9Goubuli opens its first international outlet at Marina Bay Sands after a 157-year history
Whether it’s in San Francisco’s Chinatown or a town in China, the bao is a Chinese cultural classic and people can rely on its consistency
Indeed, it is very rare to find any particular bao which stands out. That’s why when 9Goubuli invited me to taste its baozi (Chinese steamed buns), I jumped at the chance.
[dropcap]9[/dropcap]Goubuli is one of those unique restaurants with a fascinating heritage and Singapore is quite fortunate to be home to its first international outlet, after 157 years.
If you love baozi like I do, here are some reasons you should try the bao at 9Goubuli at Marina Bay Sands.
1) The baozi recipes date back to 1858
When I was in Japan, it seemed that every establishment, from sake brewer to sandal maker, had been there for centuries. So it’s quite rare to experience something “ancient” from China that wasn’t replicated in the past 20 years.
The baozi recipe from 9Goubuli is different, and it is over 150 years old. And they’ve been making it since the first establishment in Tianjin, China, was founded.
2) 9Goubuli has its own “origins” story
Everyone loves a story, and 9Goubuli has its own tale. In Chinese “Gou-bu-li”, the restaurant’s namesake literally translates into “dog-doesn’t-bother”. Apparently, the Chef and owner’s last name was “Gou”, or “dog” in Chinese.
His baozi business was so brisk and he was so engrossed in making the steamed buns that when patrons called him he didn’t even bother to respond. Soon the establishment was called “Gou-bu-li”, meaning “Dog-doesn’t-bother” in English.
Was it arrogance or dedication? Either way, his baozi were so good that the name became a quirky form of admiration.
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3) It has received royal endorsement
And admired they were! The reputation of his baozi went beyond Tianjin. Even the Empress Dowager Cixi in neighbouring Beijing was impressed by it, and gave it a royal endorsement. I guess that beats a Michelin-star rating!
4) 7th Generation Baozi Master, no less
A native of Tianjin, Chef Wang (left) is a 7th generation baozi master and has been with Goubuli in China for almost 30 years. The responsibility of teaching the craft of making Goubuli baozi, across 30 restaurants in China, is in her hands. All apprentices need to spend three years to master the craft.
Currently, she is part of the Executive Chef team in Goubuli Singapore and uses her expertise to bring the 157-year-old recipe to life, here at Marina Bay Sands.
5) 9Goubuli uses half-leavened dough for its baozi
Conventional baos use completely leavened dough to achieve a thickly-padded, consistently fluffy, soft layer of dough. 9Goubuli’s signature baos are half leavened, so the dough layer is thinner, with a firmer middle layer, which gives it more “bite” resistance. The effect is similar to al-dente texture in spaghetti.
6) It’s capped with an 18-fold Chrysanthemum Crown
Aside from the signature dough, 9Goubuli is also particular about the bao’s crown. It must be finished with 18 folds!
7) It comes with different fillings
The original Pork Baozi recipe calls for pork and onions with 9Goubuli’s secret spices. The filling was very moist and tender.
The combination of the pork and onion tastes was very strong and distinctive. Overall, the bao was quite tasty.
The Vegetable Baozi, made with tofu, spring onions, glass noodles, and egg slices, was very light and delicate. A Pork and Vegetable Baozi version is available as well.
For the Singapore restaurant, Chef Wang created a special Wagyu Beef and Vegetable Baozi. The filling was nicely balanced and tasty but it was very hard to discern the Wagyu with the savoury beef sauce that it was in.
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8) It is quite affordable!
I was thinking, branded food, endorsed by an Empress, and having to pay rent at Marina Bay Sands, this must be expensive.
It’s not. Prices start at $1.90 per bao for the vegetable filling, $2.20 for the classic pork filling and $3.50 for the Wagyu. It’s surprisingly affordable!
9) 99Goubuli serves many other specialties as well
Even though I spent quite a bit of time talking about the baos, 9Goubuli has a team of master chefs preparing Sichuan, Cantonese, and northern Chinese cuisine in its extensive menu. Some of the memorable dishes include the Braised Duck’s Tongue ($14), Braised Lobster in Superior Soup with Handmade Noodles (seasonal prices), and its Teapot Soup filled with Chicken and Mushroom ($12).
Of course, there is also an extensive list of classic northern Chinese dishes such as Xiao Long Bao ($4.50/3pcs), Shanghainese Wontons in Red Oil Vinegar ($6.50), Chilled Salted Duck ($10), etc. But the baos remain its greatest attraction, even after 150 years.
By Frank Young
9Goubuli, The Shoppes At Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Ave, #B2-02, Singapore 018956, Tel: 6688 7799