Soft and fluffy steamed buns are filled with savory and sweet molten lava salted egg yolks custard filling that will gush out as soon as you take that first bite. All the tips you need to know.
I remember eating salted duck eggs with a bowl of rice congee often as a kid. It’s something that is so simple, but yet it’s my favorite. In case you have never tried salted duck eggs (or salted eggs for that matter), the white of the eggs are extremely salty but the yolks, the yolks have that hint of sweetness and just the right amount of savoriness, which I love. It’s something that I don’t know how to describe and I often just describe it as being umami in this modern day.
WHAT IS LIU SHA BAO?
Liu sha (流沙) literally means quicksand in Mandarin. In this case liu sha bao means that the filling is flowing like a molten lava. The filling is made with butter, salted egg yolks, milk powder, and sugar. When it is served warm, the filling will gush out with that first bite revealing its sweet, savory, milky, buttery taste of custard. The salted egg yolks really add that extra kick to it. I’ve made liu sha bao using coconut oil instead of butter too and it turned out just great if you are wondering what you can substitute for the butter.
WHY YOU’LL LIKE THIS RECIPE
1. Smooth, soft, and fluffy steamed buns
2. Easy, no-fuss recipe for the filling
3. Yes, the filling flows when it’s warm
HOW TO MAKE LIU SHA BAO FROM SCRATCH
1. PREPARE THE FILLING
I recommend doing this the day before. Steam the egg yolks for about 5 minutes over high heat and then mash with a fork
Place the softened butter or coconut oil in a large mixing bowl
Add sugar and mix until combined
Add milk, mashed egg yolk and stir in the milk powder and mix until combined
The filling will be still quite runny
You can scoop it into a silicone ice cube tray or whatever mould you have for easier shaping. Let them freeze for at least 1 hour or until the next day
2. PREPARE THE DOUGH
Start with this basic soft and fluffy steamed buns recipe
Cover and let the dough rest for 15 minutes
Divide the dough into 10-12 equal pieces
Work with one piece at a time and cover the rest to prevent drying.
Flatten the dough with your palm and use a small rolling pin to roll into a circle about 5-6 inch in diameter and the middle is thicker. Don’t roll the dough out too thin too
Place the frozen filling ball in the center of the wrapper
Gather all the sides to the middle
Pinch to seal securely so the filling won’t leak when you steam
Place it on a parchment paper seam side down. Continue with the rest and place the bao on a large tray cover with a large clean towel
Let the dough proof at a warm place until they are about 50% of original size. This may take somewhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour or longer. Don’t go by the time but feel and test the dough to see if they are proofed enough
The shaped buns will feel lighter and when you gently push it with your finger, it will slowly spring back. They are ready to be steamed
Bring the water in a steamer to a boil. Wrap the lid with a cloth. This will prevent water dripping from the lid and create burn spots. LOWER THE HEAT TO MEDIUM. Place the buns in there, leaving about 1-inch space in between. Cover with a lid but leaving it about 1/4-inch gap for some steam to escape. Steam on medium heat for 8 minutes.
Then wait 5 minutes before removing the buns from the steamer and serve when they are warm
HOW TO ENJOY LIU SHA BAO
No, you don’t need a 10-page manual to eat this liu sha bao. But it can be a pretty messy business trying to eat this bun though I must warn you. I took that small first bite and with the bun still in the mouth, gently suck in the flowing custard into my mouth so they won’t be dripping and continue with the rest 😉
I originally made this recipe with pandan-flavored steamed buns (as shown in the photo below). Pandan steamed buns are just amazing! Well, pandan-flavored anything is good for me LOL!
FILLING IDEA BESIDES SALTED EGG YOLKS
If you don’t want to use salted egg yolks, you can also substitute with mashed sweet potatoes, mashed taro, mashed ube yam, mashed pumpkin, etc. Refer to the recipe card for how much to use.
DID YOU MAKE THIS LIU SHA BAO RECIPE?
I love it when you guys snap a photo and tag to show me what you’ve made 🙂 Simply tag me @WhatToCookToday #WhatToCookToday on Instagram and I’ll be sure to stop by and take a peek for real!
