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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chinese Steamed Buns-Baozi

Baozi are a common food in China—and indeed across the Asian region—because they are simple, simple to make, and easy to eat. They have existed in Asian food culture since time immemorial, and come in an astounding number of varieties, filled and empty. The fillings range from custards and bean pastes to cooked meat and vegetables, making the basic technique at the heart of making baozi a very, very versatile piece of knowledge.

I have decided to create two kinds of baozi for this little post, because I am serving them at a local Steampunk event, and I don't want to bar anyone from enjoying the fruits of my labor. Therefore, one will contain a mixture of sautéed vegetables, and the other a sort of Cha Shao-style (Cantonese barbecue) pork filling.

Baozi are made with a soft, simple dough—yeast, water, flour, sugar, and a small amount of salt are combined, allowed to rise, and then kneaded with a small amount of baking powder before being shaped into the buns, filled, proofed, and steamed.

My Baozi dough was produced by my bread guy. It's very important to have a bread guy, because as a cook producing items you don't always have time to also make bread. While I was preparing the baozi fillings, I had assistance from my bread guy in making my dough.

Doctor Bob's Baozi Dough
3 1/2 c AP flour
2 3/8 c water @ 100 F (May need more or less depending on the ethers.)
1 T yeast
1/2 t salt

1 t baking powder (double-acting)

1. Mix the first set of ingredients in a bowl (on a stand mixer or not) until starting to come together.
2. Dust bench and hands, and turn out dough to bench. Knead until supple, dusting hands and bench as needed. (Incorporate shaggy bits as kneading.)
3. Turn into bowl coated with sesame oil, and allow to rise until doubled—or slightly more than doubled—in bulk. This may take up to an hour or more, depending upon your ambient temperature—you want something around 70-80°F
4. Turn out to dusted bench, and punch down the dough.
5. Sprinkle the baking powder over dough and knead well to incorporate. Your dough is now ready.
6. Divide the dough into 18 equal portions. Cover half with a damp towel to keep them from drying out.
7. Roll each portion into a ball, then flatten into round discs roughly 1/8 inch thick. They will be about 4-5 inches across.
8. Fill center with about 1 T of filling, and pleat edges around to close, creating a pretty shape. Twist the top to close fully, taking a small bit of the dough with you as a sort of souvenir. (I did not do this.) Follow the pictures below.
The finished Bun
Placed to Proof.
9. Set individually on parchment squares, proof 1/2 hour.
10. Steam 15-20 minutes.

(You will notice, I am sure, that we have omitted the sugar from this recipe. For a sweeter baozi dough, add 1-2 Tablespoons/30-60 ml of white sugar to the dough in the first step. I found the dough just fine as it is here, but I'm also a bread fiend.)

Cha Shao Pork Filling
1 lb (454 g) ground pork
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
2 Tbsp (30 ml) hoisin sauce
1-2 tsp (5-10 ml) 5 spice powder
1/4 cup (60 ml) honey
canola oil

1. Season ground pork with about 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce, and 1-2 tsp 5 spice powder. Mix to ensure even seasoning, and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour.
2. Heat wok and add oil. When ready, place the pork in the wok and begin to fry.
3. Add honey and additional hoisin, soy, and 5 spice powder to taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper as well.
4. Stir-fry until the pork is cooked, ensuring that it is cooked through.

Vegetable filling
2 oz (57 g) onion, fine dice
4 cloves garlic
1 head bok choy, roughly chopped
2 tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce
2 tsp (10 ml) szechuan sauce
2 handsful (about 1-2 ounces/30-60 g) spinach, roughly chopped  
8 oz (227 g) shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
canola oil

1. Oil a wok lightly and sauté the onions and garlic until the onions soften. Add bok choy and sauté until the leaves darken and stems soften slightly.
2. Add soy sauce, szechuan sauce, and a small amount of water, mix, and cover the wok to braise the bok choy slightly.
3. After 10-15 minutes, add mushrooms and spinach, and sauté until the mushrooms are soft, and the spinach has wilted. Test seasonings and add salt, pepper, and 5-spice to taste.
A panoply of pleased partiers—from the Phoenix Café.
Photographs by Through This Lens and myself.


  1. I just made this. The baozi was amazing! I used a different filling though because I didn't have all of the stuff. Either way, I loved this! Thank you for starting this amazing site!

  2. I'm glad to hear it! I'm curious, what sort of a filling did you use?

  3. I used a beef, onion, and potato filling with a few different seasonings. Like Garlic, pepper, a bit of celery salt, and a few other things.

  4. Fillings are infinite, but try smoked turkey and plum sauce. Trust me!


Your opinions and comments always are welcomed, but do be civil... this isn't a kitchen, after all.