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!
- 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
- 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!)
1. Put hot water in standing mixer bowl and sprinkle sugar and yeast over it, then let it sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, if using, soak the dried mushrooms in warm water until completely soft – about 30 minutes. Then, chop.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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).
Grab this fold with your right index finger and pinch down.
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.
Here I have just over half of the “pork bun” folded:
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.
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.
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.
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.
11. Steam the buns for 12 to 15 minutes for two layers, 10 minutes for one layer.
12. Remove the pork buns and, if necessary, cook another batch. Peel off the parchment paper and serve!
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.