Chinese Bāozi has been on my radar for a long time to make. I don’t ever expect to be an accomplished Chinese food cook, but I do feel strongly about at least trying for my children. I love working with yeast breads, so I’m not really sure why it took me so long. I guess bāozi seemed a little too intimidating. I finally gave them a try yesterday, and I’m so glad I did! They taste so much more delicious made from scratch versus the frozen ones I get from the Chinese market. There’s something special about freshly-made homemade dough! They are somewhat time consuming, but most yeast breads are. Stuffing the buns could be a lot quicker with more hands, but I did it myself. I used my dumpling filling recipe, which is a combination of a couple different recipes. I have included all of the ingredients and instructions below with pictures, but HERE is a printable version too.
3 cups flour
1 cup warm water (105-110 ℉)
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp oil (peanut or EVOO)
2 tsp baking powder
Mix 1 cup warm water, 2 tsp yeast, and 1 tbsp sugar until the yeast and sugar have dissolved. Set aside for 5 minutes to let proof. Meanwhile, mix flour, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp oil, and 2 tsp baking powder in a mixer (I used a KitchenAid). Once the yeast has been activated, slowly add that mixture into the dry ingredients while mixing simultaneously. A dough ball should form so that it sticks together but doesn’t stick to your hands. Flour or water may be added by the teaspoon to get the desired consistency.
Roll dough into 1½ oz balls (roll on a plate or tuck the dough up under itself at the bottom) and set aside on a wax paper-lined tray. You should be able to make approximately 20 dough balls. Set aside in a warm, moist environment to rise about 40-60 minutes, until the dough balls have doubled in size. Some ovens have “proof” settings for this. Or you can use my Daddy’s trick: boil a teapot of water, take off the top, and place in an unheated oven so the steam will release into the air. Proof the dough, covered with a damp towel, inside the oven. Do not open the oven until the dough has finished proofing.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
2 cups of packed Chinese cabbage, chopped finely
1½ tbsp fresh, finely minced ginger root
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ cup fresh, finely chopped green onions
¹⁄₈ tsp ground white pepper
2 tbsp regular soy sauce (not lite)
1½ tbsp Shaoxing or cooking wine
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 lb of ground meat (pork is traditional but I prefer 93% fat turkey)
After the dough balls have finished proofing, it’s time to fill them! Roll out one dough ball at a time on a floured surface, using a Chinese-style rolling pin, making sure to roll the outer ½-¾ inch thinner than the middle. The buns should be approximately 4 inches in diameter and should fit in the palm of your hand. Next, add about 1-2 tbsp of filling to the center of the bun, leaving at least a 1-inch edge. I think I added too much meat to some of my buns, but I stuffed them as much as I could. After that, fold and press the edges together in the middle, at the top of the bun, and then twist to close. The dough should stick together easily. I know this is a real art in China, but I was happy they closed up and resembled bāozi at all, so I gave myself grace on this part. There are youtube videos from Chinese chefs offering a lot of advice about how to do this though, so feel free to explore!Allow the bāozi to rest about 20 minutes before steaming. Then, put a small piece of wax paper under each bāozi in the steamers to prevent sticking. I used a bamboo steamer over a wok, with just enough water added so it didn’t touch the steamers. Make sure the water at the bottom is filled though, because I made the huge mistake of unknowingly letting the water boil out, and I burned one of my steamers. Live and learn! The bāozi can also be steamed with a Western steamer, it’ll just take a little longer because you can’t cook as many at the same time. Steam for about 15 minutes, transfer to a plate, and wait at least 5 minutes to cool before enjoying!Note: My bāozi came out browner than I was expecting – I first thought that was because of my water issue. But they were still brown after remedying that problem, so I’m not sure what I did wrong. They tasted delicious though, fortunately the brownness didn’t impact the flavor!
If you give these a try, please let me know! I’d love to hear about your experiences! Though I will not be making bāozi regularly, I’m glad I finally attempted them and I will certainly be adding it to my Chinese food repertoire! (Almost) everyone gobbled them up, with both of my Chinese-born loves especially enjoying them.