Among my favorite occasional haunts is Fat Bao, one of the first restaurants outside of Chinatown to introduce Houstonians to the wonderful world of gua bao, or Chinese steamed bun sandwiches. Luckily for me, I was relieved to find the Kirby location is still open and taking to-go orders over the phone (the Sugar Land location appears to be temporarily closed).
I used to frequent the Sugar Land outpost while working nearby, but it had been well over a year since my last visit. Per instructions in the company's recent Instagram posts, I called ahead to order and was told to come in, where my order would be placed a safe distance from the register and my transaction could be completed under extra precautions. While the ease and safety of online ordering and curbside pick up at other restaurants has been a comfort, I was relieved, at least, to find the employee at the register wore gloves and stepped back a safe distance to allow me to complete the transaction on the touch-screen (I was assured that the screen gets sanitized after each customer).
I had forgotten how spicy the Memphis is. It's Asian slaw with spicy mayo are no joke, out-matching the savory braised pork belly. For a spice lover it is perhaps a flagship order. For my admittedly weaker constitution, I prefer the gentle sweetness of the classic Pork Belly — its cucumbers and hoisin sauce paired so well against the salty pork.
The Big Byrd, which I saved for last, was a slice of pure nostalgia. A throwback to a time before pandemics, before food writing even, when Fat Bao was just a place I'd get lunch at a few times a month. As in those days, I was left wanting more, wishing I'd ordered another for later. Few meals can leave you craving them the moment they're gone. That feeling, more than any flowery arrangement of words or thorough high brow analysis, is the baseline standard for good food. In the midst of this terrible and frightening pandemic, it is a feeling I desperately needed.