Introduction: Baozi - Steamed Buns

This is a simple recipe to make steamed buns that are common in many parts of Asia.

Step 1: Gather Ingredients

For the dough you will need:

  • 500g of wheat flour (all purpose flour will do)
  • 3 teaspoons of dry yeast
  • 1.5 tea spoons of sugar
  • 1 tea spoon of salt
  • 250mL of mildly warm water

This quantity is sufficient for about 15 buns. Use a similar ratio of flour to yeast to sugar if you plan on making more.

The filling is entirely up to you. This recipe uses:

  • Regular mushrooms - 5 large pieces
  • Shiitake mushrooms - 8 or 9
  • Bamboo shoots - 1 tin
  • Water chestnuts - 1 tin

Carrots, radish, peas, cabbage, lettuce, left over salad, anything works.

Step 2: Make the Dough

Take all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add lukewarm water, in small increments, and mix.

Keep kneading till you get a springy dough. This will take about 5 minutes.

Step 3: Let the Dough Rest

Place the kneaded dough in a container large enough for it to rise.

Cover the top with a moist towel or plastic wrap.

Leave it to rest in a warm place for one hour.

The dough will double in size and become airy.

Step 4: Make the Filling

As the dough is resting, make the filling. While you can use ingredients in their raw form, it is best to cook them a bit.

  1. Finely chop all the ingredients. Make sure the pieces are small. You don't want to have large chunks sticking out of the buns.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add the cut pieces in. Use any oil that you like (vegetable, sunflower, olive, sesame...)
  3. Add spices of your choice - garlic, chilli, pepper...
  4. Add a tea spoon of chilli oil infused with Sichuan peppercorn if you want it to be hot.
  5. A tablespoon of soy sauce, some honey or sugar and a pinch of salt will balance the heat.
  6. You can add other flavour enhancers of your choice, whatever suits your taste.
  7. Let the mixture cook for a few minutes and release moisture.
  8. Once cooked, taste the mixture and adjust it to your liking.
  9. Drain extra water from the mixture using a cheesecloth or a sieve.
  10. Let it cool to room temperature before using.

Tip: Dark soy sauce gives colour but does not add a lot of flavour. Light soy sauce adds flavour but does not give colour. Mix a bit of both!

Tip: Removing moisture is important. A watery mixture will ooze out of the dough wrapper and open it apart when steaming. If you are using raw vegetables, add oil to the mixture before adding salt.

Step 5: Shape the Buns

Once the dough has risen, you can start making the buns.

  1. Dust the work surface with flour.
  2. Gently knead the dough for a minute.
  3. Portion it into little balls. For the 500g of flour used, you will have 15 or 16 portions.
  4. Take a ball and flatten it. Roll it into a circular shape about 8cm in diameter. The thickness is up to you, but make sure the edges are a little thinner than the central portion.
  5. Place a spoonful of the filling (don't be tempted to put more) in the centre of the disc.
  6. Lift up the edge and make pleats like on a frock. Keep lifting and folding the edge until it can be bunched up at the top. Pinch it to close the top. It takes a little practice to get good looking ones but no effort at all to make the best tasting ones!
  7. Once the buns are shaped, let them rest for 40 minutes before steaming.

Step 6: Steaming

  1. Take some baking paper or aluminium foil and cut it into pieces. These will be paced below the buns to prevent them from sticking to the steamer.
  2. Heat water in a pot, bring it to a boil and place the steamer on top of it.
  3. Carefully place the buns in the steamer leaving sufficient space between each. They will grow in size while being steamed.
  4. Cover the steamer with a lid and let the buns steam for 20 minutes.
  5. Once done, take off the steam and let the buns cool for 5 minutes before eating.

Tip: Don't cover the entire base of the steamer with baking paper. You want steam to rise through. This is why we use pieces of paper and not a sheet.

Tip: If you don't have a steamer, you can use any vessel with holes in the base. Some cookers have an accompanying vessel to facilitate steaming. You can also try to place an elevated plate in the pot of water and put the buns on it.

Step 7: Eat

Your buns are ready. Eat them while they are hot. You can eat them as they are or use a dipping sauce of your choice.

Tai hao le