Asian, European and mash-up versions grab the spotlight
From Asia. Bao, one of many varieties of Chinese dumplings and buns, are on a growth curve, with Datassential reporting that their presence on menus has grown 54 percent over the past four years. Made from dough similar to bread dough, bao are steamed to a fluffy finish, and they don’t need Pixar to convince chefs of their appeal. Flying Squirrel, which kicked off the bar scene on Chattanooga, Tenn.’s sizzling Southside, promotes sharable crispy pork bao buns with Napa cabbage, pickled slaw and sesame aïoli. Chicago’s 10-unit Wow Bao uses its namesake in a range of sweet and savory items, including four varieties of breakfast bao like the spicy sausage and egg bao with Szechuan sausage and chile paste. Other Chinese dumpling styles have long been popular on mainstream menus, as with pan-seared pot stickers made with pork and served with Szechuan dipping sauce at TGI Friday’s, or chicken pot stickers with soy-ginger sesame sauce at The Cheesecake Factory. The latter chain also features chicken samosas, a baked or fried Indian cousin to dumplings. In The Cheesecake Factory’s version the crispy wrappers are filled with spiced chicken and served with cilantro dipping sauce.