Bao (which means buns) are soft pillow-like dumplings that are originally from China, but enjoyed all over the world thanks to their dreamy texture and taste. We’ve filled ours with homemade char siu pork, but the beauty of bao is that you can really fill them with anything at all you like. We like to go for a main protein, like crispy chicken, fried tofu or rare steak, some sauces, like siracha, mayonnaise or hoisin dressing and some crunchy fresh bits, like cucumber, herbs or spring onion. This three-pronged attack when it comes to fillings for bao means you get loads of different flavours and textures all rolled into one for the perfect mouthful, which balances sweet, savoury and sour tastes, every time.
- 500g plain white flour
- 30g caster sugar
- pinch salt
- 150ml warm milk
- 150ml warm water
- ½ tbsp rice vinegar
- ½ tbsp sesame oil
To begin combine the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Combine the milk with 140ml water. Heat until just simmering. Remove from the heat and add a splash of the warm mixture to a small bowl. Add the yeast and allow to sit for 2 mins until bubbling.
Add the vinegar, oil, milk mixture and wet yeast to the dry ingredients. Mix until well combined. Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10-15 mins until smooth and elastic. You can also do this in an electric mixer, using the dough hook.
Once the dough is smooth and elastic, transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a close or a loose piece of clingfilm. Leave in a warm place to rise for about one hour, until doubled in size.
‘Knock the dough back,’ by kneading briefly for another couple of minutes. Divide into 12 equal size portions and roll into balls. Roll each ball into a small oval shape.
Using a pastry brush or your fingers oil one side of each oval and fold over a chopstick or teaspoon, to avoid the sides sticking together.
Arrange on a baking tray, or directly in a steamer, cover lightly again and leave for a further 20 mins.
Transfer to a steamer, if you haven’t already placed them in one. Steam for around 20 mins until shiny and springy to the touch.
Stuff with fillings of your choice and serve, sharing style.
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Rosie is an experienced food and drinks journalist who has spent over a decade writing about restaurants, cookery, and foodie products. Previously Content Editor at Goodto.com and Digital Food Editor on Woman&Home, Rosie is well used to covering everything from food news through to taste tests. Now, as well as heading up the team at SquareMeal - the UK's leading guide to restaurants and bars - she also runs a wedding floristry business in Scotland called Lavender and Rose.