A few years ago when the food truck obsession hit in this area in full force, there were only a handful of trucks you could find here in the South Bay. Most of the trucks that were getting notoriety, were those that were found up in San Francisco. One of the more popular ones I constantly heard about was the Chairman Bao truck. Supposedly inspired by the street food of Asia, the Chaiman Bao food truck was reported to serve food that was "bold, spicy, unique, fast and delicious".
Controversy aside*, and a big fan of pork buns, the Chairman Bao truck quickly went to the top of my list of trucks to try. Alas, it doesn't come down to the San Jose area often. The last time the truck was down this way at I time I could get to it, I waited in line almost an hour before bailing and getting something else to eat (you can read about that here). But the Chairman Bao truck has stayed on my radar with me hoping to eventually give it a try.
A month or so ago, while returning from a morning event in Mt. View, Mr. L and I started discussing the subject of lunch. I remembered that there was going to be a food truck gathering somewhere in San Jose that day (Moveable Feast), and after a quick check on Twitter, I found out that Movable Feast was going to be near Garden City which was on our way home (well, not directly, but not so far out of our way).
Imagine my surprise and delight when we parked and found that one of the trucks there that day was the Chairman Bao truck! Imagine my horror when I realized that though the other four trucks were open and serving customers, the Chairman Bao truck was still not open for business! Yikes, visions of another long wait flashed through my mind. So Mr. L and I went and got some food from a few of the other trucks before heading to the Bao truck to wait in line.
And yes good things come to those who wait.
The Bao truck serves two types of "buns:
The "Baked Bun" is a "light and fluffy hamburger-sized bun with a lightly sweet golden-brown crust and soft center, overflowing with unique fillings - perfect for a meal".
The "Steamed Bun" is a "smaller taco-sized fluffy, white, clamshell-shaped bun with a slightly sweet flavor and doughy texture - perfect for a snack or get 3-4 for a meal"
Since we'd just had food from several different trucks (all not bad by the way), we decided we needed to stick to the snack buns so we ordered our buns steamed.
The fillings offered that day were:
Muscovy Duck Confit with green papaya, pickled red onion and mint for $4.50 (steamed only)... (I understand Duck isn't always on the menu).
Tender Pork Belly with Pickled Daikon (steamed $3.25, Baked $6.00)
Braised Pork with Savoy Cabbage and Preserved Mustard Seeds (steamed $3.25, Baked $6.00)
They also had some chicken and tofu options but HELLO it's me, you think I'd get past ordering anything but the pork? So we ordered one duck (since duck is a favorite of Mr. L's), one braised pork and two pork belly.
Now mind you, I'd been waiting to try these for a while. And I'd basically already eaten lunch,which made these buns more, er, after lunch? I shouldn't have worried. The pork buns were actually quite tasty. The meat was tender and flavorful though a bit much on an already full stomach. We preferred the pork belly over the braised pork...more a taste and texture thing I think. The veggies (pickled daikon and cabbage) went nicely with their respective porks. I probably won't order the braised pork again though as other pork offerings from other trucks seemed better. I'd definitely order the pork belly again because, well, it's pork belly!
But the true star of Chairman Bao? The Muscovy Duck Confit Buns. Moist, tender, tasty. You know when Mr. L and I wish we had chosen the duck over anything made of pork that it has to be good. It just all seemed to work together, the favor, the texture, the toppings. We would definitely order the duck buns again though I'm not sure they offer them on a regular basis.
Will I go out of my way to eat at The Chairman Bao truck again? Probably not. But if I happen to stop by one of the food truck get togethers that I frequent every now and then, and the Chairman Bao truck happens to be there, I'll definitely get in line for that truck first and get me some duck and pork belly steamed buns!
*There seems to be some discussion on the legality of this truck using the "Chairman Bao" name. I believe since our visit, the truck is now just named "The Chairman".
Note: It looks like prices have gone up at least 25 cents per item.