What Is Bao? And How to Steam Bao Buns

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What is Bao? Today I’ll be answering the question, “what is a bao bun?” We’ll also talk about the different Bao fillings and how to steam Bao in bamboo baskets and the Instant Pot.

What Is A Bao Bun?

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What Is a Bao Bun?

Bao also known as baozi or steamed buns is a type of steamed bread that has its origins in China. Steamed bao buns are typically made from flour, water, yeast, and sugar. The bao dough is kneaded until soft and elastic, it’s then shaped into small oval shape buns.

Is Bao Chinese?

Yes, bao is a traditional Chinese food that has been enjoyed for centuries. It is believed to have originated in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). According to legend bao was invented by Zhuge Liang, a minister of war and strategist for the Kingdom of Shu.

Liang is said to have created a type of steamed bread using millet flour, water, and yeast as an emergency ration for his troops. Since then steamed bao buns have become popular throughout the fujian province, northern China and beyond.

How to Pronounce Bao?

Bao is pronounced “bou” or “bow” with a rising intonation as if you are asking a question. The word is written in Chinese characters as 包, which can be translated as “bundle” or “wrapping.”

Bao buns are so named because they are traditionally made by wrapping the filling inside the dough and steaming it to cook.

Bao Bun Fillings

Today bao can be found in all sorts of different forms and flavors both savory and sweet. Here are some popular Bao bun fillers:

close up person s hand eating gua bao with chopsticks wooden tray
What Is A Bao Bun?

Savory Bao Fillings

Savory bao bun fillings include food such as pork, beef, chicken, shrimp and vegetables.

Gua Bao

Gua Bao, also known as crispy pork Bao is filled with crispy pieces of pork belly and covered in a sweet hoisin sauce.

BBQ Chicken Bao

BBQ chicken bao is popular street food in China and other parts of Asia. It’s filled with barbecue chicken, red onions, cilantro, and sometimes cheese.

top view dim sum
What Is A Bao Bun?

Veggie Bao

If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, there are also plenty of delicious veggie options to choose from.

Duck Bao

One popular bao filling is duck. Duck bao is typically made with braised or steamed duck meat, cucumber, scallions and sweet hoisin sauce. Other popular fillings include mushrooms, duck, BBQ pork, tofu, pickled vegetables, eggs, onions, garlic chives and more.

Sweet Bao Fillings

Some popular sweet fillings include red bean paste, custard, chocolate and peanut butter. Sweet Bao can also also be filled with fresh fruit, such as lychee, mango, and strawberry.

How to Cook Bao Buns?

There are several different ways to cook Chinese steamed buns. You can steam them in a bamboo basket or use a pressure cooker.

How to Steam Bao Buns in a Bamboo Steamer?

To cook Bao in a bamboo steamer, simply line the bottom section of the steamer with parchment paper, fill each hollow of the steamer with Bao, and cover it with the lid. Steam your Bao buns for 15-20 minutes and remove them from the heat.

top view delicious dumplings concept
What Is A Bao Bun?

How to Cook Instant Pot Bao Buns?

If you’re looking to make your Bao super fast, you might want to consider using an Instant Pot.

To cook bao steamed buns in the Instant Pot add 1 cup of water to the bottom of the pot.

Place the Bao into the pot in a steamer basket and cook for 0 minutes.

close up view delicious dumplings
What Is A Bao Bun?

How Long to Steam Bao Buns?

On average, the perfect bao should be steamed for about 15-20 minutes. No need for a bread maker or baking tray when it comes to Bao recipes – you simply need to steam it!

Basic Bao Ingredients

To make steamed buns from scratch, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups wheat flour (or gluten-free flour if desired)
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

How to Make Bao Buns

  • In a lightly oiled bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the warm water and mix until a smooth dough forms.
  • Knead the dough for about 5-10 minutes, until it becomes elastic and smooth.
  • Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rise for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
  • Once the dough has risen, divide it into small balls (about the size of a ping pong ball). Flatten each ball with a rolling pin and place a spoonful of your desired filling in the center.
  • Fold the dough over the filling using an oiled chopstick and seal it shut, forming a bun shape.
  • Your Chinese buns will now be ready to steam.
top view raw little dumplings with seasonings eggs white background pie color food bake cake salad meat
What Is A Bao Bun?

Do I Need Baking Powder or Rice Vinegar?

Many recipes for bao buns will call for baking powder and rice vinegar, as it helps to give the dough a light and fluffy texture. However, this is not strictly necessary if you are using high-quality flour and have the right technique.

Are Bao Buns Gluten-Free?

Traditional bao buns are made with wheat flour, which contains gluten. Therefore, they are not suitable for those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.

steamed dumpling chinese bun 1
What Is A Bao Bun?

How to Reheat Bao Buns

There are several ways to reheat bao buns, depending on your preference and the equipment

Steaming Bao Buns

This is the traditional method for reheating bao buns and will help to preserve their soft and fluffy texture. Reheat for 5 minutes.

Microwave Bao Buns

If you are in a hurry, you can microwave bao buns to reheat them. Place the buns on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for about 15-30 seconds.

Pan Fry Bao Buns

Another option is to pan-fry the bao buns. Cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side, or until they are heated through and have a crispy exterior.

Make Steamed Buns at Home Today!

If you’re looking for a delicious, easy-to-make snack or meal that is sure to impress your friends and family, then look no further than steamed bao buns. With their soft, fluffy texture and wide variety of fillings, these buns are perfect for any occasion or dinner.

Instant Pot Chinese Recipes

If you love Bao buns, you may also enjoy these Asian Instant Pot Recipes.

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