Recently I visited Mumbai with my daughters. Mumbai is the best destination for foodies, the variety of food will amaze you. There for the first time, I had bao buns or steamed buns and I loved it. The softness and fluffiness of the buns will melt in the mouth. So with curiosity, I decided to make bao at home from scratch. After trying 7 to 8 recipes I got the perfect Bao. And now Bao is one of my family’s favourite snacks. However, we eat it with different fillings and stuffings. Sometimes we just spread some cheese and eat it with a cup of tea. Enjoy Bao whichever way you want. While trying I learnt a lot about Bao. Sharing with you all.
Table of contents
Traditional Chinese steamed buns are round in shape with an enclosed filling, either with sausage or chicken and boiled egg. Know they are available with a variety of fillings and has a vegetarian version too.
Steamed buns can also be made plain, i.e. without any filling. In my family, we often make plain steamed buns. These buns are round in shape with a twisted knot at the top. Served alongside stir fry vegetables.
But somewhere along the way, someone came up with the genius idea of making folded over steamed buns. These can be opened up and filled with a variety of ingredients, much like a burger or sandwich.
What is a bao bun?
- Really, calling these bao buns is incorrect (bao means bun, so it’s like saying ‘bun bun’). They’re usually called gua bao but are also sometimes known as Taiwanese hamburgers. However their popularity in the West has spread with the name bao buns, so here we are! The usual filling is mushroom onion and salad but you can basically fill them with whatever you want.
- I have a good formula for vegetarian fillings. Any grilled/deep-fried vegetables (or tofu/paneer) + something crunchy (lettuce, carrot ribbons, shredded cabbage) + sauce + pickles (kimchi, red onion/radish, kraut(fermented cabbage).
How do you steam bao buns?
- I have a 1-layer bamboo steamer I got from the Shillong market. You can get them online on amazon. If you don’t have a bamboo steamer you can use a metal one, in which we make momos. Do not steam two many bao together. If you don’t have a steamer you can hack one by placing a large metal colander into a large pot. Add a bit of water at the bottom of the pot, then cover with a large pot lid/plate/foil.
Bao Buns Recipe:
- If you are lucky, your local grocer might stock ready-made bao buns in the freezer section. However, Only possible in big cities.
- If not, this easy bao bun recipe might require a bit of planning and preparation, but you will be rewarded with deliciously fluffy homemade buns which will delight everyone who tries them.
Why This Recipe Works:
- This bao bun recipe makes light, fluffy and pillowy steamed buns which are perfect for stuffing with your favourite fillings.
- You can use this recipe to shape the bao buns however you like.
- You can use this recipe for filled or stuffed bao buns. Once you have rolled out the buns, simply fill and shape the buns, and then leave them to rise for the second time as per the recipe.
- The cooked bao buns can be frozen and simply reheated in the steamer.
To Make Bao:
- Step 1 – To make the perfect bao buns, you need both yeast and baking powder to help the buns to rise. Start by measuring all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Then measure the warm water and oil into a measuring jug. The water needs to be a bit more than lukewarm to help activate the yeast. But, it shouldn’t be boiling hot.
- Step 2– I prefer to make my bao bun dough using my hands, but you can, of course, use an electric mixer. If you are kneading the dough with your hands then knead it at least for a good 10-15 min. knead the dough until it becomes soft and smooth to touch.
- Step 3– If using a mixer then use a dough hook on medium speed, mixing the liquid into the dry ingredients. Depending on the type of flour which you have used. You might need more or less liquid than stated in the recipe. You want just enough liquid to bring everything together into a sticky dough.
- Step 4– Then, continuing on medium speed, knead the dough until it becomes soft and smooth to touch. This should take about 10 minutes using the stand mixer on medium speed, or about 5 minutes by hand.
- *Step 5- Once the dough is soft and smooth, I recommend kneading it by hand for a few more minutes on the kitchen bench-top.
- #Step 6-Place the ball of dough back into the (clean) mixing bowl, and place the bowl somewhere warm for about 60 to 90 minutes for the dough to rise and double in size.
- Step 7– Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it back and knead it by hand for about 5 minutes to release any air bubbles in the dough. Then roll out the dough until it is about 1 cm in height. Use your hands to rub some oil onto the surface of the dough. This will prevent the dough from sticking together later when you shape the buns.
- Step 8- Use an 8 cm (3 inches) cookie cutter to cut out rounds from the dough. Re-roll the dough as needed until you have used up all of the dough.
- Step 9- Place these rounds onto a small sheet of baking paper – I like to use plain butter paper or cup cake base which I flatten with a rolling pin. This saves me from having to cut up a sheet of baking paper into small pieces. Fold over each round in half and then use a rolling pin to gently flatten the dough to form the bun shape.
