Hidden away from the hubbub of Swanston Street, this pocket-sized space is a little slice of bao heaven. With flavours inciting emotions indicative of its prefix, Wonderbao is devoted to serving up steamed buns in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
If you're lucky enough to stumble across it, you're already one step ahead of the rest of us. Those seeking it out won't have much luck using a map — ignore the A'Beckett Street address and instead wander down cobbled Literature Lane until you reach the Sriracha-lined sills of Wonderbao in all its glass-windowed glory.
Once you've made it, strap yourself in for the wonderment to come. For the traditional types, select from the Chinese-style bao in the form of barbecue pork, Chinese sausage or chicken ($2.20-$3.50), ready to go in the bamboo steamers visible from the open-plan kitchen.
The Taiwanese-inspired gua bao are our pick: taco-shaped goodies where soft, doughy buns act in place of a shell ($4.20). Fillings vary from roast pork belly with refreshing slices of cucumber, tangy pickled carrots, daikon and generous lashings of hoisin sauce to melt-in-your-mouth braised pork belly with pickled mustard, coriander and crunchy, crushed peanuts.
Vegetarians, rest assured, for the good people of Wonderbao have got you covered too; fried silky tofu gua bao ($4.20) and choi bao with shiitake mushroom, tofu and veggies ($2.20) are a delight. For the sweet tooth, a custard bao ($2) will quash your cravings and for the health-conscious, the homemade organic soya milk (hot or cold, $3) will quench your thirst for a small price.
It can get chaotic during lunchtime, so it's best to grab your bao and go. Conveniently located behind an RMIT building, hungry students privy to the Wonderbao secret populate the tiny spot on weekdays, but service is prompt. Menus are hard to access until you reach the front of the line, so avoid rush hour if you wish to peruse the limited bill of fare at your leisure.
For scholars and the salivating, this steamed bun street kitchen won't stretch the budget, just your waistline.