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Cheap Eats: Suzy Siu's Baos

The latest food stall to open at Krog Street Market serves fluffy buns packed with local ingredients

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Pull up to the cheery counter at Suzy Siu's Baos, all retro-sleek subway tiles and sunshine yellow accents, and you’re met with a helpful pronunciation pictorial: think Lil Bow Wow, not Scott Baio. The newest addition to Krog Street Market brings a quick and affordable lunch option in the form of baos, little sandwiches served on fluffy steamed yeast buns known as mantou.

Legend says mantou originated in ancient China, with a famed military strategist who tricked his enemies by floating the buns down a river in place of human heads he was meant to sacrifice. Suzy Siu’s takes cues from the Taiwanese varietal, gua bao, a traditional street sammie filled with sliced pork belly.

Owners Michael Lo and George Yu first introduced gua bao back in 2014 at their Decatur restaurant Makan (recently rebranded as Taiyo Ramen). In their version, crisp slices of Riverview Farms pork belly come topped with pecan sugar, pickled red onions, and cilantro. “We think of it as the great Asian sandwich,” says Lo, who believes baos can be “a great vehicle for anything delicious.”

In addition to the pork belly, Suzy Siu’s offers five new baos ($4-4.50 each, with discounts on multiples) packed with untraditional local ingredients Yu says will change with the seasons. There are hits and misses. The Korean fried chicken's "spicy sauce" with fermented bean paste is a bit overwhelming and the fried fish filet lacks flavor, but our table loved the Korean BBQ beef, made of luscious ganjang-marinated short rib brisket with lettuce and scallions. Vegetarian-friendly options include roasted cauliflower or fried green tomatoes with pickled carrots and creamy shiso remoulade.

Sides are just $2 each and include roasted Korean street corn with gochujang butter, kimchi fritters, and sweet potato salad. Worth the calories: Yu’s famous shrimp and pork stuffed spicy wontons ($5), served in a decadent pool of roasted garlic chili oil that you can sop up with your baos if so inclined (we were).

“The biggest factor that inspires our menu is definitely the availability of ingredients … based on what our farmers, ranchers, and fishmongers are telling us is best,” says Lo. “That’s a big departure from the current state of mass Asian food in America, where you can find the same menu at thousands of Chinese, Thai, or Japanese restaurants across the U.S. year-round.”

Suzy Siu's Baos. Krog Street Market, 99 Krog St. N.E. 404-996-6504. www.facebook.com/suzysiusbaos