Swap Tortillas With Bao Buns For Next Level Birria Tacos

Saucy birria tacos have become a food phenomenon in America in recent years. Created in Tijuana by a man from Coatzingo, Mexico in the 1950s, they are traditionally served in corn tortillas — delicious and sturdy coverings for the tender, slow-cooked goat or beef, which is further moistened by a generous dunk into a flavorful consommé. For the adventurous foodie or any curious bystander, you can get a totally unique but equally scrumptious flavor experience by making birria tacos in bao buns instead of tortillas.

Bao buns are a slightly sweet, chewy, and pillow-soft type of steamed dough that are most commonly associated with Chinese cuisine. They are usually filled with pork, but most types of meat will work in these light-as-air buns, including succulent birria that is flavored with chiles, spices, and aromatics. You can garnish birria-filled buns with everything that would go on a traditional taco, like cheese, consommé, cilantro, chiles, avocado, and lime juice. The sweet chewiness of the bun is unexpected but, nevertheless, the contrasting flavors and textures are deliciously satisfying.

Fusion cuisine at its best

Birria tacos on bao buns are undoubtedly fusion food, or the melding of two types of cuisines into one dish. This concept has been going on for thousands of years, ever since people started exploring outside of their homelands and coming into contact with different cultures and ingredients, but it's widely believed that Wolfgang Puck created a modern fusion movement when he began serving things like smoked salmon pizza and Chinois chicken salad at his eateries in the 1980s and 90s.

Tacos themselves have morphed from a purely Mexican food filled with traditional meats like barbacoa, asada, and carnitas to being the vehicle for things like buffalo chicken tacos, Asian-inspired tacos heavy on hoisin and pickled veggies, sushi tacos with seaweed or rice shells, and even Choco Tacos. What really sets bao-wrapped birria tacos apart from these are the pillowy buns that are not only completely different from corn tortilla shells but softer flour ones as well. However, if you want a little crunch on your bao shell, you can sear your bao buns to get a beautiful caramelized surface. Drizzle the whole thing with consommé or dip the bun into a bowl of it to watch that soft bao soak up those delicious juices.

You can swap more than tortillas with bao buns

Bao buns aren't just good as tortilla alternatives. The sweet, chewy, bread-like texture makes them fun for experimenting in the kitchen. When it comes to stuffing them, the food world is your oyster; try some crispy chicken with a tangy slaw and bread and butter pickles. Keep some handy for your Thanksgiving leftovers and fill them with turkey, cranberry, and stuffing, then dip them in gravy; create a delicious and simple dessert by stuffing the sweet buns with ripe strawberries and a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream.

You can flatten bao buns and sear one side to make a "crust" for mini pizzas, swap your normal bread for the tender buns when you eat soup, make them into mini sandwiches like tiny, melty Cuban sandwiches with ham, pork, Swiss cheese, and pickles, or eat the buns with all sorts of dips. Indeed, whether it's taco night, burger night, or pizza night, bao buns can have a place in many more meals than you might realize.