East meets West in 'baozza', China's latest food start-up

Pizza with a twist at China's latest food startup.VIDEO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - What do you get when you combine two popular foods from China and Italy? The answer is a "baozza".

The idea to take a Chinese steamed bun - known as a baozi - and stuff it with cheese, tomato and other pizza toppings, came to American consultant Alex Cree during a trip with clients in southern China. "We were talking about the idea of maybe combining bao with more traditional American flavours like burger and different things and somebody said 'pizza baozi'," Cree said. "I said 'bao-zza!' and the more I thought about it, the more I thought there might be something to this," he told Reuters Television.

Cree experimented with recipes when he returned to the United States. He later quit his job and moved to China in 2016 to set up shop in the basement of a Beijing shopping mall.

Baozza come in four flavours - Margherita, Meat Lover, BBQ Chicken, and Hawaiian Jalapeno. The price for two buns is 20 yuan (S$4.05).

Owen Zheng, who sampled a baozza during a recent publicity event in the Chinese capital, said he liked the combination of spices and chewy cheese. "It's the first time I've ever had a baozi like this and I think it's not bad," he said.

Vendors of traditional steamed buns - filled with pork and onions, fried liver or vegetables - were not convinced. "I don't think it's going to become very popular in China,"said baozi shop owner Zhan Mimi.