Bao or baozi—soft, steamed buns stuffed with savory or sweet fillings—originated nearly 1,800 years ago.
Today, Austin’s Bao’d Up menu offers signature baozi made in-house daily, authentic regional noodle dishes, delicious boba teas and so much more. All while including a thoughtful variety of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
Co-founded by tech entrepreneur Alex Wu and Chef Ting Lin (originally from the Fujian province in southeast China) in 2017, the restaurant quickly became popular for its fast casual business model and technology-driven service platforms, including contact-free food lockers.
As the successful duo celebrates the opening of its fourth eatery, we were eager to hear more.
How did the idea for Bao’d Up come about?
Alex Wu: In China, we grew up eating bao everyday. As immigrants, we found there were no restaurants dedicated to serving good bao here in the US. We want to make bao available to everyone in America.
Can you compare a bao to anything else?
Chef Ting Lin: Bao is hot flour dough stuffed with a variety of fillings, savory and sweet, ranging from flavorful meats to fresh vegetables to custards for dessert. Handheld and self-contained, bao is really convenient to eat on the go or for a sit-down meal. The kolache is similar to bao, but kolaches are baked while bao are usually steamed.
What’s the best way to serve, or time of day to eat, bao?
Chef Ting Lin: Bao is essentially finger food. It is usually served steamed, but we also offer pan-seared buns, and often include savory dipping sauces. In Asian countries, people usually eat bao for breakfast, but Bao’d Up customers enjoy bao any time–for a work lunch, family dinner, breakfast takeout, or even as a late night snack.
Do you use any of your family recipes?
Chef Ting Lin: Yes. Our juicy pork bao is a very traditional item made with a family recipe, and is widely enjoyed by both Asians and Americans. But we do like to get creative and make fillings that cater to American palates, such as our brisket bao and buffalo chicken bao.
What would you order to-go for a family of six, including kids and grandparents?
Chef Ting Lin: You can’t go wrong with our Family Combo! You get to mix and match eight baos, which come with two generous sides of crinkle-cut Szechuan fries with spicy mayo and a side of crispy coleslaw. Kids love our juicy pork bao and especially the egg cream bao. Grandparents always enjoy those, too. For parents, I would recommend our pan-seared bao trio: one brisket bao, one BBQ chicken bao, and one buffalo chicken bao. Our Spicy Dan Dan Noodles are also a popular choice. And don’t forget to order boba tea for everyone, of course.
Talk a little about the technology in use, and how that came about.
Alex Wu: We have developed a custom mobile ordering app, and offer innovative touchscreen technology including self-ordering kiosks and self-pickup food lockers. We rely on automated kitchen equipment to guarantee food quality and consistency. Our newest location on Burnet Road in Austin is housed within an innovative cloud kitchen space, where we provide takeout/delivery only.
Technology is a tool to help us focus on our food and customer service. As a business, tech enables us to be more efficient and forward-thinking.
Is there anything else we should know about Bao’d Up?
Alex Wu: We truly believe bao has the potential to be an exciting new food category in America, just like pizza and tacos, which began as ethnic cuisines and ended up being widely accepted. Bao’d Up’s mission is to make and serve the best bao. It’s bao time!
Cover photo courtesy Jane Kim
Julie Tereshchuk is the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Lifestyle Magazine