Baozi Inn has been around for a while now. I've eaten there a few times but I've not got around to blogging it yet, being too busy stuffing my face with food to worry about photographing it. I went again today though and they've got a new menu which spurred me on to write. All the old favourites remain but they've added a whole new section of meals with boiled rice, including Sichuanese favourites Ma Po Tofu and Fish Fragrant Pork. I would've sampled them but I didn't know of these new dishes before turning up and my heart was already set on a deep red bowl of noodles. The girlfried did indulge though, but more of that later.
Everyone should try Sichuanese food. A lot of British folks only experience of Chinese food is very Cantonese, and whilst I'm a big fan of that there's so much more to Chinese food - this is a country of over one billion people who had domesticated the pig about 7000 years ago - and for me Sichuan food is at the top of the vast variety. Gone are bright red gloopy sauces, replaced with many layered dishes: sweet, sour, salty, numbing, warming... So many different flavours and sensations combined into one dish and sitting perfectly together. Whilst Baozi Inn may not be the pinnacle of Sichuan food (it's not even entirely Sichuan cuisine, Beijing gets a look in too) it's damn tasty and cheap and a real one of a kind place in London, which I guess means the UK.
My favourite dish is the Fragrant and Hot Pork Noodles, one of the few dishes on the menu bearing a warning red chili next to its name, and it's a well deserved warning too. Cubes of tender pork in an umami rich sauce laden with chili, served on top of the very distinctive wheat noodles served in this place. Last time I ate here the food envy grabbed me though and whilst I enjoyed the pork I couldn't keep my eyes off the oily red bowl of beef noodles my friend was eating. This time I took the oily red beef noodles instead and whilst they were very good - melt in the mouth brisket and a woody vegetable I couldn't place in a deep, red broth - the pork is still my favourite (but I still couldn't manage an in focus photo of our companion's portion).
The baozi in their name is a type of filled steamed bun and today was my first foray into their buns too, with a pork and an egg baozi gracing our table. The pork was great, masses of spiced minced pork in a light bun, and the egg very interesting, scrambled egg heavy with garlic, chives and spring onion. Light but full of flavour. Lizzie over at Hollow Legs had been saying I had to try their Three Sliver Salad so I did, and glad I did too. Crunchy carrot, squeaky seaweed and rice vermicelli dressed in sesame oil with an undercurrent of chilli. So fresh tasting, full of interesting textures and a great palate cleanser. We also had some Chendgu Dumplings with Red Oil, pork in chewy boiled dough served in a puddle of fiery chili oil.
Going back to the new dishes the girlfriend opted for Red Braised Aubergine (I think that's the name) and was rewarded with a plateful of buttery soft aubergines, by the other dishes' standards the sauce was very delicate but tasty nonetheless. The new rice based dishes come with a deeply savoury broth to wash it down with.
Complete with drinks this spread for three came to £34 plus service. Nothing short of amazing value for such great food. The menu now boasts a set meal option too where you get a main meal (a selection of maybe 5), a small bowl of 4 dumplings and a vegetable side dish for £8.50. I can see some lunchtime vistis in the near future, especially if this set meal can be taken away.
25 Newport Court,
London, WC2H 7JS