Chinese Steamed Pork Buns

Pretty pork buns.

Old style pork buns My mom came to visit this past weekend and showed me how to properly fold/wrap Chinese steamed pork buns. I’ve made them before but never knew how to make them look “pretty,” so I was finally able to learn from the master. The photo above shows “pretty” pork buns, the smaller picture here shows my previous unguided attempts.

Steamed pork buns can usually be found at dim sum places or Chinese markets. The dough has a smooth surface but the texture is actually like dense white bread. Inside is usually a mixture of pork and vegetables. There’s a form of steamed pork bun that is probably more well-known that has a barbequed pork mixture inside.

Read on to see the recipe and, most importantly, make them look pretty! Bonus video included.

Chinese Steamed Pork Buns

Takes about 2.5 hours to make the dough and prep the ingredients, then another 1-1.5 hours for wrapping and cooking. It’s a fun weekend project!

Ingredients…

Gear

  • Food processor (if using filling #2)
  • Standing mixer, or strong arms
  • Big bowl for mixing the filling
  • Parchment paper
  • Double-layer Chinese steamer (bamboo or metal)
  • Wok or large skillet that holds the steamer and a few inches of water
  • Muslin to line the steamer
  • Rolling pin
  • Cutting board, knife, smaller bowls, and other assorted normal kitchen gear

Dough

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup hot water (110° – 115° F)
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons shortening (optional – it changes the texture/flavor of the dough just slightly. My mom doesn’t put this in, but I usually do.)

Filling Type 1

  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 lb. pork or diced chicken
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cooking wine
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon (or more to taste) chopped green onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup diced bamboo shoots or water chestnuts (optional – if you like the texture)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Filling Type 2

This type of filling is what my mom always makes.

  • 1 1/2 cups minced cabbage (food processor is great for this)
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 cup minced onions or green onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (mom’s advice: Don’t use powdered ginger!)

Directions

1. Put hot water in standing mixer bowl and sprinkle sugar and yeast over it, then let it sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Water, sugar, and yeast Foamy yeast

2. Meanwhile, if using, soak the dried mushrooms in warm water until completely soft – about 30 minutes. Then, chop.

Soaking mushrooms Chopped mushrooms

3. Add the rest of the dough ingredients and mix on low using a dough hook attachment. Even after the dough has combined, let it knead/mix the dough for three to five minutes until the dough is smooth.

Mixing dough Mixed dough

4. While waiting for the dough to rise, chop the veggies and then mix all the filling ingredients together. You may cover it and let it rest in the fridge.

Filling

5. While you’re still waiting for the dough to rise, cut twenty-four small squares of wax parchment paper, about 2.5-3 inches square. (The photo shows waxed paper, but I found parchment paper is even better because it doesn’t stick to the dough and you can reuse them later if you’re thrifty.)

Parchment paper squares

6. After the dough has risen, “punch” the dough in the middle so that it deflates slightly, then turn it out onto a floured work surface (or a non-stick silicone mat). Roll the dough into a “snake” and cut into 24 pieces. I usually cut it in half, then each half in half, then each quarter in half, then each chunk into thirds.

Dough Cut dough

7. Roll a piece of dough out. You want the edges to be thin (like 1/8″) but the center to be thickish (like 1/4″). You can do this by shaping the dough into a disc, then using the rolling pin to just slightly roll and flatten the whole disc. Then, rotating the dough circle with your left hand after each roll, barely catch the edge of the dough with the rolling pin — roll (barely), rotate dough, roll, rotate dough. The dough circle should be about 4″ to 5″ in diameter.

The picture below shows my “old skool” method of just squishing, not rolling the dough. I learned from my mom that rolling the dough with a rolling pin is key for having that smooth look at the end.

8. Drop a generous amount of filling (about 2 heaping tablespoonfuls) into the center of the wrap. Use the spoon to compact the filling so it won’t fall apart.

9. Now comes the fun wrapping bit. I have a new series of photos using blue playdoh, and a low-quality video to boot. (The lighting in the photos makes my hands look like they are two different colors. Pretty cool. Rest assured that in real life my hands are the same color.)

