I wait impatiently in line, tapping my foot and hoping that I make it to the front before I die of starvation. The intoxicating scent of grilled meat and marinated vegetables filled the air, making the line seem infinitely longer than it actually is.
After what seems like forever, I make it to the front, facing one of the few Taiwanese food trucks in Seattle. “It’s Bao Time” is written across the side.
“Hi, what can I get you today?” asked the cashier with a smile.
I seriously contemplated getting everything on the menu, but settled on getting a gua bao dubbed the “Pig LeBaoski” and a beef wrap.
A gua bao is an open-faced filled steam bun, which are popular as street food in Taiwan.
I took one bite of my Pig LeBaoski. Finally, I have found a place that serves authentic Taiwanese flavors, down to the sweet and sour picked vegetables and the unique blend of savory spices used on meats.
The flavors of the braised pork belly combined with pickled greens surrounded by hoisin sauce sitting atop a soft bun immediately transported me back to the streets of Taipei, Taiwan at a night market.
Night markets are an open, but crowded, space filled with all kinds of different food vendors. Lining the streets are festival-like games and shops.
It’s Bao Time owner Sean Jen was inspired by the night market experience.
“People are waiting 45 minutes in line just to get one deep fried piece of chicken, but everyone is willing to do that because food is such a huge thing in Taiwan,” he said.
After his first time in a night market in Taiwan, Jen fell in love with the atmosphere and has tried to bring that experience overseas to Seattle through It’s Bao Time.
“The first time I went to Taiwan, my relatives brought me to night markets. You have all these people and they’re all trying all these different kinds of food from different vendors,” Jen said.
Jen believes that there’s a disconnect once you sit down at restaurants, which is why he chose a food truck to capture the night market experience.
“I’m trying to use It’s Bao Time as a way to do something that I’m passionate about, that I want people to experience,” said Jen. “I want people to try the food that I love the most.”
I agree. I have been going to night markets in Taiwan ever since I was a little kid, and have only grown to love it more and more as I grow older.
Should you be inspired to try the flavors of an authentic Taiwanese night market food locally, catch It’s Bao Time on 320 Harrison Street from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, and at 333 Boren Ave N. (by the Amazon high rises) on Mondays and Fridays.