Recipe: Steamed Bao buns by Kwoklyn Wan

Kwoklyn Wan grew up in the kitchens of Chinese takeaways and restaurants with his brother Gok, now a style guru. Kwoklyn’s Chinese Takeaway Cookbook is the holy grail of trade-secret recipes, so you can create your favourite Chinese takeaway and Cantonese restaurant dishes.

Steamed Bao buns

The history of Chinese steamed buns goes back to the eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-255BC). According to Ming Dynasty scholars, the original name for these buns, ‘mantou’, meant ‘barbarian’s head’! These steamed, soft white buns are often served with Chinese tea.

Prep: 1 hour 15 minutes.

Cooking: 9 minutes. Makes 6


20ml (½ cup) warm full-fat milk

10g (¼oz) caster sugar

5g (⅛oz) dried yeast

200g (1½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour

5g (⅛oz) baking powder (baking soda)

1½ tsp olive oil

For the pork filling: 80g (3oz) Chinese Roast BBQ Pork (see panel left)

½ tbsp sugar

1 tbsp hoisin sauce

1 tbsp yellow bean sauce

1 tsp Chinese five spice

2-3 tbsp water

Natural red food colouring

½ tbsp vegetable oil


1. Measure the milk in a jug and add the sugar and yeast. Stir and leave to ferment for 5 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and baking powder, make a well in the centre, then pour in the yeast mixture and mix thoroughly to form a dough. Knead for 5 minutes.

2. Lightly rub ½ teaspoon of olive oil over the surface of the dough and leave in the bowl, covered with a damp cloth or cling film to prove for 30 minutes, until doubled in size.

3. Meanwhile, chop the pork into 5mm (¼in) cubes. Mix the remaining ingredients (except the oil) in a bowl and set aside. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the pork for 30 seconds. Add the sauce mixture and stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Tip the filling back into the bowl and leave to cool.

4. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead the air bubbles out of the dough, keeping your work surface dusted with flour.

5. Roll the dough with your hands to form a long sausage shape, then divide into 6 equal pieces. Using your fingers, form each piece into a 7cm (2¾in) flat disc. Add a tablespoon of filling into the centre of each disc and gather up the edges to form a round parcel, twisting the top to form a seal.

6. Place the filled dough balls onto perforated baking parchment in a bamboo steamer with a lid, cover with a damp cloth and leave to prove again for 30 minutes.

7. When you’re ready to cook, place the bamboo steamer over a pan of boiling water and steam the buns for 9 minutes. Serve while still hot.

8. Unfilled buns can be made by placing the equally cut pieces of dough directly into a lined steamer and cooking as for the filled bao.

9. Other popular fillings are lotus seed paste and custard & red bean paste – not overly sweet but very moreish!

Extracted from The Chinese Takeaway Cookbook by Kwoklyn Wan (Quadrille £15) Photography: Sam Folan

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