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Red Bean Buns

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Red Bean Buns

I've been on a serious Chinese culture bender for the past month or two, watching a ton of HK movies (Shaw Brothers, Ti Lung/David Chiang, Stephen Chow) and hitting the Chinese market every day for lunch.

I'm halfway through reading Outlaws of the Marsh, a classic Chinese novel. One of the characters in there, Wu the Elder, is a steamed bun peddler. Ever since reading the chapter with him I've been dying for steamed buns, and what with the Chinese lunar new year almost upon us, I thought it was a good time to try making them.

I used Bernard Clayton's dough recipe. The same dough can be used for savory pork buns too (Char Siu Bao).

Red Bean Buns (Dousha Bao)
Makes 1 dozen buns

Dough:
3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon butter, margarine, or shortening
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Filling:
red bean paste

Combine the ingredients and mix well. The dough needs to be somewhat supple for streching and shaping, so add a little extra water if necessary (I added a couple of extra tablespoons).

Knead by hand for approximately 10-12 minutes or by machine for 5-7 minutes. Set aside in a covered bowl and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

red bean buns

Divide the dough into a dozen pieces form each into a ball. If you are going to fill them, as I did, let them rest for 5 minutes or so before flattening them to fill them.

red bean buns

Once they are shaped, let rest for 10 minutes. During this time, bring the water in your steamer to a boil.

Red bean paste can be made from scratch by cooking and sweetening azuki beans. I was pleased to find canned red bean paste at the local Chinese market.

I love this stuff.  I could eat it right out of the can!

To fill, flatten the balls of dough into circles and place a tablespoon of filling on top.

red bean buns

Close them up and either reroll them seam side down for a smooth bun or pinch them to the top if you want them to tear open on top. I personally prefer the torn look.

red bean buns

Place each ball of dough on a small piece of parchment or wax paper and place in the steamer. Cover and steam for approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm.

red bean buns

Here are a couple of the plain buns.

red bean buns

And the red bean buns.

red bean buns

red bean buns

Considering that this was my first time making them, I'm extremely pleased with the results. If you actually *know* something about making steamed buns, please share some tips!

Comments

Kate's picture
Kate

Steamed buns... I think I'll have to try those tonight, they look so good. Thanks for the recipe!

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Floyd - those look great, what a good idea to make them yourself.

I've never tried anything like this myself, but at a favorite restaurant of mine in NYC's Chinatown, they serve a delicious steamed dumpling that somehow has hot broth sealed up inside of it, plus a little meatball. We've been trying to figure out how they do that! My guess is that they freeze the broth with the meatball inside in something like an ice-cube tray, then place each cube inside the dough like you did with the red bean paste and take it from there.

merrybaker's picture
merrybaker

I love red bean buns, and those look very tempting!  You can also steam them with the seam-side down for a nice, smooth round look.  Sprinkle a few black sesame seeds on the top before steaming, or, after steaming, dip a chopstick in red food coloring and dot it on top.  Pretty!  

grepstar's picture
grepstar

Floyd, those look delicious.

 

I made some savory steamed buns last year for a party and found out a few things:

1) My filling was a little wet and made it challenging to seal the buns. I think maybe a wet filling is tough to work with. mountaindog's suggestion of freezing the filling might be the trick.

2) I didn't use parchment paper underneath the buns and they stuck like crazy to the steamer. That was a bad idea.

3) I like steamed buns a lot.

 

Of course, I haven't made them since then, but I'll root around for the recipe I used. It may have been from the foodtv.com site. 

Kate's picture
Kate

Okay, I couldn't wait until dinner to make these, so I made them for lunch. =) They are so yummy and so easy! I also didn't have anything proper to put inside them so I made most of them plain and put some frozen meatballs in one to try out - so good! And my two year old loved them, too. I think he ate two whole buns! I set aside a third of the dough to rise in the fridge so we can eat them with dinner. That should probably work, right? I was figuring I'd take the dough out an hour before dinner, let them sit for 45 minutes then steam them.

Thanks for the recipe, Floyd! 

Kate 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Yeah, my two year old loved them too. She was happy with the plain ones until she tried the red bean paste, then all she wanted was the filling. I had to give her an extra spoonful of the filling to dip the remaining bun in.

I'd think refrigerating the dough and baking them later would work fine, but I've never tried it. Let us know how it works out.

herbivora's picture
herbivora

your buns look awesome and super yummy!

interesting that someone posted about steamed buns! im actually thinking of doing one, however, am toying with the idea of using white whole wheat to make it more nutritious... i just don't know if it will work... seriously! any comments on this idea will be greatly appreciated.

anyways, i do make steamed buns every now and then but i do use half apf and half rice flour, at times even more rice flour than apf. i find the dough on the more authentic back to asia or your nearest hardcore chinatown place.  then, aside from pinching the dough after putting the filling in, i do a simple twist and it turns out really cute. oh, and since im a vegetarian, i do make a a mushroom mixture if on the savory side.

hope this helps!

ps... make a lot, then freeze the leftovers (if any!). wrap in moistened papertowel and microwave for an easy fix!

