Steamed Pork Buns (Banh Bao)

Steamed Pork Bun (Banh Bao) -- fluffy, doughy bun with a savory filling...now that's comfort food! | recipe from runawayrice.comI think I’ve discovered one of the most universally appealing snacks.  While working on this post, I was searching for a few alternative names for this fluffy, steamed bun filled with savory meats.  To my pleasant surprise, I learned these delectable buns are quite well-loved in Asian cuisine and are known by many different names.  Here are just a few: Bao, Bau, Tai Pao (Cantonese), Baozi (Mandarin), Nikuman (Japanese), Siopao (Filipino), Salapao (Sino-Thai) and Jjinpang Mandu (Korean).  (If you know this dish by another name, do share!)

Call it what you will, for me these sweet and savory buns are all about comfort food and childhood memories.  I remember my Mom filling my little hands with one of these piping-hot buns as a child.  I recall relishing the taste of the soft, slightly sweet dough in perfect contrast to the savory ground pork and Chinese sausage.  The hard-boiled egg was always my favorite–I’d eat that right away and then nibble my way around the rest of the bun…Yum!  Even today, these buns are still a special treat for me.  No doubt, they take a bit of time to make but I enjoy the entire process.  Now, my favorite part is watching my family and friends devour them….I think my Mom was on to something!

Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks

Always use fresh active dry yeast.  If it’s close to the expiration date, don’t use it.  Unless you cook with yeast often, avoid buying the larger quantities of yeast in the jars.  Buy the single-use packages instead.  They will stay fresher longer.

The temperature of the milk should be warm around 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit.  If the milk is too hot it will kill the yeast.

For proofing the dough, the oven should be approximately 100 degrees.  Covering the dough with a kitchen towel prevents circulating air from affecting the dough as it rises.  It also helps to keep the temperature constant.

The dough should approximately double in size after the resting period.  If it hasn’t double in size after 1 hour, let it rest for awhile longer until it has doubled in size.

When steaming the buns:  to prevent the moisture in the lid from dripping onto the buns, one trick to try is to wrap the lid with a kitchen towel.  Otherwise, wipe the lid twice as I showed in the video.  When removing the lid, do it in a quick motion and try not to drip any of the water onto the buns.  If you see shiny blisters on the buns, this is from dripping water.

If you have time, steam the buns in a single layer rather than a double layer.  This way the buns will steam evenly.  Alternatively, you can rotate the trays about halfway through the steaming process.

Don’t skip the part about adding vinegar to the water pan.  I promise the buns won’t smell like vinegar.  The vinegar helps to keep the buns a nice, bright color.

Watch the video below for instructions.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also like: Hot Pastry Pie (Pate Chaud) or Sticky Rice and Mung Bean Dumplings (Banh Khuc).

Ingredients

for the Dough
1 cup milk
1 tsp sugar
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
2 cups cake flour
1 cup bread flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

for the Filling
1 lb ground pork (or any ground meat of your choice)
1/2 cup yellow onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup woodear mushrooms, finely chopped
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cornstarch

3 Chinese sausage links
3 large eggs or 12 quail eggs hard-boiled

Other Items
12 cupcake liners or 3-inch parchment/wax paper circles
1/4 cup white vinegar

Directions

Preheat oven to 150-170 degrees Fahrenheit.  When it comes to temperature, turn off the oven.

Warm the milk in the microwave for 30 seconds, 45 seconds if the milk is cold.  Add 1/2 tsp sugar and active dry yeast to the warmed milk.  Stir together for 1 minute.  Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes until foamy.

In a mixing bowl, combine the bread flour and cake flour.  Take 1 Tbsp of the flour mixture and combine with the baking powder.  Set aside for now.  Add the remaining sugar to the flour mixture and stir together.  Stir the milk and yeast mixture and add to the mixing bowl along with the vegetable oil.  Use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment to combine the ingredients.  Mix on Low speed for 2 minutes.  Increase the speed to Medium Low and mix for another 2 minutes.  Add the flour and baking powder mixture prepared earlier and mix for another minute.

Remove the dough from the stand mixer and gently knead by hand for 2-3 minutes.  Place dough into a large bowl.  Coat the dough with a thin layer of vegetable oil.  Cover bowl with a large kitchen towel and then place into the warm oven.  Let the dough rest for 1 hour.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the filling (except the sausage and eggs).   Roll into 12 balls.

Lightly flour the work surface.  Gently knead the dough for a few minutes.  Divide the dough and then roll into 12 even-sized balls.  Cover the dough balls with a damp paper towel and let them rest for 10 minutes.

