A sampling of five orders of dumplings from BaoBao: Shrimp and bacon, Kung Pao chicken and peanut, Shao Mai, Bulgogi beef and pork and chive. Photo by Ray Routhier

The pandemic has made it easier to rationalize treating yourself once in a while.

This thought occurred to me the other day when my family and I got takeout from BaoBao Dumpling House in Portland. We had been there once before, for a special Mother’s Day dinner, and loved it. But we don’t go out to eat very much – not to sit-down places anyway – and hadn’t been back.

But during the pandemic, we’ve gotten takeout more, and from places other than our neighborhood pizza and sub joints. I’ve found that getting takeout from restaurants where we’d normally dine in is cheaper for my family of four, maybe because my wife and I aren’t getting drinks. Or maybe because we look for the lower-priced dishes when ordering takeout.

Fried rice with pork confit from BaoBao Dumpling House in Portland.  Photo by Ray Routhier

Either way, getting takeout dinner from BaoBao was a real treat, and not too pricey. We got five orders of dumplings – priced from $6.88 to $10.88 for each six-piece order – plus an order of fried rice for $10.88.

The amount of food was just about right, with only a dumpling or two left over. The other thing that made it a treat was that it was fun to have so many varieties of dumplings to choose from. The takeout menu lists 10 kinds, so we got to sample half of them.

My favorite was the Bulgogi Beef dumplings, which were pan-fried and had very tender beef chunks with spices. It was like eating steak in a dumpling. We also had Kung Pao chicken and peanut, which, as the name suggests, had chunks of chicken and whole peanuts and were also pan-fried.

We tried one boiled dumpling order, a shrimp and bacon, which packed a real bacon punch, flavor-wise. Another pan-fried option we tried was the pork and chive, which were stuffed with ground pork. We also tried Shao Mai, which was steamed and filled with pork and other ingredients.

Steamed Shao Mai dumplings from BaoBao in Portland. Photo by Ray Routhier

All the dumplings were full of flavor and the wrappers were all tender. The beef dumplings came with a thick, slightly spicy sauce. For the others, we just used soy sauce out of the fridge.

The fried rice was also a treat, as it featured pork confit, something I wouldn’t normally expect in fried rice. It had tiny grains of rice, plus carrots, celery, eggs and scallion.

I really liked BaoBao’s online ordering system and the very specific instructions. The site suggested you “plan ahead” if you’re thinking of placing a big order during peak hours. Since we wanted to having dumplings for dinner on a Friday night, I placed my order around noon, paid online and put in 6 p.m. for a pickup time. Then at 6 p.m., I drove up to the front door and called the number posted on a sandwich board there.

Within a minute, my order was delivered to my car and I sped home to deliver our dinnertime treat to my family.

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