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I made these again yesterday, replacing 1 cup of the AP flour with rice flour. They turned out good, but less like the buns I'm used to getting in Chinatown and more like Japanese mochi. They were gummy, not fluffy. I still enjoyed them, but I think they were less authentically Chinese (which is consistent with what I've read about the history of Bao in China... they gained popularity in the northern regions of China where didn't have enough rice to go around. Having a significant amount of rice flour in them would contradict the reason they caught on).

Next time I'll try using some soft wheat flour.

tomsbread's picture
tomsbread

Hi Floyd,

Beautiful buns. Here are 2 links which may be of interest to you. The soft flour results in a fluffier texture. Hope you can get them in your chinatown.

 http://www.prima.com.sg/primaflour/household/prod_pr_flour2.htm

The recipe uses a starter and the dough is made over 3 days.

http://www.prima.com.sg/primaflour/recipes/superliteflour.html#hkbao

Typically for sweet buns like DouSha Bao, the top is smooth, made like a roll, not open top like yours. Char Shao Bao is open top, made the way you made it.

Now about your current interest in Chinese Literature. Outlaws is interesting but since you mentioned Wu Da and his buns, I wonder if you are aware of a spin-off from the story of Wu Song, his brother Wu Da and his wife Golden Lotus. There is a translation of this novel entitled The Golden Lotus. My version is by Clement Egerton and I got it for US$42 back then. Can't believe what they are asking for at Amazon now. Be warned though, it was considered too erotic and was banned for many years.

Other great works include Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liao Zhai, Journey to the West and my favorite The Tao Te Ching. For anyone who have problems grasping the Tao, I'd recommend Headless Tao

http://www.geocities.com/~jimclatfelter/jimztao.html and more on the headless way

http://www.headless.org/english-new/homepage.html

Pardon me for going tangential.

Tomsbread

ps. BTW, I have not made these buns myself because my mother used to make them for me. I am only interested in hearth bread.:)

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Tomsbread -

Thank you for the links on both bread and books. Both interest me.

Yes, I realize that one never sees DouSha Bao with the tops open like I made them. As you say, I've only seen Char Shao Bao served that way.

I used AP flour, not bread flour, because my thought was that bread flour would be too tough. It looks like my hunch was right and that an even softer flour would be appropriate. I've never looked for flour at the Asian markets I go to. It'd be interesting to check if they carry a softer flour than American AP flour. If not, adding a cup of cake flour (or rice flour, as herbivora suggested) might help. I've got a bunch of red bean paste left over, so I'll have to try making them again in the next few days.

I wasn't aware of Golden Lotus. Wait, hang on... my wife reminds me that years ago we watched The Reincarnation of Golden Lotus, but I hadn't made the Water Margin connection and haven't read the original book.

While looking through YesAsia.com for different films based on Outlaws of the Marsh, I did stumble across another adult spinoff of the Water Margin stories (link probably not safe for work).

I read quite a bit of Chinese philosophy in college, such as Confucius, the Tao Te Ching, and Chuang Tzu, and watched many HK films, but I hadn't picked up any Chinese literature until Outlaws of the March. I'm loving it, so I went ahead and ordered a translation of Journey to the West just the other day.

tomsbread's picture
tomsbread

There is an interesting story/legend about The Golden Lotus. The title is just an English name for the work because it is called Jin Ping Mei in Chinese meaning Gold Vase Plum. These are the shortened names of three of the concubines of the villain Lord Hsi Men (no pun intended!!) in the story. Jin is Jin Lian or Golden Lotus, whom the villain married after murdering Wu Da.

Apparently, the author who wrote Golden Lotus did so out of revenge. His parents were murdered by a corrupt official who had a penchant for erotic literature. That official had a habit of licking his thumb while flicking through the pages. The corrupt official was killed when he read a copy of the Golden Lotus which had been smeared with poison. Does this sound familiar? It was the theme for the hollywood movie "The name of the Rose" starring Sean Connery.

Tomsbread

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Name of the Rose is based on an Umberto Eco book. Eco's books are full of literary references, so it is entirely possible he is referencing Jin Ping Mei consciously.

It has been over 10 years since I've read Name of the Rose. All I can remember is that the library in the book is taken straight from a Jorge Luis Borges short story.