Cut each hard-boiled egg into 4 pieces.  Cut each Chinese sausage link into 12 thin slices at a diagonal.  Set aside for now.

Generously flour the work surface again.  Take one of the dough balls and flatten to a 5-inch circle using a rolling pin.  Flatten the edge of the circle so it’s thinner than the middle.  Place the dough on the work surface.  On top of the dough add 2 slices of sausage and then the filling ball.  Top with one piece of egg and another sausage slice.  Pleat the dough around the bun while pinching it together at the top making sure to cover the filling completely.  Twist the top of the bun to secure it.  Pat the bun to round out the shape.  Place the bun on the cupcake/muffin liner.  Continue making the buns until all 12 are made.  Place the buns into the steamer trays making sure to leave about 1-inch between each bun.

Prepare the steamer by filling the bottom basin halfway with water.  Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to the water and then bring to a rapid boil over High heat.  Add the steamer trays.  Wipe the moisture from the lid before replacing.  Lower the heat to Medium High and steam the buns for 10 minutes.  Carefully remove the lid and wipe out the moisture again.  Cover and continue steaming for another 10 minutes.  (Total steaming time is 20 minutes.)

Remove the buns from steamer.  Allow to cool slightly before enjoying.

These buns can be reheated in a steamer or microwave.  To warm in a microwave, wrap a bun in a moistened paper towel and cook on High for 1 minute.

Store any uneaten buns in the refrigerator.  They are best if consumed within the week.  The steamed buns can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Yields:  12 buns

Tools I Love and Use in My Kitchen

Hearty and delicious Steamed Pork Buns | recipe from runawayrice.com

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36 Responses to Steamed Pork Buns (Banh Bao)

  1. Trang Nguyen July 13, 2017 at 4:35 am #

    Trang,
    For the dough, you listed “2/3 cup sugar”. Just want to verify if it is so or 2/3T of sugar.
    Thank You.

    • Trang July 14, 2017 at 8:53 am #

      Hi Trang,
      It’s 2/3 cup sugar. The banh bao dough is a sweet dough so that’s why it may seem like a lot of sugar. Good Luck with the recipe and please stop back to share your results! 🙂

  2. Dao Nguyen hoang Anh March 1, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    This is a great recipe. Thank you so much.

    • Trang March 1, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

      Thank you! I am glad you like the recipe!

      • Jennifer June 19, 2017 at 12:55 pm #

        Hi chi . Can I use beef? And does it tast the same.

        • Trang July 6, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

          Hi Jennifer,
          Beef has a stronger flavor than pork, but if you like it, go for it! Enjoy!

  3. Le August 8, 2016 at 10:35 pm #

    Hi Trang,
    I love your recipes with the videos accompaniment. Visual is always good. I had great success with 3 of the recipes from your website. For some reason I ran into a few challenges with this recipe: the buns doesn’t come out as white even though I used vinegar in the steam water. Also cooking it for 20 minutes does not cook the meat adequately, the pork still has a pinkish tone when cut in the center. I had to cook it for another 20 minutes ( I happen to share my problem with the meat being undercooked to my mom and she told me that my grandmother usually steam the banh bao for 40 to 45 minutes ). Does the meat has to be at room temperature before assembling it? Are there any other things that I may have overlooked? I followed your recipes as written. Thank you for sharing and developing great recipes on your website!
    Le

    • Trang August 11, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

      Hi Le,
      I am glad to hear you’ve had success with my recipes and the videos are helpful. Regarding the Steamed Pork Buns, the best way to check to see if the pork is cooked is using a food thermometer. Generally, pork is safe to eat when it reaches 145-150 degrees (this has changed over the years from 165 degrees F). Also, when pork is wrapped up or sealed from circulating air, it often has a pinkish hue even though it’s fully cooked. The process of making the buns allows enough time to remove any chill from the meat so nothing else special is needed. Lastly, the buns may not be snowy white if you’re using an unbleached bread flour. I hope that helps and you’ll give the recipe another try. 🙂

  4. Jeanine May 1, 2016 at 10:19 am #

    I love these buns! I’ve always wanted to make these ahead but I heard that cooked eggs don’t freeze well.Do the eggs get rubbery when you reheat from frozen?

    • Trang May 6, 2016 at 6:45 pm #

      Hi Jeanine,
      Yes, hard-boiled eggs get a bit rubbery when they’re frozen and thawed but it’s not bad. The buns are still pretty tasty.

  5. Dung April 16, 2016 at 11:18 am #

    Hi Trang,
    Thanks a lot for the recipe, can I use all purpose flour and corn flour to make the buns.

    • Trang April 17, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

      Hi Dung,
      You can combine all-purpose flour + corn flour (corn starch) to make the cake flour and then replace the bread flour with all-purpose flour. The texture will be slightly different but still very good. Enjoy the recipe!

