and evolve the use of them.”

The Uncle Jesse ($3.55 per bao) features organic fried tofu, Haus seasoning salt, crushed peanuts, Taiwanese red sugar, cilantro, and Haus sauce.

The brothers’ grandfather sold mantou bread — the same type Eddie and Evan use in the bao — from a cart in Taiwan. The steamed bun is very soft with slightly sweet overtones. The tofu is nicely fried so that it has a crisp outer coating and the inside remains smooth and silky. The crushed peanuts add another dimension of crunch and texture to the small sandwich. The savory taste of the tofu is complemented by the Haus sauce, which is a sweet peanut sauce that contains a spicy punch. We ordered two because one just wasn’t enough.

Supplement your bun with the sweet bao fries ($3.55), which eat like dessert. The dish features a steamed bao bun that’s fried and served with your choice of glaze, either pandan or black sesame. We chose pandan, a sauce popular in Thailand and many other Asian countries. It’s made from the leaves of a palm-like tree, and it has a sweet, tropical flavor. Adding it as glaze to the chewy bun makes a snack akin to a doughnut, but with a tropical twist.