Start out holding the dough/filling in your left hand.

Playdoh pork bun

Now, grab the right side of the dough with your thumb and index finger – thumb on the top surface of the dough, index finger on the bottom, at the 3:00 position. Twist your hand slightly so that you start to form a “fold” (C). With your left thumb/index finger, grab a portion of the dough (A – about 12:00 or 1:00) and bring the dough over towards your right hand. As you do this, a fold will form (B).

Pinch.

Grab this fold with your right index finger and pinch down.

Folding pork bun

Continue this process all the way around the pork bun. The diagram below shows the general movement of your fingers — your right thumb stays still, your left hand grabs and brings the dough over, your right index finger collects the new dough and pinches down.

Folding pork bun

Here I have just over half of the “pork bun” folded:

Near the end

Near the end, you will have just a small opening (from where your thumb is). Don’t let go of the dough — this photo was taken for demonstration purposes. In real-life the hole would probably be much smaller, but playdoh is not as elastic as flour-water dough.

Finishing it off.

To finish off the dough, your thumb is probably still “inside” the hole and your index finger outside. Twist your fingers to bring the edges all together and then pinch everything closed. Round and shape the whole bun gently with your hands to get it into a nice circle.

Finishing it off.

Watch an extremely low-quality video — in the first part, I use blue playdoh to demo (and explain), in the second part, you can see my mom folding it at real-time speed. It’s quite impressive. (Sorry — I was using the video feature on my digital camera that only takes TINY videos. You can go to Google and view the video at “original size” to see it properly.)

9. When you’re done, lay the bun on a piece of parchment paper and wrap the rest.

Finished bun

10. My mom taught me a new way of steaming the pork buns. Before, I was just putting the pork buns directly into the steamer (I used to line the sides with parchment paper but got lazy). This works, but some of the dough might stick to the steamer so you have to clean it afterwards.

My mom taught me to wet a piece of muslin or other uncolored cloth and line the bottom of the steamer. Put the empty steamer baskets, covered, over a large pan that has a bit of water in the bottom and heat it up. You want the cloth to be nice and hot before laying the pork buns inside. After the water is boiling and the cloth is hot, remove the layers and put the pork buns inside.

Of course, if you don’t have cloth and don’t mind cleaning, you can just lay the pork buns in the steamer directly and wait for the water to boil BEFORE putting the steamer baskets over the heat.

Steamer basket Steamer baskets

11. Steam the buns for 12 to 15 minutes for two layers, 10 minutes for one layer.

Steaming

12. Remove the pork buns and, if necessary, cook another batch. Peel off the parchment paper and serve!

Pork buns

If any part of this was confusing, please let me know in the comments and I’ll try to clarify!

Update 10:18 am – Okay, I just found Easter brunch bunny steamed bun instructions, which are way too cute! I’ll definitely be trying this method next time I make some.

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20 Comments

  1. gilda
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    If you don’t have a piece of muslin or uncolored cloth, I think you can save a piece (or two) of cabbage (enough to cover the bottom of your steamer, however many batches you’ll be making) and use that to keep the buns from sticking. It’s what they do at the dim sum restaurants.

  2. Posted May 17, 2007 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Gilda! I had forgotten about that. I did some quick searching and it seems that some instructions tell you to pre-steam the cabbage leaves as well, but others don’t. Someone into food and science might want to try both and see how they turn out.

  3. Posted May 17, 2007 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    These are awesome! I can’t wait for a long rainy day so I can try them out. Thanks for sharing your instructions!

  4. Posted May 17, 2007 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Cremarie – Thanks for visiting, hope they turn out well!

  5. Gene Wong
    Posted August 4, 2007 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Hi Corrie,
    Came across your site when I was doing some research on the internet for instructions on wrapping pork steam buns. It is by far the best that I have found. Thanks alot, I do have to admit that on the playdoh demo, I was always playing back the part that your miom was in. No offense. Thanks again for great instructions.
    Gene

  6. Posted August 4, 2007 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gene – You’re welcome! Hope yours turn out well.

