Soft, fluffy, and smooth Vietnamese steamed buns filled with delicious savory pork filling, hard-boiled eggs, and Chinese sausage.
About 20 years ago I went to what supposed to be the largest Asian grocery store in Oklahoma, I was so excited to see that they sold steamed buns. Really good ones too. I was still new and really missed comfort food. Ever since then I always got their steamed buns everytime I went there. I only learned that those steamed buns are Vietnamese version of the Cantonese steamed buns called Banh Bao. They are filled with ground pork, hard-boiled egg, and Chinese sausage (Lap Xuong). I love them so much!
MY VERSION OF BANH BAO
I tried to replicate the banh bao as close as I can. To me, the hard-boiled egg and Chinese sausage are must-have in banh bao, otherwise, they would just be any other regular Chinese steamed buns. Though from what I learned that banh bao was an adaptation from the Chinese steamed buns, but the addition of the egg and Chinese sausage make banh bao special, at least to me. Traditional banh bao can also be made using quail eggs. Here’s what I used in the filling for banh bao:
– Ground pork
– Chopped onion
– Hard-boiled eggs
– Chinese sausage (lap xuong)
– Garlic chives (not in traditional banh bao, you can omit if you want). I have some that I’m trying to use up 😉
Most Vietnamese will also include the wood ear mushrooms in their banh bao filling, but this is not always the case too. The ones I got from the Vietnamese store didn’t have any. It’s really up to you.
NO WRINKLES ON THE STEAMED BUNS
Ever since I discovered how to make soft, fluffy, and smooth Asian steamed buns, I couldn’t stop making them. I wrote in details and shared the techniques on how to shape and make the steamed buns smooth before steaming. I won’t elaborate in this post again. These banh bao buns are made using that basic steamed buns recipes. Steamed buns that are filled with sweet or savory filling are even more prone to be wrinkled when steamed. Here’s why:
1. The yeast is already active and starts working while you are shaping the dough
That’s why I use room temperature liquid instead of warm liquid
2. Air bubbles
Back to number one. Once the yeast start working, they will produce air bubbles and you have too many air bubbles in your dough and you didn’t punch or roll out the air properly like in this video below
3. You roll the dough too thin
If you roll out the dough too thin, the dough will come into contact to the filling and most likely they will get that “burn” spots because there are some moisture in the filling
4. High heat during steaming
You need to bring the water in the steamer to a boil and then lower the heat to LOW (Yes, LOW) and place the steamed buns in to steam. Medium to high heat will cause the buns to wrinkle (Guaranteed on that one for sure!)
Water that evaporates in the steamer will collect on the lid and will drip back down to the steamed buns, creating those ugly burn spots!
Some of the pleats that I’ve created have almost faded by the time I steamed them. I have proofed them a bit too long than I should!
HOW TO MAKE BANH BAO FROM SCRATCH
1. Here I start with the basic steamed buns recipe, pork filling, hard-boiled eggs, and Chinese sausage
2. Divide the dough into 8 equal portion and roll each out into about 5-6 inch circle. Slightly thicker in the middle
3. Place the pork filling in the middle, follow by hard-boiled egg piece, and 1-2 Chinese sausage
4. Gather the edge to enclose the buns or you can create pleats to close the buns
5. Cover the buns with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap and let them proof until they are 50% of its original size. Don’t overproof the buns
6. Bring the water in your steamer to a boil and then lower the heat to LOW. Cover the lid with a cloth and steam over low heat for 18 minutes. Turn off heat and wait 5 minutes before opening the lid
7. Transfer to a cooling rack to let them cool down.
This also prevents the bottom of the buns becoming soggy and wet
I highly suggest that you also read how to make soft and fluffy Asian steamed buns everytime post before you start making banh bao or any steamed bun recipes really. You will understand what makes the steamed buns wrinkles/not smooth or why the steamed buns are not as soft, etc, etc.
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Soft and Fluffy Banh Bao (Vietnamese Steamed Pork Bun)
- 2 links Chinese sausage
- 2 hard-boiled eggs or use quail eggs (2 on each buns if you like)
- Edible marker to decorate the buns
- Cut the sausage links to 16 small pieces or 8 larger piece. Slice one hard-boiled egg to 4 quarter pieces
Prepare the filling:
- Cut the chives into about 2-inch pieces. Pour in hot water and let them sit for 10 minutes. Drain off water and squeeze out any excess liquid. Make sure the chives are dry and not wet. Set aside
- Place the pork, chives, and the rest of the ingredients for filling in a large mixing bowl. Stir to mix everything. You can take a small scoop of the filling and cook it quickly in boiling water to taste the seasoning. Add more oyster sauce and/or soy sauce as needed. Cover the filling and let it marinade for at least 30 minutes or overnight
Wrapping the bao:
- Once you have the basic steamed buns dough, divide the dough into 8 equal portions and follow "shaping into ultra smooth round buns" number 7 instruction, flatten the dough with your palm and then use a rolling pin to roll it out to form a circle about 5-6 inches, with a slightly thicker middle part. This is to support the weight of the filling. Don't roll the dough too thin. If you roll the dough too thin, the filling might make the steamed buns "wrinkle" later when you steam
- FOR ROUND SHAPE: Place about 2 Tbsp of pork filling in the middle, 1-2 Chinese sausage and 1 piece of egg. Gather the edge to enclose into a round ball and place the seam side down. Cup the dough with both palms and move the dough in a circular motion to shape it taller. This part is important so your steamed buns come out tall instead of spreading to the side after steaming
- Place on a piece of parchment paper. Lightly dab the surface of the bun with some milk using your finger to smooth the surface. Loosely cover with a plastic wrapper to prevent drying. Work with another dough and do the same
- IF YOU WANT TO PLEAT SOME PATTERNS: Place the char siu filling in the middle. Create a fold around the edge and then pinch to seal. Cup the dough with both palms and move the dough in a circular motion to shape it taller. This part is important so your steamed buns come out tall instead of spreading to the side after steaming. Don't be surprised that the pleats pattern will fade the longer the buns are proofed
- Place on a piece of parchment paper. You don't need to dab the surface with milk if you have patterns. Loosely cover with a plastic wrapper to prevent drying. Work with another dough and do the same
- Let the shaped buns proof until about 50% double its original size. They don't have to double in size. This may take about 15-20 minutes, but please don't go by the time, just observe to make sure the buns have puffed up to half its original size before steaming or the buns will be tough. Don't overproof them as well.
- Most likely your steamer won't be able to accommodate steaming all buns at one go. You may need to steam in 2-3 batches, which means, the rest of the batches will sit longer and continue to proof while waiting for the steamer. Not good for the buns! Here's what you can do: Make sure the cover them with plastic wrap and then place them in the refrigerator to slow down the yeast activity or halt it all together until they are ready to be steamed
- Bring water in the steamer to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low (more at the low side). Wrap the lid of your steamer with a kitchen towel to prevent moisture dripping on your buns creating burn spots. Place the buns inside the steamer and steam for 18 minutes for large buns like this or 10 minutes if you make smaller size
- Turn off the heat. Do not open the lid of the steamer. Let the buns sit there for 5 minutes like this. The buns will not sink or wrinkle due to the sudden change in temperature
- Remove the buns to wire rack to let them cool down. This is to ensure the bottom of the steamed buns will not be wet and soggy. Decorate the top with red edible marker if you like. I just drew some simple flower
- If you make extra and plan to store them, once the steamed buns have cooled down, place them on a baking sheet not touching each other and put them inside the freezer for 1 hour then transfer to a freezer bag
- They can be reheated in the steamer without thawing. Steam over high heat for 5 minutes