Bao Zi and Hua Juan (Chinese steamed buns)

This is basically “bread” in some parts of Asia.

It this all went down during the weekend when a certain someone left me all by myself. My main food experiment (yet to be revealed) ran the risk of sending me to the hospital and required lots of baby sitting, so I decided to make something else that I *know* that I can eat that also required me to stay home.

Chinese steamed dough seems ubiquitous these days. You see it when you enter the Water Tower Place in Chicago, at every Asian fusion restaurant that serves some cooked saucy meat in a little folded piece of steamed man tou (that’s what they’re actually called), and occasionally on the streets in the hands of some rosy-faced Asian child.

This is how it’s made.

3.5 cups of sifted flour: I don’t sift. I measure my flour, and then I beat it with a fork like I’m beating eggs. Kitchen space saved.

1 cup of lukewarm water with 2 tablespoons of sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1.5 teaspoons of active dry yeast. Mix it up and leave it for 10 minutes until it’s all foamy and bubbly, which tells you that your yeast is alive. If your yeast is dead… get new yeast. Your dough is not going to rise unless something’s alive and producing gas with your carbs!

Dump it all together. I like to add a tablespoon of oil so that it doesn’t stick to everything. I then mix it all up with a wooden spoon so it loosely resembles chunks of dough. I then I stick my hand in there and knead it into a nice smooth consistency like the ball in the 2nd picture. You gotta put your back into it.

I then oil it up a little all around the dough ball and the edges of the bowl, cover it with a damp towel, and leave it in the oven/microwave/some place warm. Sometimes I even warm the oven up a little before I put it in. You’re not trying to cook the dough… you’re trying to make a wonderful gas-producing environment for your yeast.

And 3 hours later, it’s nice a puffy. Check out the puffiness of my finger prints at the top of the dough.

Mine was a little wet so I added a little flour, but sometimes you don’t have to add anything. You then punch it down, roll it out, and do whatever you want with it.

I like to mix in 1 tsp of baking powder so that it’s EVEN PUFFIER. But once you put that in you have to start working fast.

I made some round pieces and stuffed them with pork belly and made bao zi.

The dough rolling gets a little tiring. I made this again the next day and ended up with arm cramps.

Whatever you are making, you should it it sit for 5-10 minutes before steaming it. If you added baking powder, it should re-rise. It’s then steamed for 15 minutes until big and soft.

Refer to the zong zi post for the pork belly filling or the jiao zi post for the regular minced pork stuffing.

I also made hua juan, which literally means flower roll. You start off with a flat piece of dough, and then rumb some oil and sugar on top.

You then roll it up and do some fancy flippy things (or not.. you can just leave them as a roll).

The way your average lazy michelin-starred restaurant does it, is that they roll the dough out much longer, and then only fold it over once. That way, you can stuff it with whatever you want after it’s cooked. They also don’t add anything in between the layers. Maybe a little green onion in the roll can be fun? (hint hint David Chang)

It looks something like this when cooked! You can make this dough into all sorts of interesting shapes. I saw a picture once of a hedgehog made from this dough. Maybe some day I’ll make it and post some pictures of me throwing peace signs in front of my steamed hedgehog.

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