*Recipe is updated by decreasing the amount of milk a little bit and video and new photos are added*
Liu Sha Bao (Salted Egg Yolk Lava Steamed Buns)
- 300 gr all-purpose flour About 2 cups + 2 1/2 Tbsp (unsifted), plus more for dusting as needed
- 60 gr Wheat starch about 1/2 cup (unsifted), or use cornstarch or potato starch (not potato flour)
- 180 gr all-purpose flour 1 cup + 5 Tbsp, plus more for dusting
- 180 gr cake flour 1 cup + 5 1/2 Tbsp
For both options:
- 4 gr instant yeast about 1 1/4 tsp
- 60 gr sugar about 5 Tbsp
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil
- 200 ml milk about 13 Tbsp or use pandan juice for pandan flavor. Add more as needed
Filling (recommended to prepare one day before):
- 100 gr butter (softened) or sub with coconut oil (which I did) 7 Tbsp
- 60 gr regular fine sugar 5 Tbsp
- 4 salted egg yolks about 70 grams. see notes
- 30 ml whole milk 2 Tbsp
- 80 gr milk powder 10 Tbsp
Preparing the filling:
- Steam the egg yolks for about 5 minutes over high heat and then mash with a fork
- Make sure the butter is soft but not melty or wet. Place the softened butter n a large mixing bowl, add sugar and mix until the color is pale with a whisk. Add milk, mashed egg yolk and stir in the milk powder and mix until combined. The consistency should be pasty
- You can use a spoon to scoop it into a silicone ice cube tray or whatever mould you have for easier shaping. Aim for 10 pieces (depending on how small or big you want to make the steamed buns). If you don't have any tray or mould, scoop and place this on top of baking tray or a plate lined with parchment paper and put them in the freezer and let it freeze for at least 1 hour. I did mine overnight
Preparing the dough with a machine:
- Place the flour (either option 1 or 2), instant yeast, salt, sugar, and cooking oil in a mixing bowl. If you are using a stand mixer, use a dough hook attachment. Gradually add liquid. If the dough still a bit dry, add a bit of water or milk. Add more teaspoon by teaspoon until the dough comes together and continue to knead for 10-12 minutes, until the dough is very stretchy and smooth
Prepare the dough by hands:
- Place the flour (either option 1 or 2), instant yeast, sugar, and cooking oil in a mixing bowl. Mix everything until you get a rough dough (it's not going to be smooth yet). Cover and rest it for 15 minutes. Then go back and knead it. You'll be surprised by how easier it is to knead it now. Knead until the dough is smooth and pliable, about 15-20 minutes. Add liquid as needed. At any point during kneading, you can always stop and rest the dough if you find it hard to knead. This is to relax the gluten. Then go back to knead again and you'll be surprised by the difference it makes by just resting the dough before kneading again. It's easier for you too
Rest the dough:
- Cover and rest the dough for 15 minutes. This is not to proof the dough. It shouldn't double in size. This is to relax the gluten for easier shaping and rolling the dough
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a long log and then divide equally into 10 pieces. Work with one piece at a time and cover the rest to prevent drying. Flatten the dough with your palm and use a small rolling pin to roll into a circle about 5-6 inch in diameter and the middle is thicker. Don't roll the dough out too thin too. This is important because the filling will make the dough "wet" if it's too thin and as a result, your steamed buns will have wrinkly surfaces (wet spots)
- Place the frozen filling ball in the center of the wrapper and gather all the sides to the middle and pinch to seal. Place it on a parchment paper seam side down. Make sure to seal it securely so the filling won't leak when you steam. Continue with the rest and place the bao on a large tray cover with a large clean towel
- Let the dough rise at room temperature or at a warm place. If it's winter where you are, you can use your oven "bread proof" function to let them proof in there, or simply turn on your oven to the lowest temperature and then turn off and after 15 minutes, place the shaped buns in there to let them proof. They won't necessarily double in size, but at least puff up to about 50% of the original size. This may take about 1 hour at a warm temperature. Don't go by the time however. The buns will feel lighter and when you push on them gently with your finger, they will spring back slowly. These buns are ready to be steamed
- For these steamed buns, they will tend to widen to the side a bit because the butter inside the filling has softened inside the buns during the proofing process, that's normal
- Bring the water in a steamer to a boil. Wrap the lid with a cloth. This will prevent water dripping from the lid and create burn spots
- LOWER THE HEAT TO MEDIUM. Place the buns in there, leaving about 1-inch space in between. Cover with a lid but leaving it about 1/4-inch gap for some steam to escape. Steam on medium heat for 8 minutes
- Once the buns are done steaming, turn off the heat and wait for 5 minutes before opening the lid so the buns will not collapse or wrinkle due to sudden change in temperature.
- They are best when served warm. Warn whoever that is eating this that the filling is HOT and it's flowing too (like a lava!)
- Once the steamed buns have cooled down completely, place them on a baking sheet and put them in a freezer for about 1 hour. They won't be frozen yet, but firm enough. Transfer to a freezer bag and they won't stick to each other anymore. They can be kept in the freezer for up to 1 month for best result. You can thaw them overnight in the fridge and then steam them for 5 minutes to reheat or steam them from frozen for 10 minutes or until heated through
You also need to check out this quick method for making salted eggs. I like to use this method because I can use the egg whites for other things and the salted egg yolks for this recipe any many other recipes calling for salted egg yolks.
Hi Marv! I tried making this recipe, but the filling didn’t turn out runny unfortunately. After I steamed the buns, the filling was rather chunky. Do you happen to know what I might be able to do to solve this? Thanks!
Hi Jina, the filling is flowy when the buns are still warm. Once the buns cooled down they won’t run anymore because butter is solid at room temperature. Was it not flowy when they were still warm ?
Can I substitute the milk powder for some other ingredients? If so, pls provide the amount and ingredients.
Hi Elaine, I’m afraid not. The filling won’t be runny enough and won’t be flavorful without the milk powder.
Hi Marv.. I’ve tried it again with milk powder this time and it was super flowy!!! Yum yum! Will definitely make again. Thank you for confirming the recipe – I’m really glad I made this today 😊👍🏻
Thank you Sue! Thanks for trying again! So sorry my mistake have costed you your flowy steamed buns before (I felt really bad for mistyping LOL!). I’m so glad it worked out this time!!!
Hi Marv.. I tried making this today but sadly the filling was not flowy at all – it was actually dry and pasty. Just wanted to confirm if the amount of corn starch to use is 80g and not 8g? Otherwise the bao turned out perfect 👌🏻
Hi Sue, I’m so sorry that the filling wasn’t flowy at all and it was my error. It supposed to be 80 gr of milk powder and not cornstarch (*screaming hysterically*). I had no idea why I typed cornstarch instead of milk powder. That’s why yours didn’t turn out flowy. So sorry for my mistake! arrghh! kicking myself now!
Oh the ooze!!! That ooze looks absolutely perfect! I’m a huge fan of liu sha bao and yours look incredibly delicious!
Thank you so much dear.