Date night. Woky Ko. Oh, and the ‘Beast from the East’ too. Even that didn’t stop us from trekking through a snow-swept Bristol to the mecca of bao buns. We’d simply been waiting too long to try it.
Faces raw from the cold, the door was slid open for us as we approached. A golden level of service already. Having sat down and reeling off our order (I’m one of those people that loves looking at menus online), which was around half the menu, we were seriously impressed with our waiter who didn’t have to jot a word down.
Barely a wait and the glorious dishes began to arrive. A quick word of thanks here too, to the girlfriend for accepting my incessant photo taking of our meals and not even batting an eyelid at the click of my lens cap and the snap of my camera.
The dishes in Woky Ko arrive when they’re ready, perfect as far as I’m concerned. First to arrive was the salt and pepper squid, a firm favourite, a lemon aioli served alongside and on a bed of red chillies. On these though I urge caution. I thought I was a bit of a chilli head until several seconds after tasting one I entered a personal meltdown. The squid was superb, tender whilst the batter was crunchy, light and heavily peppered- just how it should be. The lemon aioli cut through the flavours providing balance and a counter texture too. I scraped every last ounce out of the pot with the final piece of squid. Not a drop wasted.
Second was the seabass tartare. Easily the most unphotogenic dish but that doesn’t matter. It was a unique experience in texture but an excellent fresh, crisp flavour with a hefty punch of zingy lime paired with a sweetness from the caramelised daikon. A dish for the more adventurous or sushi lovers of your group.
Next to arrive was the main event. Bao buns. Starting, I tucked into the crispy duck bao with sweet and barbecue-esque Peking sauce dripping down my chin. Bolstered, by the crunchy and acidic pickled vegetables. A hand to mop the runaway sauce and my eyes widened with excitement, this good and it was only the first one.
This was quickly followed up with the braised pork bao. Pork cooked so slowly that it was so tender one could almost inhale it without the need to chew. Coated in crushed peanuts, they replaced a textural element missing with no crackling. I ate it so quickly I am still genuinely surprised that I didn’t gnaw on my fingers. Food had once again caused me to have an outer-body experience. All that kept me tethered was the sticky hoi-sin sauce.
On to the third bao- the Koran Fried Chicken (get it?) Fried chicken covered in a chilli sauce. The chicken was good, firm with flavour and an excellent crumb. But for me there was too much hot sauce and I was reaching for my drink a little too frequently.
The fourth bao soothed any heat left in my mouth with the rich sauce of the ox cheek bao. The meat was as soft as the bun and fell apart with no effort on chewing and a warm earthiness from this bao was a welcome gift on the palette. The pepper from the daikon provided the dish with a slight uplift and allowed one to separate the flavours. I think it was my favourite… I ordered another anyway.
To cap all of this off. The famous salted caramel bao. And it was glorious. A sizeable scoop of ice cream doused in salted caramel sauce running down over the ice cream and the glazed bao. It was a feast for the eyes as much for my stomach. Sweetness balanced by a hint of salt and the doughnut like texture of the bao. The time in which I devoured this in was measured in mere seconds.
I look at this post and the 667 words before it and it’s still not enough to convey my love of Woky Ko. But they are all so well deserved. I can’t wait to go again.