The Bao Baron of Folkestone
The Bao Baron delivers the Chinese steamed buns filled with delicious options from the Harbour Arm in Folkestone. Greig Hughes is the man behind the Baron and Folkelife wanted to meet him and find out about this sensation.
“I’ve been a chef for over 16 years and there can be a lot of stress in that job. I was working in Whitstable, and the company we were buying bread off advertised for a baker. I’ve always liked baking bread, not had much luck with sourdough, but I thought it would be worth taking a punt at. As it turned out, it was the best move I made at the time. I worked in Faversham for Wild Bread for about 6 months and then a job at Dockers came up in Folkestone. It was right on my doorstep, and made perfect sense.
“Restaurant work is a bit full on. It’s great to learn the trade, but it does catch up with you. Working here at Dockers has been really good to get me back on track.”
street food on the harbour arm
“I’d been thinking about doing a supper club for a while, but it had taken me months to think of the right menu. When you’re a chef, it’s great to cook for friends and family, but sometimes the prices can be a bit exclusive. I wouldn’t want to create something that my friends could only afford to come to once. I spoke to the Harbour Arm team who suggested I use The Waiting Room as a location to cook and serve the club. When COVID kicked in, it made more sense to offer a take away option, and I’d been planning on having Bao Buns on my supper club menu. Funnily enough, it took me only an hour or two to get a menu of fillings for the Bao buns, and this seemed the way to go.”
“A Bao bun is a steamed dough that is really the vehicle for delicious fillings. It’s a yeasted dough that is slightly sweet. The Chinese don’t view bread in the way we do. It’s there to carry the flavours of the fillings. The buns come in all shapes and sizes but I make the folded ones. It’s a hand held sandwich with either a meat or vegan filling. I always have two choices of each.
“As for the fillings, well, I’m a bit fickle! I like to change things around to keep me on my toes! It’s also important to reflect the seasons too. Currently I’m serving a Pork Rendang – Indonesian flavours with slow-cooked pork; a smoked beef filling; a peppered broccoli one and a miso aubergine Bao. They all come with their own garnishes. The classic Bao would be the Gua Bao which is pork belly with some fermented greens on there and some toasted nuts thrown over.”
selling like hot cakes
“The first weekend I made 160 buns and sold out within two hours. The next weekend was much the same. I did an industry night on a Tuesday evening for people in the hospitality industry who couldn’t come out at the weekend. Again, sold out! That was good though because Lee from The Beer Shop came along. They’d run a pop up evening with Gianni from Pick Up Pintxos and were open to having me come along one night. That was a great evening as I could prepare and serve my Bao in front of the customer. It’s always good, when you’re a chef, to get customer feedback. When they’re eating it in front of you, it’s the best way!
“Over the winter of 2020 I had a residency at Home, on Tontine Street, which worked really well for take aways during the lockdown times then. We’ve discovered some of our signature dishes which will stay on the menu. The Korean Chicken, or Cauliflower is one, and the Katsu Curry always goes down well, so that’s staying too.
“The plan was always to go back to the Harbour Arm and it’s really great to be welcomed back with open arms. The community here is brilliant, the sea views, the support…it’s just a great location t be. We’ll be running out of one of the huts in the Goods Yard which means we can still do collections, but also people can sit outside and enjoy their meals too.”
“We’ve been working on Chinese spicy potatoes, which is an Asian version of loaded fries. My recipe uses potatoes cooked 3 ways and then covered in various spices. The feedback on those is really good! I change the bowls seasonally so they reflect what’s available at different times of the year.
“I love being one of the traders on the Harbour Arm, there’s no other way to describe it than it being just bloody lovely there! I’ve lived in Folkestone for most of my life. I’ve seen what it used to be, and now what it’s become. Its growth is really interesting, and promising. The community is great; if you need to borrow something you just pop next door and everyone’s really supportive. You’d have to travel quite far to find anything similar. It’s a real community, it’s a hub, and it just keeps growing.”
Photo credit: Daisy Wootton Photography