Hometowns: Nottingham, England (Shing Tat and Wai Ting) and Taipei, Taiwan (Erchen)
Occupation: Owners, BAO
Accolades: Michelin Bib Gourmand, BAO Soho (2017)
What do you love best about London’s food scene?
Wai Ting: London has a really exciting restaurant scene and we feel so privileged to be a part of it. We love how curious and adventurous Londoners are when it comes to eating out, and how diverse the city’s food and drink sphere has become because of this. Restaurants like ours would not succeed without those people who dare to try new things.
Name the top restaurants that you think every visitor to London should try.
Wai Ting: Silk Road is one of our favorites. The lamb skewers in xinjiang spice with home-style cabbage cooked in soy and garlic is so simple, sweet and tasty. We highly recommend.
Hunan on Pimlico Road is a really delicious Chinese restaurant with a lot of Taiwanese influences.
Describe your “perfect dining out day” in London.
Shing Tat: Koya Bar for breakfast – I love the kitsune udon with an onsen egg dropped in. It gives me energy for the whole day!
For lunch, Lyle’s – the whole space is great for lunch.
40 Maltby Street is perfect for dinner. We love going there whenever we can. The dishes are always so good; we try to order one of everything. The staff are great, too.
What’s your favorite neighborhood to dine out in?
Wai Ting: Soho is really great. It was the obvious choice for our first restaurant because of the variety of cuisines on offer and the openminded approach of the people who eat here.
If you had to name one personal favorite item from BAO, what would it be?
Shing Tat: It would be really hard to pick a favorite, as all of the dishes are very personal to us. We are very attached to the classic BAO [with braised pork, coriander and peanut]. It’s the first dish we ever sold in the Market, so we have a lot of love for it.
What are some of your favorite places to go to for good cheap, quick eats, and what do you like ordering from there specifically?
Shing Tat: Jen Cafe – the place is very nostalgic, and is a good quick fix for dumplings. Now and again I crave duck; the duck noodles from Four Seasons in Chinatown are very good value. YMCA in Fitzrovia is also good.
What’s one dish in London that blew you away and left you wishing you came up with the recipe yourself?
Shing Tat: One of my favorite places is Silk Road; all their sauces are amazing. I used to be so addicted that I went once a week.
When you’re craving home-style Cantonese or Taiwanese dishes, where in London do you like to go and what are your favorite things to order?
Shing Tat: For homestyle cooking, I like to cook the dishes I used to eat when I was a child at home. However, in terms of restaurants, Hunan is great. The chef chooses the dishes and they don’t stop serving you until you say so.
What food is your guilty pleasure, and where do you go to get it?
Shing Tat: Bleecker St. Burger. Every time I crave a burger, I crave a Bleecker Burger. The meat is top quality and the burger bun is amazing and soft.
What would you say every visitor must see or do before leaving London?
Shing Tat: Eat a packet of Walkers crisps. If you can find the pickled onion flavor, you’ve won.
Shing Tat and Wai Ting’s Shortlist:
BAO, 53 Lexington Street (Soho); Taiwanese, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Second location: 31 Windmill Street (Fitzrovia); lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.
Third location: Netil Market, 13-23 Westgate Street (London Fields); lunch only Saturday. closed Sunday-Friday.
Silk Road, 49 Camberwell Church Street (Camberwell); Chinese, dinner only daily.
Hunan, 51 Pimlico Road (Belgravia); Chinese, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Koya Bar, 50 Frith Street (Soho); Japanese, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Lyle’s, 56 Shoreditch High Street (Shoreditch); new British, breakfast Monday-Friday, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
40 Maltby Street, 40 Maltby Street (Bermondsey); wine bar, lunch Friday-Saturday, dinner Wednesday-Saturday, closed Sunday-Tuesday.
Jen Cafe, 4-8 Newport Place (Chinatown); Chinese, lunch and dinner daily.
Four Seasons, 23 Wardour Street (Chinatown); Chinese, lunch and dinner daily.
Second location: 11 Gerrard Street (Chinatown); lunch and dinner daily.
Third location: 84 Queensway (Bayswater); lunch and dinner daily.
Restaurant at the YMCA Indian Student Hostel, 41 Fitzroy Square (Fitzrovia); Indian (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Bleecker, Old Spitalfields Market, Unit B SP 4 (Spitalfields); American, lunch and dinner daily.
Second location: 205 Victoria Street (Victoria); lunch and dinner daily.
About the Chefs: The goal was straightforward: get London excited about Taiwanese food. Brother-and-sister duo Shing Tat and Wai Ting Chung and Shing Tat’s partner Erchen Chang started BAO as a stall in London’s Netil Market in 2013. It quickly transformed into BAO Bar, a cozy six-seater nook also in Netil Market that had customers forming long queues for popular Taiwanese snacks and of course, baos — steamed pillowy buns filled with savory stuffings.
In 2015, the trio opened its first full-fledged restaurant in Soho, and they followed up on their success with another eatery in Fitzrovia in 2016. Each location features its own distinct menu, and all of the dishes are classics that the owners grew up eating and continue to hold close to their hearts.