Kathy Paterson baos out after a Melbourne Masterclass with Hong Kong’s May Chow
Melbourne’s Tony Tan (chef, teacher and an expert on Chinese and Malaysian cuisines) describes May Chow as being “young, exciting and useful”. She’s certainly exciting. It wasn’t long before I was ready to jump on the first plane to Hong Kong to stand in that queue at Little Bao.
You can’t book a seat in her intimate, interactive, 20-seat restaurant — it’s first come, first served only. Inspired by David Chang’s Momofuku and the popularity of his steamed pork buns, May Chow opened Little Bao in 2013, making Chinese burgers using her bao recipe and her own ideas around fusion cooking — a reflection of her early years growing up in Toronto and Hong Kong. Little Bao, a Chinese/American diner, is an upbeat place to hang out, eat an adult burger and drink from the small but eclectic drinks list.
Little Bao doesn’t serve only Chinese burgers, there are shared plates, such as the very popular drunken clams, and lamb tartare.The cocktail list also caught my eye; Chris’ lemonade made with 42 Below vodka, chrysanthemum, honey and rhubarb bitters; or how about Yuzu Leaf, made with Jim Beam bourbon, yuzu, maple syrup and sea salt? There are a few beers and wines as well.
I interpreted Tony’s word “useful” as May’s stance on “the age of responsibility”. Her diner embraces “conscious spending”, a new trend also seen in Melbourne where young, energetic chefs are moving from pop-up restaurants to lease or buy their own place. In some cases they have been both the builder and painter in order to get their restaurant up and running. May also puts great emphasis on not ordering produce and products worldwide.
Disclaimer: May, I won’t be opening Little Kathy’s anytime soon, but this adaptation of your recipe is pretty tasty. I will be making them at home — A LOT!
Here's how I make my Chinese chicken burgers
2 Tbsp caster sugar
7g (1¼ tsp) dried yeast
200ml warm water or a dash more if needed
300g plain flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp good quality peanut oil, plus extra for brushing
Melted butter for brushing before char-grilling
5 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Few drops sriracha sauce, or use to your taste
1 tsp light soy sauce
¼ cup flour
2 cups dried white breadcrumbs
Oil for shallow frying
Chinese black vinegar, for brushing
Ground sichuan pepper for sprinkling
250ml white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp white sugar
1 dried chilli
1 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 star anise
Good pinch flaky salt
1 Lebanese cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into thin slices
1 fennel bulb, very finely sliced (a mandoline works well here)
½ small red onion, very finely sliced
3 egg yolks
1 tsp dijon mustard
250ml grapeseed oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
¼ green cabbage, very finely sliced
½ green chilli, finely chopped
Toss cabbage and chilli together to combine. Mix through a little citron mayonnaise to moisten. Lift the red onion out of its pickling liquid (see pickled vegetables, above) and mix through.
To assemble burgers
- Heat a chargrill until hot. Split the steamed buns in half horizontally and brush cut sides with a little melted butter. Place on the hot grill and grill until dark lines appear.
- Layer burger with mayonnaise, drained cucumber and fennel pickle, chicken and cabbage mayonnaise and red onion mix. Hold your burger together with a skewer.
- I used Culley’s sriracha, a hot sauce that is 6/10 on the heat scale. Available from speciality food stores.
- Chinese black vinegar is inky-black with a slightly fruity taste and a touch of umami. Available from Asian grocers.
- Sichuan pepper — also Szechwan or Szechuan. Native to the Sichuan province of China, this spice is aromatic with a tongue-numbing sensation. Available from Asian grocers.