First of all, ATX friends, if you haven’t *already* tried everything on Plow Bao‘s menu, you are missing out on Joyce Ni’s blessings, and you must get there ASAP before they close this Saturday (August 20th). Attend their farewell party (details at the end of this post) & order everything!
Joyce is a dear friend to me, and while that may make me biased, I genuinely appreciate her blend of veganized traditional recipes from her Chinese grandmother, with fun fusion rotations, such as her cheeseburger shu mai last month–incredible. While it can be difficult to find a dim sum experience as a vegan (unless you’re in Taiwan), Joyce’s truck certainly scratches that itch! Each dish is made with care, and the fusion dishes are not just fusion for trendiness’ sake, but truly inspired by Joyce’s Chinese heritage and American/Texan influences. Joyce’s nourishing friendship aside, here are the top dishes I will personally pine for the most in Plow Bao’s absence. These are in no particular order–however, the bao tacos are limited to Tuesday’s, and today is the LAST bao taco Tuesday. So, get to it!
Pro tip: Plow Bao is available for ordering in person or online–if ordering online, please use their square site instead of UberEats if you want to avoid extra costs & support/tip the team!
1. PEKING “DUCK” BAO TACOS
The flavor of these is quite nostalgic to me–my Vietnamese family loves implementing Chinese 5 spice wherever we can, and my mom was always sneaking cucumber into our meals for more veggies. The refreshing cucumber cuts the savory “duck” filling in a very satisfying way.
Reminder: bao taco specials are only available on Tuesday’s! Tuesday’s are date night for me and my partner, so we have often frequented Plow Bao for their various bao taco offerings. Tonight will be the last chance to get these, so you can bet we’ll be there to celebrate/send off one of our favorite haunts!
2. CRAB RANGOONS
These are a classic favorite: creamy, savory, crunchy, and sweet & sour & spicy with the sweet chili dipping sauce. They are also a special treat for me and my boyfriend–we shared our first kiss after eating one of Joyce’s rangoons!
3. CHILI OIL WONTONS
These are a signature Sichuan street food, and perhaps my absolute favorite of Joyce’s offerings. The savory filling goes so well with the striking sauce, which includes chili oil and black rice vinegar. Topped with cilantro, scallions, (and extra spice per my request), the complexity of flavors and textures are a true delight.
4. BREAKFAST FRIED RICE
You can’t go wrong with breakfast or fried rice, so combining the two is a genius move. This is a great comfort food, and the portion is so large you really could have half for dinner and half for breakfast the next morning. Even though this is a brunch/breakfast food, it’s available to order all this week (except Tuesday)!
5. STEAMED “PORK” DUMPLINGS
This is kind of a secret item, but not really. Plow Bao’s regular menu has pan-fried dumplings, which are delicious, but I prefer to ask for them steamed if possible. This way, I can fully appreciate the filling–a savory mixture of Beyond Sausage, Napa cabbage, scallions and ginger. I love how much ginger is in these! I like ordering these for a night when I don’t feel like cooking, as they go very well with a healthy side of steamed greens (think mustard greens, gai lan, and bok choy).
6. FRENCH TOAST BAO
Only available during their weekend brunch–this is the decadent brunch sandwich of your dreams! I love the combination of sweet, savory, crunchy and fluffy. Oftentimes they will have a cayenne maple syrup to go with this, and it really pulls everything together.
7. BREAKFAST BAO
Also only available during their weekend brunch! These pillowy baos come with all the fixings of a breakfast sandwich (Just Egg, Beyond Sausage, hashbrown), and are topped with fresh scallions, sriracha ketchup & sriracha mayo. This tends to be my first go-to when ordering brunch at Plow Bao, because it’s not too heavy and is easy to share!
If you’re looking for weekend plans, Plow Bao is having a farewell party pop up this weekend, and I will be vending (noodles & Vietnamese slaw). I hope to see y’all there–come help us send off one of Austin’s favorite vegan food trucks, and pick up some goodies from other local vendors! Plow Bao, as the first fully vegan, Chinese owned & operated business in Austin, you will be dearly missed and will always hold a special place in this city’s heart. Shout to my friend Joyce for being such an inspiring & encouraging, all around BOSS!
PS: all these photos were taken by yours truly! I was lucky to be able to do some freelance photography work for Plow Bao during my period(s) of unemployment during the height of the pandemic. Being unemployed is not something I have shared much about online, but I will say that it was an extremely challenging time, and my imposter syndrome deepened as I was feeling quite lost for a while. Contributing to one of my favorite impactful businesses helped me continue to believe in my creative skills and abilities during some of the most trying times of my professional career. The Plow Bao team always made me feel so seen and welcome even though I was not a part of their daily team–honestly, my skills and personhood were acknowledged and appreciated even more than at my first big design firm job. I am forever grateful to Joyce for the support and for giving me a creative outlet outside of the traditional 9-5, even after I recently started a new design office role that I am loving! Storytelling via food photography is my first love, and Joyce helped me remember that.