T.P. Banh Bao 3 quietly opened on Christmas Eve. I decided to drop by right after the Christmas Weekend to bring some of the Banh Bao to work. So I grabbed Calvin and we headed off.
This is the third shop of the T.P Banh Bao family, the first opened in Houston, which is where I first heard of the place from "FOY" Xiāngjiāo. The second location opened in Garden Grove. And now we have this shop in the rather odd location on Camino Ruiz in Mira Mesa. Go figure. And no, that's not my Ferrari parked in front of the place!
There are 17 varieties of Banh Bao available. For an extra $2.50 (minimum 3 Banh Bao) you get the Banh Bao of your choice fried up. Now I've had Banh Bao, Charsiu bao, Manapua ( both the classic version and baked), Siópao, Hmong Galapao, Thai Salapao and even Samoan Keke Pua'a. Even different versions of Chinese Baozi; in the North, the dough is not sweet, the Missus's preference. I grew up eating manapua and siopao; heck, I remember the "manapua man"! But I'd never had fried banh bao.
Anyway, we got the #1, pork, sausage, and egg fried and wanted to get the Pork and salted Egg, but they were out. So we decided to just get the Regular Pork, egg, and sausage version steamed as well. Just so you know; they'll steam your banh bao to order, so it means a short - 10 minute wait, so be prepared. So steaming banh bao in tow we headed back to the office and busted it out on the back table.
This was pretty good; the exterior crunchy, the dough a bit less fluffy than I prefer, but fine. Not too sweet, the filling very moist and soft. Nice porkiness, really couldn't make out any sausage, and the banh bao signature egg yolk was rather dry. As with most Banh Bao, the filling to bread ratio sided on the meat. Frying makes this rather rich and one is enough for me. This was much better than the steamed version and folks in the office really enjoyed this.
This was on the gummy-soggy side, though the filling, like the fried version was very moist. The texture of the dough made this less pleasant to eat than the fried stuff and there were 3-4 of these still left at the end of the day.
Hoping for a better selection and going into the office on New Years eve, I stopped by to pick something up for breakfast.
I was determined to get the pork and salted egg banh bao. The young lady working was very sweet and even marked the box to let me know where each banh bao was situated in my container.
Nice touch, yeah?
Unfortunately, the pork and salted egg banh bao had suffered from some leakage. The bottom was just mush and when I removed the paper at the bottom it just all came off. The filling was a bit on the dry side; probably from all the "good stuff", the juices leaking away. This is a very "egg forward" in terms of taste and might have been quite good if not for the poor handling of the dough.
I'd take a pass on the BBQ Pork.
While the dough was nice and fluffy on this version and the meat to bread ratio quite good, you can easily see how dry this was. Also, this really lacked the nice sweet-salty-savory tones that make for a good BBQ pork filling. The texture was mealy and dry.
For some reason, I decided to try the vegetarian Banh Bao. Now this one had a greater bread to filling ratio. The textures of the filling; mushroom and so forth was fairly pleasant, but like most vegetarian baos, the overall flavor was on the bland side, to the point that the sweetness of the bread over shadowed the filling. The dough on this was nice and fluffy.
At this point I thought this enough, time to do a post. But my good friend "YummyYummy" sent me a copy of the press release on the right. Wow, talk about a mea culpa! After reading, I forwarded this to CC, who had recently also tried out TP Banh Bao. I then read Kirbie's post and decided to give them another try.
After all, I really like the woman who runs the place, she's very friendly, and the folks working for her, who seem to be a bit lost at times are also very nice.
I ended up getting three pork, salted egg yolk, and sausage Banh Bao, fried. You can tell the difference with these.
Notice how the filling is nicely centered, that golden orb had a nice concentrated "yolky" flavor....now I'm not a big fan of moon cakes; but here, combined with pork, surrounded with slightly sweet dough, with a nice crust around it....now this was good, if a bit rich for me. One was all I could handle.
I also ordered the BBQ Chicken and Taro and Pork Banh Bao as well.
I have never been a big fan of chicken in Bao and that still stands.
This was like an even blander and drier version of the BBQ Pork Banh Bao.
The Pork and Taro Banh Bao was not bad. You can tell how much better made and steamed these were compared to my previous visits.
This might be a bit too "mystery meat" in texture for some. But the taro adds heft and balances out the porkiness of the filling.
As things stand, I've had more banh bao in the last three weeks then maybe in the five or six years! I think it's time for a break from banh bao for now. My recommendation is to go with the fried versions (call ahead). I think they'll be great for groups of folks or parties....so long you eat them fairly quickly. I'm also glad that I usually try a new place a couple of times before posting. In this case it paid off. I hope they keep on improving.
T.P. Banh Bao 3
11271 Camino Ruiz
San Diego, CA 92126
Funny thing, this post had me reminiscing about the neighborhood manapua man, who used to carry two old shoyu tin cans on a bamboo pole over his shoulder, full of manapua, pepeiao, and pork hash, yelling out "peh-peh-yao...man-a-pua" walking down the street. Eventually these folks graduated to trucks.......and these days, the Manapua Man (or woman) drives a Manapua Van! Here's a really nice video....a real slice of life from "back home".