Fluffy steamed bao buns filled with sticky jackfruit are the most exciting ode to the Asian cuisine. The best part? Bao buns are vegan by default as they are made from easy ingredients like flour, water and yeast.
You can make them sweet or savoury, served as they are or with a delicious dipping sauce. One thing is certain, bao buns taste as scrumptious as they look. I know they seem complicated to make, but I promise, they are super easy to put together. In fact, once you make the first batch, you will want to make them over and over again and play with all sort of different fillings.
I love Asian cuisine and during my trip to Hong Kong I devoured so many steamed buns, I became obsessed. This recipe here is meant to imitate the cha siu bao which is a steamed bun filled with barbecue pork, only that I made it vegan so I use sticky jackfruit instead of pork.
How did I learn to make proper bao buns? I took a dim sum class during my time in Hong Kong. Dim Sum is a Chinese dish of small steamed or fried savoury dumplings containing various fillings. I learned how to make a variety of dumplings, but bao buns are by far my favourite because of their super fluffy dough.
What is a bao bun
Before learning how to make proper bao buns, I always thought they require a special flour or special ingredients. That's not the case! Bao buns are made with all-purpose flour you have in your pantry and they require instant yeast, warm water a little sugar (to activate the yeast) and a touch of salt.
What makes them fluffy with that fantastic delicate "skin" is the steaming. In fact, you'll realise that making bao buns is not much different than preparing the dough for making bread. Once steamed, they become a fluffy delight.
These steamed buns are of Chinese origin from Fuzhou. They are a popular street food dish, which can now be enjoyed all around the world.
In Taiwan, they are sometimes called Chinese hamburgers. In Hong Kong, they are known as cha bao (叉包) which means "fork buns". In Japan, they are called kakuni manju.
How to make jackfruit bao buns
To make the bao dough you will need 4 cups of flour (500g), 9.8 fl oz warm water (280ml), instant yeast (1 sachet of 7.2 g), 1tsp sugar and 1 tsp salt. Mix these ingredients together in a bowl then transfer to a flat surface and knead until the dough becomes incredibly smooth.
The trick is to ensure the dough is extra smooth, that's what's going to make the steamed buns awesome. So keep on kneading for 5-10 minutes. Do it by hand, do not use a machine. They are easy to knead so it's good exercise.
Place the elastic dough in a bowl and cover with a damp towel. Allow it to proof for 40 minutes or until the dough is double in size.
In the meantime let's make the jackfruit filling. Drain the jackfruit and place in a cheesecloth. Twist and squeeze the jackfruit to remove all moisture from it. Ideally, you will do this for a few minutes. The more moisture you remove from the jackfruit, the better it will cook.
Heat up a little olive oil (or sesame oil) in a deep frying pan and add a finely cut 1-inch fresh ginger and 3 finely cut cloves of garlic. Fry for 2-3 minutes then add the jackfruit, 4tbsp soy sauce, 4 tbsp rice vinegary, 4 tbsp mirin and 2 tbsp of brown sugar.
Fry for 5-10 minutes until the sauce is reduced. Make sure to mix often so the jackfruit doesn't stick to the pan.
Set aside in a bowl and let it cool.
It's time to assemble the bao buns. Line your bamboo steamers with parchment paper.
Get your risen dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 equal parts.
Get each part of using a rolling pin, roll into a flat disk. Place some of the jackfruit in the centre of the disk and using your fingers wrap the dough around the filling.
I like my bao buns perfectly smooth but you can create a variety of shapes. This is the time to get creative if you wish.
Place each assembled bun in your bamboo steamer. Allow them to rise for another 20 minutes.
Steam them in the bamboo steamers for about 15-20 minutes. Serve hot with dipping sauce or as they are.
How to store the bao buns
I must stress that steamed buns are best consumed hot and fresh. However, you have two options here if you must store them.
First, you freeze the bao buns before steaming them. Carefully place the buns in a container and freeze for up to 3 months.
Second, you already steamed all the buns but you realise you can't eat them all. Place in an air-tight container and refrigerate them for up to 2 days. You can steam them again for 15 minutes to warm them up but note that the dough won't be as fluffy and nice. They are still delicious and perfectly edible though.
Fancy sweet bao buns? Make these delicious Liu Sha Bao!
This recipe has been developed entirely by Yuzu Bakes. Any resemblance with other recipes is purely coincidental.