Bao buns are steamed pillow like buns that are from China and have a variety of names sometimes referred to as pork belly buns, bao or bao buns they are a truly delicious thing and often seen in places like Wagamama here in the UK. In this 2nd taste the World video we make our own from scratch along with a beef rib filling and pickled vegetables – insanely good!
So this recipe takes a while – but you can do it in little steps that work together. The bao dough takes the longest, so i’d recommend getting that started as you need to prove it twice. Making the fillings in between as they are fine cold.
For the dough first mix together the sugar, salt and flour in a large bowl. Dissolve the yeast with the sugar into a tbsp of warm water, giving it a quick stir and leaving it to activate a bit, you will hopefully see a few bubbles 5 minutes or so later. Meanwhile add the milk, oil, vinegar and water in with the flour mixture and stir together. Scrape in the yeast mix too and keep mixing until you have a dough like texture. Knead this on a floured board for a good ten minutes, bao buns have a really smooth texture so getting the dough super smooth is critical. Get a clean bowl, add a small touch of oil to the bottom, sit the dough in, cover with a cloth or cling film and leave to rise for a good couple of hours (12o mins) – it should double in size, it may not look like it at first, but it will so be patient!
Whilst this is going on you can make your fillings, but i’ll do those steps shortly. Lets finish the bao buns.
After the 2 hours, take the dough out of the bowl and knead it again with a little extra flour, but also sprinkle on the baking powder, again kneading that into the dough so it is evenly covered, this is what helps it puff up when steamed! Roll the dough out into a sausage shape that is about 3 inches thick, I made two sausages as you do get a lot of dough, then slice the sausage into pieces 1.5 inches thick. Each of the pieces that you slice, you need to roll up into a ball and place on some baking parchment.
Now, one at a time, flour a rolling pin and roll out that dough ball until about 1/2 cm in thickness. They will form a sort of oval shape naturally. Using a little extra oil and a pastry brush, brush the top of the dough and using a chopstick fold the dough over itself in half (see video if you like) and pull out the chopstick, leaving it to rest on the baking parchment whilst you do the others. Once all are done, again cover them in a tray (still on the baking parchment) with a tea towel and cling film.
To cook the buns, get a wok and fill with a little water, get it smoking. Sit portions of the dough on the steamer racks, they will puff out as they cook so don’t overcrowd them and do it in batches. Steam for 8-1o minutes, until puffed up. Remove, open up and serve with the fillings of your choice – definitely worth the wait!
As for the fillings, I used chopped coriander, some mayonnaise, pickled carrot and sweetened onions.
For the pickled carrot, thinly slice (or use a julienne peeler) the carrots. Add it to a mixing bowl with the sugar and vinegar, stir until the sugar is dissolved and the carrots are nice and coated. Cover with cling film and store in the fridge.
For the onion, simply fry the sliced onion in a pan with a little oil if you wish, dollop in the jam and stir through until it breaks down, stains and caramelises the onions. Cook until softened or if you wish char them by cooking the onions further first then adding the jam at the end. Again, cool, cover and keep in the fridge.
The beef ribs are extremely easy. Pre-heat an oven to 140fan/160c or equivalent. Place all of the ingredients except the beef into a blender and whizz away until well mixed and the garlic / ginger particularly is chopped. Some chunks are fine but not too chunky as you want to spread that flavour around.
Place the beef into a large roasting tray snug enough to fit the ribs, pour the marinade over the top and cover with foil. Bake for 2 hours, but turn them over halfway through cooking. Once done they should smell incredible. Allow to cool before slicing thinly or shredding if you wish. I prefer thin slices with the caramelised ends showing.
So that’s it. Simply serve the bao buns as fresh as possible with the coriander, mayo, carrots, onions and beef, even drizzling on some of the cooked marinade if you wish. This completely blew my mind with flavour and is 100% worth the effort, enjoy!