A firm favourite at festivals and food events, join the bao bun trend by making your own bao dough at home. Making your own means you have full control over ingredients and it also means you can achieve a truly authentic taste which is really hard to beat – perfect for when cravings kick in and there’s not a food truck in sight!
The best thing about using this versatile bao recipe is that you can fill your dough with anything you like; katsu chicken, pulled pork, prawns and kimchi or go completely vegetarian. You can even steam and eat the dough solo, dipped in sweet chilli or soy sauce – that’s how soft, fluffy and delicious this recipe is!
What is a bao bun anyway?
Bao zi means ‘stuffed steamed buns’. If you steam it without any filling and roll it into smaller pieces, it is traditionally called a mantou. In countries like Hong Kong and the Philippines, mantou is sometimes fried and is usually paired with condensed milk. In Taiwan, they have a burger-like bun called gua bao or ‘crispy pork bun’ but here in Australia we simply refer to them as bao buns, with one of the most popular fillings being BBQ pork (or Char Siu Bao).
Generally, you can categorise bao doughs into three main types:
- Leavened: a fluffy bao dough that is fully risen using a leavening agent like yeast.
- Half-leavened: a less fluffy, half-risen bao dough (in China, it is traditionally used to hold or contain soup).
- Unleavened: a bao dough that uses no leavening agent.
This recipe is classified as a leavened bao dough.
HINT: Before you start, make sure you have warm water and not boiling water. 26°C is considered the best temperature for proofing yeast.
- ⅔ cup warm water
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 ½ tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp canola oil plus extra for greasing and brushing
- 1¼ cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water, whisking together. Let the mixture sit for 4 to 6 mins, until the yeast starts to get foamy and bloom. Stir in the oil and set aside.
- In a bowl, sift in the flour, salt and baking soda together. Add to the dry ingredients the yeast mixture and stir using a rubber spatula.
- Using the dough hook on a stand mixer, or kneading by hand against a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough for 5-10 mins or until smooth. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 1½ to 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
- Once the dough is set roll the dough into a long sausage shape, roughly 3cm thick, then cut into 3cm wide pieces. Roll pieces into a ball and leave to rest for 5 mins.
- Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball, into an oval shape keeping each piece about 3mm thick. Now brush the surface of each dough piece with oil as well as brushing a little oil over a chopstick.
- Carefully lay the oiled chopstick in the centre of each oval. Fold the dough over the chopstick, then slowly pull it out.
- Transfer the buns to a baking tray lined with baking paper, cover with a clean tea towel or lightly oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for 1 hr 30 mins, or until doubled in size.
- Place buns in a large bamboo steamer lined with baking paper and set over a wok of boiling water – you will need to cook these in batches. Cover and steam for 8-10 mins until puffed. Prise open each bun and fill the buns with your filling of choice. Eat while they’re still warm.