Baos are chubby taco-like vessels of wonderful yumminess. It’s easy to see why the warm fluffy steamed buns are popular throughout China and Indonesia. Much like the American hamburger, the portability of a bao makes it the perfect takeaway option. Also like hamburgers, the fillings can go from simple meat or vegetarian fillings to the outrageous (as an example, in Florida King Bao mix masters pickles, shredded pork and kimchi slaw into its special oh Carolina bao).
Fortunate Floridians have King Bao to thank for bringing an excellent assortment of steamed delights to Orlando. Owner Vic Nguyen opened the quick counter style restaurant just shy of a year ago and from the looks of it, business is booming.
Hogzilla is a unique combination of thick cut braised pork belly, pickled carrots, daikon, ground honey roasted peanuts and cilantro all rolled into a nice warm bun. The kickin’ chicken packs a punch by squishing kimchi fried chicken, cucumber aioli and scallions into its bao. Meanwhile the OMG (oh my grouper) features tempura grouper, kimchi slaw, yuzu tartar sauce and scallions. Personally I’d rank them 2. OMG, 3. kickin’ chicken and 4. hogzilla, but truth be told they were all amazing. If you’re wondering what happened to the number one spot, well, that would have to go to the soft shell crab bao.
The soft shell crab bao is visually appealing, but it’s the contrast between the taste of the soft bun and the crunchy tempura fried crab that will make your tastebuds tingle. Combine those flavors with a bit of kimchi slaw, old bay mustard, aioli, some scallions and ding ding we have a winner.
Other menu items at King Bao include an assortment of tater tots ranging from truffle tots (tots, truffle oil, truffle salt and chives) and Porky’s tatchos (tater tots, braised pork, cheddar cheese sauce, sour cream, jalapeño and chives) to fire tots (tater tots tossed in Sriracha, aioli, jalapeño, togarashi and chives) and fakenit taters (tots, tofu bacon, roasted garlic, onion jam and scallions). If you’re still hungry, there is of course dessert.
Kitschy though they may sound, the dessert baos hold their own. Tarzan combines a fried bao with Nutella, bananas and powdered sugar. Igloo matches iced cream with a fried bao, caramel sauce and ground honey. Yes, you should definitely try and save room for dessert at King Bao.
King Bao also sells funky hats and tees if you’re looking for something other than mouse ear souvenirs for friends back home. (Or if you’re trying to look like you work at King Bao in an effort to score more of those delicious morsels of bao-ness.)
My only regret at King Bao was not having a second stomach, so I could inhale more baos (of both the regular and the dessert variety). As far as affordable grab and go grub in Orlando is concerned, King Bao is one hot spot that is definitely worthy of a drive by.
Address: 710 North Mills Avenue
Orlando, Florida 32803
Hours: Monday Through Thursday 11:30am to 9:30pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30am to 10:30pm and Sunday Noon to 9:30pm
Phone: (407) 237-0013
Pricing (All in USD): Baos $3.00 to $4.75 Each, Tots $2.50 to $3.00, Dessert Baos $2.00 Each