Kate's picture
Kate

So, I took the dough out of the fridge and let it sit for an hour or so, shaped mine into a ball, put meatballs in my husband's, put a little kosher salt on the tops (yum) and steamed them up and I think these were even better than the earlier ones. Not sure if it was the time spent in the fridge or maybe I got my steaming technique down a little more (I don't think I've ever steamed anything before today) but they were just perfect - light and fluffy and tasty. My husband made stir fry for dinner (he does all the cooking, that's how I have managed to stay away from the steamer until now) and they were a wonderful way to sop up the extra sauce.

So, yeah, refrigerating the dough works great - perfect way to make the dough in the morning for dinner that night since the buns really need to be eaten right away - unless they are frozen, which is a great idea and I'll try that next time.  

Yay! 

KNEADLESS's picture
KNEADLESS

Sounds like something my wife would love.  Can you post your filling recipe? Much thanks.

 

George 

herbivora's picture
herbivora

cooked www vegetarian pao

sorry it took a while...  

mushroom filling: (measurements are on the approximation side... i dont use any measuring tool except when baking)

2 large portabello mushroom diced

1 medium container white button mushrooms diced (about 2 cups i think)

1 T canola oil

one quarter of a medium onion, minced 

1 green onion chopped

1 ginger root the size of your thumb, minced

1 T mushroom flavored oyster sauce (regular oyster sauce is fine)

2 big squirts vegetarian hoisin sauce (i guess it qualifies as 2 T, regular hoisin ok too)

1 T brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste

heat a big saucepan. add oil. when hot enough, add all the mushrooms. let sit for about 2-3 minutes while resisting the urge to stir it. this will saute the mushrooms and will give it a nice color and will prevent it from being watery. stir and let sit again for 2-3 minutes. saute with ginger and onion. add seasonings. now if at this point your mixture gets too watery (or saucy) add a slurry of a tsp cornstarch mixed in 2 T of water, if you sauteed the mushrooms properly then you'll be fine. taste to adjust flavor. turn off heat. add green onions. cool.

 hope it works out well for you george!

by the way, this was made with white whole wheat flour and it worked! well it was a mixture of apf, www and rice flour. im sorry floyd, but did you use sweet rice flour or regular rice flour? regular rice flour will do the trick, not the sweet kind.

mushroom filling

TRK's picture
TRK

I made these this weekend too (sorry, I didn't take pictures). My dough overproofed a little, so they were kind of wrinkly anyway. Cook's Illustrated had a recipe for Char Siu in the most recent issue, so I had some leftovers to use. I made 1.5 recipes with pork and 1.5 with tofu (same filling recipe, just substituted cubed tofu for the pork for vegetarians) and took them to a party. They were a hit.

 

George, here is the recipe for the filling from Bernard Clayton's book.

Ingredients:

Filling

½ teaspoon sesame oil

½ pound Chinese-style barbecue pork*

3 tablespoons chopped green onions

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cornstarch

¼ cup water


*You can also use your own roast or barbecued pork, or other meat including chicken. You can find this in many supermarkets in the meat department. It is the stuff that is a frightening bright red on the outside

Instructions:

• For filling: Dice the pork. Heat the oil and stir-fry for 30 seconds in a sauce pan or small skillet. Add onions, sugar, soy sauce, salt, and ginger. Mix the flour and cornstarch with water. Add to the mixture in the pan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes until the mixture thickens. Set aside to cool. You can process this in a blender or food processor or leave it chunky as it is. Both are good.

 


 

sphealey's picture
sphealey

Could someone post a picture of the steamer they are using? My spouse and I were trying to figure that out.

 

Thanks.

 

sPh

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Mine is just a tray with holes in it and a lid over a pot of boiling water.

steamer

You can kinda see the steaming tray there. I think the tray came with my rice cooker.

A bamboo steamer would be more traditional but even one of those vegetable steamers that folds up like a little UFO will work too. The most important thing is not to boil away all of the water or you'll damage your pot.

Kate's picture
Kate

I used the same type of steamer and I was very careful about not running out of water so I wouldn't damage my pot. And then I ran out of water and very nearly damaged my pot!

apers's picture
apers

i love love love red bean buns and my husband was just asking if i had a recipe for them.

 

:)  I cant wait to make these! 

