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Bao Mama

Bao Mama is what happens when a family decides to turn their passion into a business. This tiny takeout spot serves handmade baos inspired by Filipino culture and North American street food.

Co-owner Niña Galarde is a Red Seal-certified chef from Alberta with more than a decade’s worth of catering experience. Her cousin, Elizabeth Javier, is an accomplished office manager and the company's CEO.

Both women are mothers, whose family has shaped their approach to business as well as cooking.

bao mamaAs a result, a smiling woman in a chef’s hat was chosen to represent their brand. (Kitchen manager Anthony jokes that the resemblance between Niña and the mascot is uncanny.)

Bao Mama's ghost kitchen, located in the Evergold Centre on Midland Avenue, had its grand opening in September 2023.

The restaurant was previously situated at the intersection of Brimley and Sheppard, but was forced to close after a fire ravaged the plaza in April.

Though this setback came as a shock to both customers and staff, the team has managed to bounce back: in addition to their ghost kitchen, Bao Mama has a food truck, a pop-up in the Food District and a spot in Scarborough General Hospital's cafeteria.

bao mamaNiña tells us that the restaurant's status as a ghost kitchen has made it difficult to attract new customers, with walk-ins having become a thing of the past.

Nevertheless, Bao Mama has a legion of loyal fans, many of whom are more than happy to recommend it to their friends.

Anthony recalls seeing an elderly woman call her grandchildren in the middle of a meal, raving about the food.bao mama

Though the small space is somewhat limiting, Niña refuses to compromise on quality. According to Anthony, ninety percent of the food is made on site, with fresh baos being rolled daily.

bao mamaBao Mama's menu takes inspiration from many different sources. Though Filipino home cooking is still its main influence, it draws from Mexican and American cuisine as well.

"It's a friendlier way to introduce people to Filipino food," says Niña.

Each bao comes topped with crunchy coleslaw and chopped scallions, giving the menu a uniform feel while still leaving room for variation.

bao mamaThe OGC ($6.95) was a staple of the original Brimley restaurant and remains one of the ghost kitchen's most popular items.

With the contrasting textures of the crispy chicken and fluffy bao, it's no shock as to why.bao mamaTriple B ($8.95), short for Braised Beef Brisket, is love at first bite, thanks to a winning combination of tender beef and crispy fried onions.bao mamaHip Hipon ($6.95) combines battered shrimp with Bao Mama's secret sauce, enhancing the shrimp’s natural sweetness. bao mamaPNoy Boy ($7.95) is a barbeque pork bao with a distinctly Filipino flavour. The meat is sweet, salty and practically melts in your mouth.bao mamaMe-So-Veg ($6.95) is made with deep fried mushrooms and tofu. Though this dish is entirely vegetarian, it's just as filling as its meaty counterparts.bao mamaSinigang Fries ($4.95) are inspired by a traditional Filipino stew of the same name.

The fries themselves, though well-seasoned, are nothing out of the ordinary.

The tamarind and banana mayo, on the other hand, is a unique and flavorful condiment that brings the dish to a new level.

bao mamaIndulge your sweet tooth with a cup of creamy Sago ($9.95).

This drink is thick, milky and filled with squishy jellies, making it feel a little like a cross between a milkshake and a boba tea. Flavour options include mango, lychee and buko pandan.

Imported Filipino drinks, such as Cool Taste juice boxes, are also available.

bao mama

Bao Mama is located at 3833 Midland Ave, Unit 6.

Photos by

Fareen Karim

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