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Two NYC restaurants have combined bao and bagels to make a glorious new sandwich

Two NYC restaurants have combined bao and bagels to make a glorious new sandwich
Photograph: Rebecca Fontana

Among Chinese and Jewish New Yorkers, the bao and the bagel, respectively, are sacred staples, vaunted for both their inclusion into mainstream diets and their retention of cultural distinctiveness. Now, ever-changing, ever-new, ever-blasphemous New York has debuted the baogel, a Cronut-style crossover that can be described in Cantonese, Hebrew, Mandarin, or Yiddish in one word: “sacrilicious.” The baogel is our immigrant ancestors’ wildest dreams made real. It’s why people came not just to America but to New York, to be transformed by life on the other side of the world’s crossroads.

Available starting tomorrow as a collaboration between Black Seed and Nom Wah Kuai, it goes for $8.50 through the month of November at Black Seed’s locations in Brookfield Place, East Village and Nolita, as well as Nom Wah Kuai’s Canal Street Market spot.

Time Out received an early batch today of its lone variety: a sesame seed-covered, sweet pork-filled fist-sized ball (although more varieties may be on the way). We toasted some—our toaster has a bagel setting! who knew?—and chowed down with anticipation and trepidation. 

“There were so many ways this could’ve gone wrong,” said Jesse Chan-Norris, the Upper West Side-born son of a Jewish father and Chinese mother (who met when they lived in the same Upper West Side apartment building) and our on-call expert on this pressing matter. “But it’s amazing. This is so delicious it’s kinda ridiculous.”

We were worried that the bagel would be too heavy and overwhelming (it isn’t; it’s so light you hardly notice you’re eating a bagel, although it’s certainly not merely a sesame bao). We were worried about a jelly doughnut problem where the filling kept spilling out (it was almost defiantly well-behaved). We were worried because, dammit, we sorta loved just the idea of this baogel and worrying is just our love language.

In the end, ironically, Chan-Norris’ only concern was that this baogel doesn’t go to 11. “It feels cautious,” he said. “It’s not fully realizing itself. It could much more fully embrace being a bagel without losing the experience. I’d love an everything version of this.”

Is this peak New York? The caught-between-worlds newcomer so nervous to pay homage to its muddled heritage that it tastes, at times, like the physical manifestation of try-hard anxiety? Yes! And good! The world needs more try-hard anxiety! This palimpsest paradise needs more muddling!

“I love that it’s not particularly precious,” said Chan-Norris. “Ultimately, it’s very utilitarian in a good way: the bagel doughiness and crispiness holds it together really well, but the flavor is all pork even though it’s hidden. It’d be the perfect walk-down-the-street breakfast.”

TL;DR: You made your parents proud, li’l baogel. We know that’s all you really wanted to hear. We’d be happy to write you a letter of recommendation to Harvard.

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