Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bánh Bao (Chinese Bao Steamed Bun)

I asked my mom to teach me how to make bánh bao during my visit home. Bánh bao is the Vietnamese name for Chinese bao steamed buns. Bao, (it sounds more like pao to me), means wrap in Cantonese. There are different types of fillings for bao's, such as ones filled with char siu (Chinese BBQ pork), which are popular at dim sum. One that we make at home has a ground pork filling with an egg in the middle. My sister also loves kaya bao, a sweet version with a coconut custard filling.

Bánh Bao (Chinese Bao Steamed Dumpling) - Makes 18 Bao
This is not a difficult recipe and it does not take as long as it looks, but it does require a few steps. I buy these regularly at the Asian grocery store nearby and those are also filled with some cabbage; my mom would say this is because it's a cheap ingredient! This recipe makes 18, but you can easily cut it in half.

Making the Filling
* 600 g ground pork
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp sugar
* ½ tsp ground black pepper
* 2 tsp cornstarch
* 1 tbsp sesame oil
* 2 sticks lạp xưởng (Chinese sausage), sliced
* 1 handful sliced dried mushrooms (or 3 whole dried ones), soaked and well drained
* 18 quail eggs, cooked and peeled - alternately use 5 chicken eggs and cut them into quarters

Mix the ground pork with the salt, sugar, pepper, cornstarch and sesame oil.
Add the dried mushrooms and Chinese sausage. My sister asked that the sausage be cooked (quickly fried) beforehand to melt some of the fat; this is not necessary if you don't care about fat.
Divide into 18 approximately equal portions.
Take one portion of the meat and slightly flatten in your hand.
Place a cooked quail egg on top of the meat and cover the meat around the egg to make a small round ball.
Set aside.

The trick to peeling quailed eggs is to cool them down by soaking them in cold water.

Meat mixture with mushrooms and quickly cooked sausage slices.

Making the meat filling with a quail egg in the middle.

Making the Dough
My mom told me that she has a recipe using Brodie flour and that no other flour would work. I did not understand what was so special about this brand of flour. When she showed me the bag, I realized that it is self-raising flour. I'm guessing it could be replaced with all purpose flour with baking powder but I don't know in which proportion.

* 3/4 cup sugar
* 4-½ cups self-raising flour
* 1-½ cups milk

Mix the flour and sugar in a big bowl.
Pour the milk in and mix until it becomes a dough (you can flour your hands so the dough doesn't stick).
Let it sit for 5 minutes.
Divide into about 18 equal portions.
If you feel any lumps, work through the dough with your hands to remove them.

My mom's Brodie flour and mixing it with sugar.

Adding milk forms a dough!

Forming and Cooking the Buns
* flour
* 18 pieces of dough
* 18 balls of meat filling
* parchment paper, cut into 18 square (about 2" x 2")

On a floured surface, roll out a piece of dough into a circle, ideally tapered at the edges (this is where the dough is gathered so you don't want it too thick!).
Dip one of the prepared meat fillings in flour (this is to prevent the dough getting soggy at the bottom once the meat cooks).
With the piece of dough in one hand, place the meat filling on top.
Fold the dough over the meat with the other hand, pinching it closed while rotating the bun.
Place the bun on top of a piece of parchment paper.
Place the buns into a steamer, leaving a gap between them because the dough will expand.
Steam for 15 minutes.

Rolling the ball of dough (I was just trying to catch my sister's new ring in action!).

Covering the meat filling with the dough. Those are my mom's dextrous hands at work.

Once the buns are steamed, they are much larger.

Cutting the bun in two reveals the meat filling and the egg!

Sweet Kaya Bao - Makes 6
The same dough can be made with a sweet filling. My sister's favourite is a coconut custard that you can buy in a can. Other sweet fillings include lotus paste or red bean pastes. We ate these pretty fast as soon as they came out of the steamer!

* ⅓ of the dough recipe above, divided into 6 portions
* 2 tsp all purpose flour
* 1 tsp cornstarch

Mix the coconut jam with the flour and cornstarch to thicken it (this also helps reduce the sweetness of the jam).
Roll the dough again.
Add about 1/6 of the filling onto the dough.
Cover the filling with the dough (my mother chose to fold these in half and fold the edges - in the same shape as bánh bột lọc. Any shape will do as long as the filling is covered up!).
Steam for 10 minutes.

Coconut jam from a can.

Making the sweet kaya bao. The kaya oozed through the bun.


bluang3lbby said...

is self-raising flour the same as self-rising? i never heard of the brand brodie before. but this will definitely get me on maybe making this because i been craving homemade banh bao for the longest time and my mom doesn't want to help me with it.

Miss.Adventure said...

I'm not sure but from a quick internet search, it sounds the same. The self-raising flour is a pre-mix of flour, baking powder and salt. I also found a substitue on the internet: for 1 cup of self-raising flour, replace with
1 cup all purpose flour, 1¼ teaspoon baking powder & ½ teaspoon salt. I have not tried this though! Good luck and do let me know if it turns out ok!

Cheddar Cheese said...

Good one Miss Adventure! That was indeed a good family recipe. A bit tedious but surely mouth watering. Thanks for the sharing.

Gastronomer said...

I am endlessly impressed by your mom's skills in the kitchen!! I hope to make banh bao from scratch one of these days. THANKS for sharing!

Token (Bento-Lunch-Blog) said...

Hey! :D
I just wanted you to know, that I love your blog. All these fotos and recipes are so great. Now I can try to do some dishes by myself (or asking my mom to cook it for me *ggg*)

Anonymous said...

Your Blog is great! I haven't had these in over 20 years. I worked with a girl at TI that would make them and bring them to work. I may attempt to make them myself. We have quite a few Asian stores close by. Thanks for sharing the recipe and the great pictures.

Anonymous said...

I just tried your recipe today.

I found that the dough was a bit thick (when finished cooking). I'm guessing I didn't knead it for long enough. How long do you usually knead it for?

I have tried making the dough from the packet you buy in the asian supermarkets, but I live a bit far from them now and then I found your recipe!

Thanks for sharing. Although it doesn't taste exactly the same as what I'm used to, I'm going to have to try it again and knead it for a bit longer.

Angry Asian said...

i made this recently, thanks for sharing the recipe. i ended up baking half the batch, as well as steaming. they turned out well.

tommy said...

My name is tommy nguyen from Michigan, your are wonderful woman, i love it.

-Bethany- said...

My Laotian mother also accuses Asian restaurants of using too much cabbage because it is cheap. We Southeast Asians love our meat!

Anonymous said...

I used icing sugar they were very nice and soft

Sherlly said...

I made this last night and it was really delish! I used ground beef (since my local supermarket doesn't offer ground pork) and I thought it was really good. And instead of the Chinese sausage I used Colombian Sausage which is really good too! Overall a bit time consuming but worth it!

Anonymous said...

hahaha... when i was little my mom and dad says that already made dishes that you buy at the supermarket is usually cheap too... well mostly... then they said to me they can make it better quality and taste better

Jane said...


I used to buy these in the supermarket and heat them up when I still lived in Amsterdam. When I moved to Sweden's country side these became impossible to get. Now I can make them myself! I would very much like to thank you for this recipe since it tastes great and I have made it several times already. Usually I make a whole lot of them (50 or so) and freeze them in so I can reheat them when I'm to lazy to kook. I do however never use the eggs (you cant get them here) and I fill them with whatever I can get my hands on. I once filled them with a chicken and curry paste which tasted surprisingly good. So thank you for writing these in English so I can enjoy food from across the world!