Chinese Steam Buns (Bao)

Chinese steam bun is a basic staple in China. In some parts of the China, steam buns are served as breakfast in restaurants, food carts. Steam buns can be stuffed with various types of fillings or unstuffed. Those stuffed steamed buns are called as Baozi in Chinese (Bao Buns) and those plain steam buns are called as Mantou (饅頭). Today, I am going to introduce this pocket steam buns which allow you to fill in with any fillings that you like such as BBQ pull pork and Peking duck or serve as pain. The main ingredients for traditional white buns are yeast, plain flour and water. However, for my receipt I made a bit change compare to the traditional buns by adding some milk. If you do not prefer milk, it is absolutely not a problem to replace it with water.

This recipe can make around 14-18 buns depends the size of your choice. If you can not eat up at once, just steam the buns and then fridge or freeze after cooled. These buns can be refrigerated for 3 days and frozen up to 1 month. Re-steam before serving.

To steam the buns, you will need a steamer. There are two types of steamer: steal steamer and bamboo steamer. The one that I used is a bamboo steamer, it is easy to buy from oriental food stores and Amazon.

  • Note: the shape that I created for this steam bun is a flat pocket steam bun, therefore the steaming time would not be long as the traditional round buns.
Chinese steam buns

Tips for this:

  1. If you are using dry yeast, activate them by placing them in lukewarm water before mixing with the dough. Avoid adding instant yeast near sugar and salt.
  2. To create a smooth mantou (avoid bumpy surface), the dough should be well kneaded in both stages. Remember to pinch the air out after the firstly fermentation forcefully to remove the air inside.
    After the second kneading, there should be no large bubbles in cross section of your dough.
    Lastly, control the fire during steam process. If you are using bamboo steamer, low the fire to medium after boiling and adjust the steaming time depends on the size of your buns. For a bigger bun, steam for around 15 minutes. After steaming, remove your steamer off the fire and wait for 3-5 minutes before lifting the cover to avoid collapse.
  3. Dust extra flour on your board and hands if the dough is sticky.
  4. Do not over-fermented, it can result sour taste.
  5. Different flour brands have different absorbency of liquid. Add more water if the dough is too dry.

Ingredients (17 buns)

Plain flour, plus extra for dusting  525g
Sugar  1½ tbsp
Instant yeast  1 tsp
Milk  50ml
Water, plus extra if the dough is too dry  200ml
Olive oil/ sunflower oil, plus extra for brushing  1 tbsp
Rice vinegar  1 tbsp
Baking powder  1 tsp


Baking parchment


  1. Mix all the dry ingredients except the baking powder in a large bowl. Then add the remaining wet ingredients, mix it into a dough. Adding a little extra water if necessary.
  2. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth or cling film and leave to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  3. Punch the dough to release all the air inside the dough. Tip the dough onto a clean work surface and flatten it. Then sprinkle over the baking powder and knead for 5 minutes.
  4. Roll out the dough into a long sausage shape, about 3cm thick, then cut into pieces that are about 3cm wide – you should have 17.
  5. In the palm of your hand, roll each piece of dough into a ball and leave to rest for 2-3 mins.
  6. Use a rolling pin to roll out each ball, one at a time, into an oval shape about 3-4mm thick. Rub the surface of the dough with oil and brush a little oil over a chopstick.
  7. Place the oiled chopstick in the centre of each oval. Fold the dough over the chopstick, then slowly pull out the chopstick.
  8. Transfer the prepared buns to a baking tray lined with baking parchment, cover with a clean tea towel or lightly oiled cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hr 30 mins, or until doubled in size.
  9. Heat a large steamer over a medium heat. Steam the buns for 8 mins until puffed up (you’ll need to do this in batches). Prise open each bun and fill with your choice of fillings. Eat while they’re still warm.

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