- Step 10– Place all of the shaped buns onto a large tray, cover with a tea towel, and place in a warm place for about 30 minutes for the buns to rise again. After this time, the bao buns should have risen and puffed up slightly.
- Step 11– Meanwhile, prepare the steamer on the stove (see notes below). Steam the buns in batches for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are puffy and soft, and cooked all the way through.
How to Proof Dough:
The dough needs a warm environment for the yeast to activate and cause the dough to rise. If you don’t have a warm place in your home, try one of the following ideas:
In the oven with the oven light switched on (works only for some ovens).
In the oven with a tray of boiling water on the bottom shelf. Use about 1 litre (4 cups) of water, and top up after about 1 hour.
In the oven at a low temperature of about 25-30°C (77-86°F).
On the open oven door, with the oven turned on at 100°C (212°F).
For Stuffing :
While the dough rises, prepare some quick pickled veggies. Toss some cucumber, carrots and jalapeño slices in a rice vinegar marinade.
Finally, for mushroom filling
Slice the mushrooms and onions nice and thin, so you can pile a bunch into your buns after they’re cooked.
Briefly brown the mushrooms and onion for a few minutes on each side, then add some sauce and seasonings. Let it cook for a few more minutes until the sauce forms a thick, sticky and then use it as a stuffing.
other vegetable fillings you can use are
stir fry tofu and veggie filling
Paneer and greens filling
Soya cutlet and salad filing
Finally, I would like to suggest you few recipes from my blog
How To Make Mushroom BaoCourse: Sides, AppetizersCuisine: ChineseDifficulty: Medium
Learn How to make perfect soft and fluffy Bao with mushroom filling. Bao are the steamed Buns, very soft and fluffy.
125 g (1 cup) cornflour (cornstarch)
5 tablespoons caster sugar (super-fine sugar)
1 teaspoon instant yeast (also called instant dried yeast or fast-action dried yeast)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
180 ml (3/4 cup) warm water
60 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil, plus extra
300 g (2 cups) plain flour (all-purpose flour) or bleached flour
- For stuffing:
1 pkt Button mushrooms
Two large onions
6-7 pods garlic
1 green chilli
1 tsp soya sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp seasoning (chinese seasoning)
1 tsp chilli flakes
- For kimchi
1 small head cabbage, shredded
¼ cup rock salt
1 small carrot, cut into thin strips
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, ground
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
¼ teaspoon salt
- To prepare the buns
- Measure all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric stand-mixer (if using).
- Measure the warm water and oil into a measuring jug. The water needs to be a bit more than lukewarm to help activate the yeast, but it shouldn’t be boiling hot.
- Knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes with hands keep rolling and kneading so that air trapped inside and make it more fluffy.
If Using a mixer keep the dough hook on medium speed, mixing the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Depending on the type of flour which you have used, you might need more or less liquid that than stated in the recipe.
- Once you have a sticky dough, continue kneading the dough on medium speed until it becomes soft and smooth to touch. This should take about 10 minutes using the stand-mixer on medium speed, or about 5 minutes by hand.
- Once the dough is soft and smooth, I recommend kneading it by hand for a few more minutes on the kitchen benchtop.
- Place the ball of dough back into the (clean) mixing bowl.
- Place the bowl somewhere warm for about 60 to 90 minutes for the dough to rise and double in size.
- To shape the buns
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it back and knead it by hand for about 5 minutes to release any air bubbles in the dough.
- Then roll out the dough until it is about 1 cm in height.
- Use your hands to rub some oil onto the surface of the dough.
- Use an 8 cm (3 inch) cookie cutter to cut out rounds from the dough.
- Re-roll the dough as needed.
- Place these rounds onto a small sheet of baking paper – I like to use plain white cupcake wrappers which I flatten with a rolling pin.
- Fold over each round and then use a rolling pin to gently flatten the dough to form the bun shape.
- Place all of the shaped buns onto a large tray, cover with a tea towel, and place in a warm place for about 30 minutes for the buns to rise again. After this time, the bao buns should have puffed up slightly.
- To steam the buns
- Meanwhile, prepare the steamer on the stove.
- Steam the buns in batches for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are puffy and soft, and cooked all the way through.
- Serve the buns immediately.
- For Stuffing :
- In a pan heat butter and add onions, stir for few minutes and add sliced mushrooms. stir well.
- Add all the seasonings and sauces mix well and stuffing is ready to fill.
- For Kimchi
- Combine cabbage and rock salt together in a bowl. Let stand 15 minutes, stirring often. Rinse lightly and drain.
- Mix cabbage, carrot, vinegar, vegetable oil, sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, cayenne pepper, and salt together in a bowl. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes.
- To make mushroom bao
- Take a bao and fill the folded place with mushroom stuffing, topped it with kimchi and serve hot.
- Repeat the same with other bao.
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