Steamed Chinese Buns (dough & bun assembly only)

Steamed Chinese Buns
(No pork products involved)

These buns are basic steamed buns, made with yeast and baking powder. The project is adventuresome for a baker or cook in a kosher kitchen because of the implication of pork.  I'm more interested in the dough making process and found various meat fillings in a cookbook given to me by a Chinese Filipina friend when I left Manila in 1983. The book is called Chinese Snacks: Wei-Chuan's Cook Book and is written in Chinese and less than fluent English (Edited by Miss Huang Su Huei, translated by Miss Nina Simonds). The imprint is 1976, no publisher named, although We-Chuan is (was?) a food purveyor in Hong Kong.
The recipe for the dough I used today comes from Momfuku's food blog.  Even though the attempt documented here was my first try, the dough was easy to work with. The final product looked reasonable, certainly not perfect.  With practice I think I can do this.

The meat recipe comes from a combination of sources including (a food blog about Asian cooking) and Wei-Chuan's Cook Book. I used 2nd cut brisket because it was fattier and could be BBQ'd.  Fred makes an astonishing smoked brisket and I'm sure that would be every bit just as delicious.  I plan to also try this with veal (the butcher suggested veal breast) and ground chicken (the Wei-Chuan cookbook has a recipe for this variation). 

For those who think keeping a kosher kitchen means matzah ball soup and gefilte fish- think again; figuring out work-arounds for various ethnic cuisines creates a whole new cooking adventure.
It was interesting in that when I looked for steamed bun recipes through an Internet search I came up with yeast/baking powder as the main option.  In Wei Chuan's book there are three options for "basic leavened dough including the one made with yeast, another with a young sour dough starter mixed with baking soda and baking powder and a third made with baking powder only. I have been learning to start sourdough starters on and off for the past year or so and have one going now, so I'll try this variation soon (Super Bowl Sunday might be a good day to find a long project to keep me busy!)
The choreography for this project is:
  • BBQ the meat (you need to have about 1lb of BBQ'd meat for each batch of dough)
  • Make the dough
  • Dice the meat while the dough is rising
  • Make the sauce for the diced meat filling
  • Assemble the dumpling
  • Steam
  • Devour them!!!! (and save some for later- these dumplings can be frozen to be eaten within a couple of weeks)

Recipes for fillings will be posted in a separate posting. This posting will document the procedure for making steamed bun dough and assembly of the bun.

 Here is the Momofuku recipe for steamed buns:
This dough is hand kneaded. In case you are looking for salt, this dough recipe has none.
In a large bowl add the following and mix:
  • 12.5 oz all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
Add 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast to one side of the bowl, add 1/2 tsp sugar around the yeast
Pour 3/4 cup lukewarm water over the yeast to hydrate and start to mix by hand
Add 2 Tbsp canola oil

Mix by hand, turn out on a work surface. If you have trouble getting the mixture to bind, add 1 Tbsp warm water (you can add up to 1 more, but hold back to see if your really need it).
Gently knead by hand for 4-5 minutes, you'll have a stiff dough Pour about 1 Tbsp oil into the bowl (I don't wash these bowls- this is where you mixed the flour!). Roll the dough around in the bowl so that the dough has an oily covering.

            Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap.There should be no large pockets of air space between the plastic wrap and dough. The wrap should be loose enough for the dough to proof (rise). This dough will double in bulk in about 45- 50 minutes. 
 It will look different than bread dough- you will see bubbles in the dough - this is due to the use of the additional leaving agent (baking powder). There is a good photo below that shows this effect.
 Notice the stiff bubbled texture of the dough:

 To assemble the bun:

Turn the dough several times to gently de-gas.  Divide the dough into 10 or 12 equal pieces (roll gently into balls).

Roll into a ball, flatten in your hand, working the edges so that they are thinner than the center of the dough ball. (Think of this as the OPPOSITE of what you do when you make or see pizza dough.)

  Add a tablespoon or two of the filling onto the center of the dough disk. Try to keep any filling or sauce off the the edge because it will become difficult to seal. Bring the edges up, pleating and then twisting to seal.  This became easier as I practiced on this batch, but you can see, I'm far from perfect.

 Place each bun on a square of parchment paper, place in a steamer basket,  leaving space for expansion between each bun.  A bamboo steamer or metal steamer will work equally well- the bamboo steamer will "feel" right- steam for 15 minutes. Don't lift the cover during that time. The finished buns will "burst" open a bit.          
See the post on Chinese bun fillings for several filling options.


  1. The pictures and instructions are so descriptive and appealing. Better than many cookbooks i have seen. Thank you for the hard work you put into your blog.


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