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Baohaus
Phototgraph: Jakob N. Layman

Hit East Village steam bun shop Baohaus permanently closes

Eddie Huang’s pork buns were one of the most popular cheap eats in NYC.

By
Bao Ong
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Chairman Bao’s reign is over.

Eddie Huang’s hit pork buns, dubbed the Chairman Bao, lured countless fans to his tiny shops downtown—he started in the Lower East Side in 2009 and eventually opened in the East Village on 14th Street—for the glistening slabs of Niman Ranch pork belly topped with Taiwanese condiments like powdered peanuts mixed with red sugar and pickled mustard greens sandwiched between. Other hits, which were perennial favorites on the best cheap eats lists across the city, included the Birdhaus Bao (fried chicken), Uncle Jesse Bao (fried tofu) and Fried Fish Bao—they were all under $6 each.

This afternoon, however, Huang posted on his Instagram that the beloved restaurant is closed for good. Here’s part of what he posted:

“We held out as long as we could, but we have decided to close. Shouts to the customers that ran in thinking we were open, it means a lot. It’s been a wild and fulfilling 10 year ride with Baohaus but Id be lying if I said “I cant believe whats happened.” I opened this restaurant to tell my family’s story through food at a time when no one was giving Asian-Americans a chance in tv, film, books, or media generally. I told people not to call me a chef because I knew this was just the jump-off and it doesn’t stop with its closing. Boogie is locked, the movie is coming and so is Chinos. We will continue to tell our story and Baohaus will be back one day…”

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A post shared by Eddie Huang (@mreddiehuang) on

While Huang distanced himself from being dubbed a chef, his restaurant developed a cult-like following at a time when New York was engaged in a war of pork buns that started with David Chang’s Momofuku empire. People kept lining up for Huang’s affordable street food-inspired porks buns, which you can now find nearly everywhere in the U.S.

But as Baohaus became more popular, Huang’s role went beyond being a chef and business owner that helped turn a humble Taiwanese staple, called gua bao, into one of the city’s most popular dishes. After all, he was a former lawyer and street-wear designer. 

“This is a dish from the night market in Taiwan since the ’50s,” he told CBS in one interview. “It really upset me. No one even knows where Taiwan is. Like, when I was growing up, people thought we were from Thailand, you know? I just wanted to put it out and say, ‘Hey, this is our dish.’”

Huang became an important voice for the Asian American community, often penning essays on issues of identity and culture. His best-selling memoir was the basis of the ABC series “Fresh Off the Boat,” which launched in 2014 and aired for six seasons.

Since the current crisis, it appears Huang has been spending time in Taiwan. Whether Baohaus returns, as he mentions in his IG post, Huang and his brother, Evan, helped bring his culture’s food into the American mainstream. A movie is forthcoming. As they noted on the restaurant’s website: “The brothers tore down everything people knew about Taiwanese-Chinese food and rebuilt it from the ground up.”

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