Pork bao buns recipe: How to make steamed pork buns

Packed full of rich Chinese flavors, a fluffy outside texture, and a melty, heartwarming center – what's not to love about Pork buns? And here's the best part: they're easier to make than you'd think!

Pork buns are absolutely delicious, and you're perfectly capable of making them at home.
Pork buns are absolutely delicious, and you're perfectly capable of making them at home.  © IMAGO/Pond5 Images

Pork bao buns and other dumplings may seem quite intimidating for home cooks. But appearances can be deceiving, and TAG24 is here to walk you through the steps that will have you enjoying this delicious treat in no time!

All you need to bring to the table is the right equipment and ingredients.

We'll meet you halfway with a recipe that will impress friends and family at any dinner party.

How to make steamed pork bao buns: recipe

The thing about cooking dumplings is that getting the ratio and activation of the dough right is almost entirely based on practice and experience. It can be a tricky thing to pull off, being entirely about the way you prepared and then folded the dough – but don't get discouraged!

Ultimately, though, what's most important is that you use a proper steamer to make these wonderful buns. It doesn't have to be a bamboo steamer, as is traditional (and preferable for the novelty and cheapness) – a metal pot steamer is also an option.

Here is the equipment you will need to make pork bao buns:

  • A proper steamer, preferably bamboo
  • If using a bamboo steamer:
    • Deep, wide frying pan
  • A chopping board
  • Knives
  • Measuring utensils
  • A roasting dish
  • Deep-bottomed saucepan
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon or heavy-duty spatula
  • Glad wrap
  • Baking paper
  • Tongs

For the most part, the actual cooking process of making pork dumplings is easier. The difficult bit comes in the construction, but we're here to help you with that.

Pork buns are not as hard to make as many people think.
Pork buns are not as hard to make as many people think.  © Unsplash/Joan Tran

Steamed pork buns recipe | Ingredients

There are two different components to making a pork bun, and they are pretty self-explanatory: the filling and the dumpling. Each requires a set of different skills and vastly different timings. As a result, we recommend getting all of your ingredients together and, as we describe in the instructions, making the dumpling dough first so that it can rest while you make the filling.

Here are the ingredients you need for steamed pork buns:

  • For the dumpling dough:
    • Sachet of active dry yeast, 1 teaspoon
    • Warm water, 1 cup
    • Sugar, 5 tablespoons
    • Cornflour, 1 cup
    • Plain flour, 1–2 cups
    • Neutral oil, 2 tablespoons
    • 2 tsp baking powder
  • For the filling:
    • 2 shallots
    • Pork (belly, shank, filet, a fatty cut that can be shredded), 1 pound
    • Pinch of sugar
    • Pinch of salt
    • Chinese five-spice powder
    • Water
    • Sesame oil, 1 tablespoons
    • Soy sauce, 1 tablespoons
    • Oyster sauce, 1 tablespoons
    • Neutral oil for cooking

On the proportions: Our beautiful steamed pork bao buns recipe has been designed to produce six nicely sized pork buns. If you want to make more or less, simply adjust the quantities proportionally.

Steamed pork buns recipe | Instructions

Using a proper bamboo steamer is the best way to make steamed pork buns.
Using a proper bamboo steamer is the best way to make steamed pork buns.  © IMAGO/Pond5 Images

The process of making steamed pork buns is a relatively long and complex one, with a number of different steps and a lot of room for error. What's most important is that the yeast and dough activates so that it rises and becomes lovely and fluffy when steamed.

Here's how to make steamed pork bao buns

Step 1: Start by preparing your dough. Activate your yeast by placing it in a small bowl with a little bit of sugar and water. Let it then sit for at least five minutes to make sure that it gets foamy.

Step 2: In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornflower, sugar, and a pinch of salt until thoroughly mixed. Now add your activated yeast, the oil, and the water. Combine and form into a shaggy dough.

Step 3: Knead for about 10 minutes or until the mixture has formed a glistening and smooth white ball that has an elastic feel to it but isn't too sticky.

Step 4: Set aside, wrapped in cling wrap or in a covered bowl, to allow it to rise for at least two hours.

Step 5: Now it is time to make the filling. This is the simplest part of the process and something you can likely do with your eyes closed.

Step 6: Start by cooking your pork. You need to season it with salt, pepper, and Chinese five spice. Wrap it in foil and bake it in the oven for about 2 hours, until falling apart tender. Feel free to also use pre-prepared Chinese BBQ pork or something similar.

Step 7: Now add your diced shallots to a saucepan and sauté them in the neutral oil until translucent. Mix in the pork and fry off for a bit, allowing it to get a little bit of color.

Step 8: Add your sauces – soy, oyster, sesame, some sugar, and some water. Cook on a low heat for about 1–2 hours, topping up with water when necessary.

Step 9: Once reduced to a thick mixture, that isn't too watery, make a mixture out of a teaspoon of cornflour and a little bit of water (it should be relatively wet). Mix this into the filling and allow it to thicken up even more.

Step 10: Now get your resting dough and give it another quick knead, making sure that it is an elastic consistency and beautifully soft to the touch.

Step 11: Divide into three or four parts and roll out until about 1/5-1/6 of an inch thick. Cut into circles, add a blob of the filling, and fold into little dumplings as shown in the video below.

Step 12: Place a small bit of baking paper below each dumpling and bring your water up to boil, making sure the steamer is hot and ready to go.

Step 13: Steam your dumplings for about 12 minutes, or until they spring back at the touch. They are finished! Enjoy!

How to steam pork buns without a steamer

While it is best to use a proper steamer to make pork buns, you can always experiment. You have to steam them, not bake them or fry them.

What you need is a small reservoir of water that can be brought to the boil without making any contact with the food that's cooking. Once the water is boiling, you want the steam to rise and fill an enclosed space – not producing lots of pressure, but heating and cooking the food.

The method: We would recommend putting a large pot on the stove with about an inch of water at the bottom. Bring it up to the boil and then place a metal strainer inside, positioning it to not touch the water and using it as a basket for your steaming food. Place a lid over it and watch it steam.

Pork bao dumplings are unlike any other food.
Pork bao dumplings are unlike any other food.  © IMAGO/Pond5 Images

For a more detailed guide on how to steam something without a steamer, check out our recipe for Vietnamese steamed chicken.

Pork bao buns are a truly delicious snack, but can also make a fantastic meal when combined with other Chinese dishes. With a little bit of skill and practice, you can even make them at home!

Cover photo: IMAGO/Pond5 Images

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