  6. Jennifer April 10, 2016 at 6:35 am #

    Hi chi. Can I use chicken or turkey for my filling.

    • Trang April 17, 2016 at 9:16 pm #

      Hi Jennifer,
      You can use any ground meat of your choice. I’ve used both chicken and turkey and the buns are delicious. Enjoy!

  7. Quyen April 2, 2016 at 9:31 am #

    Tried your recipe and my banh baos came out so fluffy and soft! Can I use this dough recipe to make the baked chinese BBQ pork buns?

    • Trang April 6, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

      Hi Quyen,
      That’s awesome! I am thrilled to hear you enjoyed the recipe. Yes, you can use this same recipe to bake the buns. Good Luck!

  8. Carol February 25, 2016 at 8:16 pm #

    I am impressed upon the outcome of this pay. I,ve cook this steamed pork bun the past few day and the outcome is very very nice. The only thing I did include was the mushrooms. Otherwise the steamed buns is as as. Thank you.

    • Trang February 29, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

      Hi Carol,
      I am glad to hear you were happy with the results. Thanks for stopping by to share your outcome!

  9. Lakey December 27, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

    I like a bread like texure better.
    Can I use all bread flour totally 3 cups?

    • Trang December 31, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

      Hi! Yes for a more bread-like texture, use all bread flour for a total of 3 cups. Good Luck and let me know how it turns out for you.

  10. Nhi November 19, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

    Hi,
    I’m Vietnamese but i have lived Cali for a long time . Im really happy when you share how to make this “Banh Bao”.
    Thanks for your sharing .

    • Trang November 20, 2015 at 9:05 pm #

      Hi Nhi,

      I am glad you are interested in my Banh Bao recipe. At my house, we always have these in the freezer because they make such great snacks. I hope you give the recipe a try.

  11. Kim September 7, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

    Thank you for the recipe! It’s great to have something without all the additives found in the packages for banh Bao. A couple questions. Anything other than vinegar in the water that will make the bot more white? And do you steam these first than freeze them or do you freeze them and bring them out to steam at room temp, once frozen? Thanks!

    • Trang September 14, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

      Hi Kim,

      You can use lemon juice instead of vinegar. You steam the buns first and then freeze. Hope that helps. Enjoy the recipe!

  12. Chi September 4, 2015 at 7:44 am #

    Why does the bottom of my banh bao always come out squishy? The dough of the bottom does not seem to rise like the rest of the dough elsewhere of a banh bao.

    • Trang September 14, 2015 at 9:07 pm #

      Hi Chi,
      The bottom of the banh bao often gets wet because it’s too close to the water. Also, if there’s too much water in the steamer basin it may boil up and get the bottoms of the banh bao wet. Here’s something to try: use both steamer trays but just put the banh baos in the top steamer tray. This should help to minimize the squishy bottoms and help the dough rise evenly. Hope that helps.

  13. Ann March 2, 2015 at 6:15 am #

    May I ask if you use single acting or double acting baking powder for the bao recipe. Thank you!

    • Trang March 2, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

      Hi Ann,

      I used double-acting baking powder. Happy Cooking!

      • Ann March 10, 2015 at 6:44 am #

        I am getting ready to make bao and notice that I only have 2% fat milk!!! Is it ok to use it or should I run out and get the regular milk? Thank you chi!

        • Trang March 10, 2015 at 11:06 am #

          Hi Ann,

          2% milk is just fine. Go ahead and use it! Good Luck!

  14. Kim August 13, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    This is a great recipe. The use of cake flour make buns whiter and fluffier. I treasured Your recipes, they are all well written, clear are precise. If follow step by step it will never fail. Thank you very much.

    • Trang August 13, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

      Thank you Kim. I am happy to hear you like these buns! I truly appreciate your nice words about my recipes and so glad you find them helpful. Happy Cooking! 🙂

      • Lynn November 24, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

        Can I use the all purpose flour instead of Cake Flour? Thank you for the good recipe. I love all your video.

        • Trang November 29, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

          Hi Lynn, all-purpose flour is a good substitute. I recommend the cake flour because it gives the buns a lighter, fluffier texture. Good Luck with the recipe!

          • Linda November 17, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

            What is the difference between cake flour and bread flour? Is there a certain brand of vietnamese for it I can look for?

          • Trang November 17, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

            Hi Linda,

            Cake flour has less protein than bread flour. I buy both flours at the American grocery stores. For the cake flour I like Swans Down or Softasilk. For the bread flour, I like Gold Medal or Pillsbury. I hope that helps.

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