PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Husband and wife Sabrina and Randy learned to make steam buns together in China and have brought their magical creations back to Portland to serve from a food cart.
For the last two years, the couple has been making about 500 Chinese steam buns a day at their food cart Bao Bao on SW 10th Avenue. They moved from across the street recently, where they were uprooted due to development.
The shop where they worked in China taught them the exact science – from dough to rolling to stuffing.
Randy said the shops like to hold competitions between workers to see who can make the most buns in a day. Randy and Sabrina like to compete against each other too, they joke.
“We have a system,” Randy says. He usually makes the dough, rolls it out, cuts it up and weighs it. He lets it rest before they roll out the squares together and stuff the buns.
Sabrina was the one to take the plunge and buy the food cart almost 3 years ago. The two met a few years ago in China when Randy was teaching English.
“She found a food cart for sale on one of her Chinese chatting apps,” Randy explains.
“I had a job I didn’t like, she didn’t like her job, we were like ‘let’s just quit our jobs and just do it.’”
For Sabrina, the cart is about bringing her culture to Portland.
“I can bring authentic Chinese food to Portland and show it to American people, and all the other people from all over the world,” she says. During the week, the lunch hour rush is office workers, but they think about 80% of their business comes from tourists.
The couple says the food cart life is fun but challenging. The cart must stay at a certain temperature to keep the dough soft, and there isn’t much room to knead and roll. They dream of expanding one day, but for now, are only worried about the current lot they are in being developed too.
“The city is definitely developing, which is good, but also it’s hard for food cart owners to run a cart if you constantly always need to be moving,” Sabrina says.