Bao Zi (pronounced bow tseh) is a traditional steamed bun with a meat or veggie filling. The totally enclosed bun originated from mainland China, and is seen in dim sum dishes, or side dishes in a lot of Chinese restaurants. These are also sold out of carts at street markets, or hole-in-the-wall shops that usually do ONLY Bao Zi, or a mixture of dumplings and bao’s.
In high school, my main circle of friends and I would often hang out after school at one of our houses. We always loved going to the Sun’s house because not only did Mrs. Sun always talk to us in Chinese- and ONLY Chinese- even though she knew most of us didn’t know a lick of Chinese, she would whip up an impressive spread of Chinese food from scratch. We would show up, things would be coming off the steamer or out of the frying pan, and it held me over for daily soccer practice until I had time to eat a late dinner. Man, I love Mrs. Sun.
I went to her house a couple weekends ago so she could show me how to make the bao dough from scratch, and the juicy meet filling. We used beef, but it is often filled with pork, or a mixture of pork and beef. The meat mixture usually includes leeks, or green onions, but we used yellow onions for these, with a little salt and pepper, and rice vinegar.
Rice Vinegar can be found at any local Asian grocery store. Part of our vision is to seek out some really great, artisanally made rice vinegars for a small retail section in the restaurant.
meat mixture with onions added. water
Rolling the dough into discs with a thicker center so it doesn’t fall apart, and you can seal the top of it with thinner dough
Finished bao’s ready to steam.
Her’s looks so much better than my mangled attempts. I have lots of dough folding practice ahead of me. A lot of masters have a specific number of creases in the dough, and each bun or dumpling will have exactly the same number of creases.
Finished steamed buns.
The dough is fluffy and chewy. We didn’t have whole chinese napa cabbage leaves or steaming papers- both can be used to steam so the bun doesn’t stick to the bamboo, but foil squares work just as well.
Bao Bing is the same bao, but pan fried into a pancake (bing!).
She suggested starting with these, because if you mess up the folding of the dough, and it’s not completely sealed, it’s ok. You can just fry it and it’s still good. If you try to steam one, it will fall apart and they are more delicate. Both are tasty!