  7. Uthai
    Posted August 19, 2008 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Does your pork buns rise at all? Whenever I cook my pork buns they turn into Humongous pork buns >..<
    Is it supposed to cook only for a few minutes?
    Oh man I ask too much questions

  8. Posted August 20, 2008 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Hi Uthai – Yes, they do rise. I cook mine for 10-12 minutes in the steamer, and they more than double in size from the dough puffing out.

  9. Mamie
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Corrie,
    Thanks for sharing your steamed pork bun recipe and video. That was very helpful. My questions: Do you pre-cook the ground pork mixture before filling the dough? Is there no second rising after filling the dough?

    Mamie

  10. Posted January 7, 2009 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Hi Mamie – No, you don’t pre-cook the pork mixture. The steaming is enough to cook it through; and that way, the meat sticks together so it’s easier to fill the bun. There is no second rising although you let the bun sit for 30 min before steaming them. The buns actually puff up quite nicely as they’re being steamed.

  11. Manda
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks this is the best and most helpful recipe I have come across.

  12. Manda
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Hi, just a query, I found my dough to be quite rubbery, what am I doing wrong?

  13. Maria
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Hi… thanks for this GREAT demo and recipe.

    The only problem I am having making these is that the filling does not cook enough in the 15 mins steaming – could this be because I don’t have a bamboo steamer and am improvising using a covered pan of boiling water with a steamer basket inside?

    Thanks again :)

    • Posted March 5, 2009 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      Hi Maria – sorry for the late reply! I haven’t had too many problems with this recipe (and it’s been a while since I’ve made it). If the dough is rubbery, it’s possible that it didn’t rise enough — did it seem like the dough at least doubled or tripled in size? Also, I haven’t had an issue w/ not-well-cooked filling, either. It may depend on how much filling you’re putting in, but I would definitely be on the safe side and cook it for longer! I usually use a bamboo steamer, but I don’t know if it would make a difference to use a metal steamer or not.

      I don’t think my comments are all that helpful, but hopefully as you try the recipe a few more times, you’ll find out what works for you!

  14. meri
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    hello!
    wanted to make chinese pork buns (not char siu bao) and found your site.

    so, was wondering, can I use rice flour?
    would I have to alter the dough recipe at all?

    also, in my search I learned that if you add vinegar to the boiling water it makes the buns look whiter :)

  15. upsorn
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Hi there,
    Afer the bun is stuffed; did you let the bun sit before steam it? If so, for how long? I have heard that you don’t have to let the finished bun sit before steam it because it will rise while it’s cooking. I just wondering how did you do your because it turn out so yummy.

    • Posted June 19, 2010 at 1:40 am | Permalink

      I personally do let them sit there for about half an hour – mainly because that’s the way I learned to do it!

  16. Lynn
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    Hi there – if I’m going to use only the pork recipe that your mom uses, is 1/2 tsp of salt enough to season it? Do I need to add any soya etc?

    Thanks!

    • Posted October 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      The recipe is forgiving. I think you can use up to a teaspoon of salt – it’s sort of all approximate when I do it! You can add soy sauce for extra flavor, too, but then reduce the salt that you use.

  17. Cookie
    Posted March 5, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Luv luv this food. Just wondering what kind of flour you used.Is it just regular or the special kind just for the bun.I saw them in Asian market but I’m hesitant to used.Thanks for the very informative recipe.


4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] bread stuffed with tasty bits of meat with a sticky-sweet glaze on top). Since I know how to make steamed pork buns and I recently found a great recipe for homemade char siu, I thought I’d concoct my own [...]

  2. [...] http://corriehaffly.wordpress.com/2007/05/17/chinese-steamed-pork-buns/ [...]

  3. [...] something in between the first two recipes, try Corrie Haffly’s dough recipe.  The bun shown here was made using this [...]

  4. [...] something in between the first two recipes, try Corrie Haffly’s dough recipe.  The bun in the photo above was made using this [...]

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