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How to make steamed bao buns

You can achieve wonderfully light, pillowy bao buns in just six simple steps with our easy recipe. These beautiful bao buns are all the more delicious as they're filled with sticky, sweet hoisin pork. Try this classic Chinese recipe and enjoy tucking into a tasty street-food style dinner.

  1. Make the dough

    Fill a jug with 225ml warm water and stir in the yeast. Combine 450g strong flour and 50g caster sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the liquid and mix with a wooden spoon to form a dough. (If it feels a little dry, add more water.) Tip out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until elastic. 

    Make the dough
  2. Leave to prove

    Return the ball of dough to its mixing bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Set aside to prove in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, cut out 20 x 10cm (4in) squares of nonstick baking paper. Set aside until needed.

    Leave to prove
  3. Divide the dough

    Knock back the risen dough with a couple of punches, then divide into 10 even-sized balls. On a large sheet of nonstick baking paper, roll out each ball to form an oval shape, about 12cm (5in) long and 9cm (3.5in) wide. 

    Divide the dough
  4. Shape the buns

    Top each piece of dough with a prepared square of nonstick paper. Fold each oval in half, sandwiching the paper in between, then rest on a second square of paper. Space out the buns in a large roasting tin. Cover loosely with clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until puffy and risen. 

    Shape the buns
  5. Cook the ribs

    Meanwhile, preheat the oven to gas 6, 200°C, fan 180°C. Put 2x460g packs hoisin glazed pork rib racks in a large roasting tin and roast for 20 minutes. Squeeze over both sauce sachets provided and toss to coat. Return to the oven for 5 minutes, or until sticky and golden. Using 2 forks, strip the meat from the bones and shred. Discard the bones. 

    Cook the ribs
  6. Assemble

    Set a steamer on the heat. Steam the buns (in batches), spaced 3cm (1 1/2in) apart, for 8-10 minutes until puffed and cooked all the way through. To serve, remove the paper and stuff with the shredded pork, 3 finly shredded spring onions, 1/4 halved and finely sliced cucumber, a handful of coriander leaves and 100g salted crushed peanuts.

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  7. Delicious spins

    Delicious spins

    Pickled carrot bao: Shred or coarsely grate 2 medium carrots and toss in a bowl with 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 tbsp water, a pinch salt and 1 tsp caster sugar. Leave to marinate for 15 minutes, then drain well. Use in place of, or as well as, the sliced cucumber for sweetness and texture.

    Duck and beansprout bao: Cook a crispy aromatic half duck following the packet instructions. Roughly shred, discarding the bones, and stuff into the bao buns with shredded spring onions, peanuts, blanched beansprouts and hoisin sauce.

    Mango and pineapple bao: Bao buns don’t have to be savoury; sweet versions are delicious, too. Sprinkle sliced pineapple and mango with brown sugar and griddle until caramelised. Pile the fruit into the steamed buns with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of salted caramel sauce. 

    Expert tips

    To activate the yeast in the first step, the water should be just warm, rather than hot. Too hot and you risk damaging it, which will mean the buns will fail to rise. A warm airing cupboard or a spot in the kitchen near the oven are ideal places for your dough to prove. 

    To make the dough in advance, mix the yeast with cool water instead of warm. Knead as before, then put in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and chill overnight. The dough will rise slowly. Bring up to room temperature for 20 minutes before shaping and proving. 

    The ideal way to cook the buns is in a stack of Chinese-style bamboo steamer trays. Failing that, a metal steamer is fine – cook in batches, steaming a second batch while you eat the first.

    If you don’t want to use peanuts, fried shallots or onions with plenty of salt make great substitutes. 

    Freezing and defrosting guidelines

    Freeze raw or cooked, unfilled. If cooked, cook as instructed and allow to cool completely. Then transfer to an airtight, freezer-safe container, seal and freeze for up to 1-3 months. To serve, defrost thoroughly in the fridge overnight before reheating. To reheat and serve, place on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the dish is heated through.

  8. Ingredients

    We've prepared a shopping list so you can easily find all the ingredients you need to make these tasty buns in store. Don't forget to take a screenshot of the list, or note down what you need, before heading to the shops.

    1 x 7g sachet fast-acting dried yeast
    450g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
    50g unrefined caster sugar
    2 x 460g packs hoisin glazed pork rib rack
    3 spring onions, finely shredded
    1/4 cucumber, halved and finely sliced
    handful coriander, leaves picked
    100g salted peanuts, crushed

    Makes 10


    Each serving contains

    • Energy

    • Fat

      16g 23%
    • Saturates

      5g 26%
    • Sugars

      10g 11%
    • Salt

      0.7g 12%

    of the reference intake
    Carbohydrate 45.8g Protein 17.2g Fibre 3.2g