This is one of the simpler recipes for steamed-bun (bao) dough we’ve found. It produces a fluffy, sweet, nicely textured bao, and you can stuff it with the typical Chinese char siu, or the Vietnamese banh bao filling — or a shiitake filling. You can pretty much stick anything inside them, and it will be good. In Japan, in the winter, steam cabinets with a variety of bao, or man, are everywhere. When I lived in Yonago, there were almost always pork, curry, pizza, mushroom, and blueberry.
As you can see, there are a lot of people involved in the steamed bun process. This is a fun thing to do with a group of people. This was a pretty major dumpling/bun party!
This dough takes about 2 hours to make (counting rising time), so plan ahead. If you want it vegetarian, use butter instead of lard. Vegetable shortening or oil, if you want it vegan. We normally double (or, more realistically, quadruple) the recipe. It works very well for baked buns, too!
– 4 tbsp (60ml) sugar
– 1 c (250ml) warm water
– 1 1/2 tsp (7ml) dry yeast
– 3 1/4 c (400g) flour (plus more for rolling)
– 2 tbsp (30ml) lard
– 1 1/2 tsp (7ml) baking powder
– 1 cup (250ml) filling, such as char siu
The water should be warm, not hot (stick your finger in it, and if it hurts, it’s too hot — tap water is fine). Combine the sugar, warm water, and yeast. Leave it in a warm (not hot) place for about 10-15 minutes. It should be foamy and bubbly.
Use your hands, and knead the dough until all the flour is incorporated. Keep kneading until the dough is pretty smooth (about 5 minutes, or more).
It will be quite a soft dough. Cover, and leave to raise in a warm place, until it doubles in size (about 2 hours).
Sprinkle the dough with the baking powder, and knead it until it’s flat, and the baking powder is incorporated. Cut it into 15 equal sized pieces.[Note: we did 10 pieces, and the buns were way too big. It took them too long to steam, and they were flat and deformed.] Make each piece of dough into a ball, and then roll into a flat disc (about 4 in/10cm in diameter, maybe a little less).
Put it down on a little bit of greased parchment paper, or a cabbage leaf (so it doesn’t stick to the steamer.)
The steamer sits on a wok, with water in the bottom. Make sure to leave lots of space between the buns — they’ll at least double in size, and they need some room around the sides or they won’t cook. Again, don’t make the mistake of overstuffing! It will take about 15 minutes, depending on the filling. Check a couple buns with a knife before you take them out, to make sure they are hot all the way through (especially if you’re using raw pork). Let them rest a bit, and then enjoy!