The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Chinese steamed buns

emkay's picture

Chinese steamed buns

The Chinese steamed bun is the bread of my childhood. The dough can be used for many different applications. The most well known would be char siu bao (steamed BBQ pork bun). The dough can also be filled with other savory things like chicken or vegetables. There are sweet bean paste and custard filled ones too. My mom likes to roll up a piece of Chinese sausage (lop cheong) to make a Chinese version of 'pig-in-a-blanket'. And they can be plain when meant to be served with Peking duck or pork belly.

Plain bao (before steaming):

Plain bao (after steaming):

Filled with braised pork belly and quick pickled cucumbers:

With a smear of hoisin and sriracha:



dabrownman's picture

Peking Duck especially the crispy skin with plum sauce,  I might actually steal them if that is the only way to get them:-)  But that pork belly is pretty killer to.   I haven't made these in ages but bao is one of he best breads in the world and everything tastes better in them:-)

Ha[py baking,.

emkay's picture

Everything does taste better with these bao. Thanks dab!

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

I second that on the crispy Peking duck with bao.  Had some in an Asian restaurant in Seattle years ago and it blew my mind.  I could eat these buns till I couldn't fit through the door.


isand66's picture

Nice job...looks fantastic and that meal as well.


emkay's picture

It was a good meal indeed. Thanks Ian!

bakingbadly's picture

Lookin' good!

It has been ages since the last time I made steamed buns. Ate plentiful when I was a child, too.

What flour did you use? If I'm not mistaken, steamed buns are typically made with "Hong Kong flour" or bleached flour, which gives it that distinct snow-white colour. But judging from your photos, it looks like you used unbleached flour, which is a-okay in my books.



emkay's picture

Zita - it's true that a bleached flour is typically used because people want (or expect) a very bright white bun. I am guessing that "Hong Kong flour" is bleached.  I don't mind off-white buns so unbleached is fine with me. Thanks for commenting!

bbegley's picture

Looks amazing!  Do you have a recipe?

emkay's picture

My formula is for a Southern Chinese style bun which is enriched (as opposed to Northern and Taiwanese style buns which are typically lean).

3 g instant dry yeast
110 g water (~85 deg F)
75 g whole milk (~85 deg F)
25 g flavorless oil
20 g granulated sugar
7 g baking powder (double-acting, aluminum free)
375 g unbleached AP flour

Or, if you prefer, in baker's percentages:

0.8% instant dry yeast
29.3% water
20% whole milk
6.7% oil
5.33% granulated sugar
1.87% baking powder
100% unbleached AP flour

Notes: I use an unbleached AP flour that has a 11.5% protein level. If a whiter bun is desired, then use bleached flour. If a softer bun is desired, use a lower protein flour.

Make the dough:

1. In a bowl, mix yeast and water. Set aside for 1 minute to soften. Whisk in the milk and oil until the yeast is dissolved.

2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, baking powder and flour. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Work in all the flour to make a shaggy mass of dough. Add a few drops of lukewarm water if the dough doesn't come together or seems too dry.

3. Transfer dough to a work surface. Knead for 1-2 minutes. The dough shouldn't stick to your fingers anymore. If it does, add a tiny bit of flour. Keep kneading until the dough is fairly smooth and slightly elastic. (Total kneading time should be less than 5 minutes.)

4. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and bulk ferment until nearly doubled, about 45-60 minutes depending on room temperature. The dough is now ready for shaping.

Shape the dough for plain buns:

1.Divide the dough into 20 pieces (about 30 grams each) and round them into balls. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Then roll out each piece into a circle about a scant 1/4-inch thick.

2. Brush a tiny bit of flavorless oil on one half of the dough circle and fold into a semicircle. Place on a square of parchment paper.

3. Place in a bamboo steamer or on a perforated pan. Cover and let rise for 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature.

4. Steam over boiling water for 7 to 9 minutes until the buns are puffy and dry looking.

bbegley's picture

Thanks so much!  I grew up in Hawaii eating char-siu bao, but over there they simply called them manapua.  I want to recreate some memories.