“Dear child has many names” is a Swedish saying that fits perfectly for Gua bao. Also known as Hirata bun in English it can be called 割包, 刈包 or 掛包 in Chinese. My favourite though is 虎咬豬, simply translating into ‘tiger eats pig’ because of the shape of the bun (often) with pork as filling.
This Taiwanese dish entered the London food scene not too long ago and to my understanding been quite well received. I have only tried it once before in London at Yum Bun which is more of a take away place with a few seats by the windows. This weekend I decided to give Flesh & Buns a go with a friend. It’s founded by the same people as the ramen joint Bone Daddies. Bone Daddies is probably my favourite place for ramen so I was looking forward to their interpretation of gua bao.
There are no windows in this restaurant because it’s located in the basement so I felt a bit boxed in in the dining room. The food kept me distracted most of the time so it wasn’t too bad.
First off was a Ceviche of mixed seafood. It was mainly salmon and small crayfish mixed with crunchy greens and corn. It was a refreshing dish but I found it a bit too peppery.
The second starter we ordered was the fried squid which usually can’t go too wrong. This one was well cooked. It had a very light batter and wasn’t too crunchy (hard) or over-fried so the cooking was perfect. Flavouring was good except for being a bit too salty. This was even more noticeable after a few pieces.
The meal got a wobbly start but there was still hope since the main, gua bao is what this restaurant is known for. We ordered the crispy pork belly which I think is the classic filling. The pork was juicy, well marinated and had paper thin crispy skin. The buns were fluffy and light. I really liked that the apple was thinly sliced matching the thin skin of the pork. Some of the salad leaves were a bit chunky though, which overshadows the thin crispy skin. In general I loved this dish. Each component was well prepared and worked well together. It more than made up for the shortcomings in the starters.
This restaurant is simple in set up with quick service. The starters, at least the ones we tried, had unbalanced flavouring. Although the one thing you come here to eat, the “flesh and bun”, was pure pleasure. However it’s good to have someone to share it with unless you have a big appetite. We saw the tables around us get desserts on after another but we were simply too full to try although the marshmallow over fire (S’more) looked very tempting. This is a place I will definitely come back to as long as the star in the menu stay the same. I might skip starters and have more of the gua bao instead!
For more photos from Flesh & Buns, please visit my Flickr set.
Flesh & Buns
41 Earlham St
London WC2H 9LX
Tel. +44 (0)20 7632 9500