 

April 

natalia000's picture
natalia000

the meat ball filling steamed buns or dumplings, the broth inside weren't made by freezing them. because pork meat with reasonable amount of fat mixture, they can literally suck in alot of liquid, the proper way is to use chicken or beef stock or the sort, but water will do as well, and when mixing your mince, the first thing is to stir in the water or stock before any salt or other ingredients goes in, you can stir in as much as you want, you will be amazed at how much water they can take in, and they increase into enormous volume, but at the same time your hand & wrist will be in pain, as stirring is crucial. but make sure you wrap them in the doughs as soon as possible, and frequently stirring it while wraping in case the liquid starts to separate, and another thing is don't over steam them which may dry up the broth inside. And I would suggest to use one of those chinese bamboo steamers, which are sold very cheap in chinatown stores, they come in all different sizes, because personally, i find the natural bamboo essence makes a difference to the taste & smell. Or maybe I'm just too sensitive!

well, i hope helps anyone who wants to try them out, so the secret is mince & liquid, i saw one of the recipes a while ago, and after many failed attempts, these are some hints I've concluded...

 

apers's picture
apers

wow

 

I made these just now and they are DELICIOUS and just like the buns we buy from the asian food store.

 

So So good.

 

Thank you so much for posting the recipe and the pics for a step by step!

 

April 

verminiusrex's picture
verminiusrex

I made these the other night, they were excellent!  Unfortunately our local Asian market is out of bean paste, so I have to drive half an hour to Kansas City to find some (there's are several good Asian markets with good selections).  

One of the local Chinese restaurants makes a fist sized loaf without any filling and just calls it "steamed bread", which is great with a touch of butter and some duck sauce.  You can also get it fried briefly after it's done steaming so it has a golden crust.

 

 

sqpixels's picture
sqpixels

I made some a couple of months back. You can view them here (http://www.sqpixels.net/files/category-8.html)
I found a Bāo Forum (http://jodeli.proboards22.com/index.cgi?board=chinese&action=display&thread=1111549019&page=1) with some good discussion and tips too!

TRK's picture
TRK

While we are on the subject of dim sum-style buns, I love those sesame coated buns that have red bean paste in the middle, chewy rice-flour in the middle, and a crisp fried outside with sesame seeds.  Does anybody know what those are called?  If you have a recipe that would be even better, but if I had a name at least I would be able to keep an eye out for one.

 

thanks,

 

Tim 

apers's picture
apers
TRK's picture
TRK

That is it exactly!  Thank you April.

verminiusrex's picture
verminiusrex

I saw these used at a Chinese buffet and figured out how they were done.  Take a square of parchment a bit bigger than your steamer basket, keep folding it in half about 6 times, then snip off the innermost corner (it should have no outside edge on it).  Instant steamer basket lining with vent holes so the steam comes through.  Also easy to pull the steamed buns out of the basket on the parchment for cooling before handling.

parchment liner for steamer 

zumnoor's picture
zumnoor

couldn't resist those lovely pictures and easy-looking way of making them. thank you for the steps shown.
made them for breakfast and my son's box for school. they were fantastic. i did a slow rising in the fridge the night before. my homemade red bean paste was a little wet and it was a challenge indeed to wrap it in the dough. but, i managed pretty well as the dough was behaving good. used parchment paper for each bun and it was easy to "peel" off. the buns were nice cold as well. did not go hard. in fact, 5 secs in my microwave was all it needed to warm it a little. will make them again with savoury filling. to those who hesitate, give it a go! i managed to get 14 pieces of pretty buns with the given recipe.

nessssbm's picture
nessssbm

Thank you so much for this recipe. I just tried it tonight, and it came out wonderful! The consistancy of the cooked dough was just the right combination of soft, fluffy, and chewy - the way I like. ^^ The dough alone didn't have much flavor, but together with the paste ~ delicious. Because this dough was so easy to make, I'm going to try different filling (meat, vegetables) and see what happens.

While making them, each step looked almost exactly like your buns in the pictures (I was proud of myself, hehe) I only wish I could have taken pictures to put here. Again, thanks alot for the recipe and the photos showing what theyre supposed to look like. : D Dousha Bao!! Danpatppang!! Reb Bean Buns!!! YAY

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

Enjoyed reading Andrea Nguyen's article on Bao and her recipes in the LA Times and thought others here might too (her efforts in getting the steamed bun dough right mirrors the work of so many here getting their bread dough right):

http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-bao7-2009oct07,0,7536561.story

Saltsea's picture
Saltsea

Enjoyed finding this neat presentation. The buns I bought in a bakery in Montreal always had a nice golden brown look to it. I think they might have sent them in the oven for a few minutes to dry them off and color the top.

Michelle Soo's picture
Michelle Soo

Thank you so much for sharing the recipe. We tried it last week n craving for more. It taste so much nicer than the Dousha Bao that I used to buy from the Chinese stalls here. Here's d pix of my steamed buns using your recipe. :) http://www.michemaylee.com/2011/04/22/tau-sar-pau-or-steamed-bun-with-red-bean-paste/