If you like authentic Chinese food, this recipe from Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More is worth every minute of prep time.
Shêng Jiãn Bãozi
Makes 32 small buns
If you like pot stickers and steamed buns, you’ll love these spongy-crisp pan-fried treats from Shanghai, where typically they are cooked in humongous shallow pans (much like large paella pans) with wooden lids. These buns are made of yeast dough that is filled with an aromatic pork mixture and then fried and steamed in a skillet. Cooking under cover with a bit of water delivers plenty of moisture to puff up the buns. Ground beef chuck or chicken thigh can stand in for the pork in this recipe.
A bāozi is a mini bão (bun) and for that reason, I like to keep these true to their name and shape small ones. However, you can elect to form sixteen medium-size (2¾-inch) buns. Roll the dough circles out to 3¼ inches in diameter and use about 4 teaspoons of filling for each bun; increase the water and cooking time a tad.
10 ounces fatty ground pork, coarsely chopped to loosen
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
¼ cup finely chopped Chinese chives or scallions (white and green parts)
¼ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon light (regular) soy sauce
2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon water
1¼ pounds Basic Yeast Dough, preferably made with unbleached flour
1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh ginger
¼ cup Chinkiang vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Light (regular) soy sauce (optional)
Chile Oil (optional)
3 to 4 tablespoons canola oil
1. To make the filling, combine the pork, ginger, and Chinese chives in a bowl. Use a fork or spatula to stir and mash the ingredients together.
2. Combine the salt, white pepper, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and water in a small bowl and stir to combine well. Pour over the meat mixture, then vigorously stir to create a compact mixture. Cover the filling with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight, returning it to room temperature before assembling the buns. There should be 1⅓ cups of filling.
3. Transfer the dough to a very lightly floured work surface, gather it into a ball if needed, and then pat it to flatten it to a thick disk. Cut the disk in half and cover one-half with plastic wrap or an inverted bowl to prevent drying while you work on the other half.
4. Roll the dough into a 12 to 14-inch log, and then cut it into 16 pieces. (Halve the log first to make it easier to cut even-size pieces. The tapered end pieces should be cut a little longer than the rest.) Lightly roll each piece between your hands into a ball, then flatten each one into a ¼-inch-thick disk.
Use a wooden dowel–style rolling pin to roll the pieces into circles, each about 2½ inches in diameter. The rim of each circle should be thinner than the center; keeping a 1-inch-wide belly ensures consistent thickness all over the bun. The finished circle will thicken as it sits. (For guidance see “Forming Wrappers from Basic Dumpling Dough,” step 5 in the book.) Lay the finished circles out on your work surface, lightly dusting their bottoms with flour if you fear them sticking.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly dust with flour. To assemble a bun, hold a dough circle in a slightly cupped hand. Use a bamboo spatula, dinner knife, or spoon to center about 2 teaspoons of filling on the dough circle, pressing down very gently and keeping about ½ to ¾ inch of the dough clear on all sides. Use the thumb of the hand cradling the bun to push down the filling while the other hand pulls up the dough edge and pleats and pinches the rim together to form a closed satchel. Pinch and twist to completely close. Place the bun, pleated side down, on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough circles and filling. Loosely cover the buns with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 30 minutes, or until about 50 percent larger than their original size. Meanwhile, make buns from the remaining dough and filling.
6. While the buns rise, divide the ginger and vinegar between 2 bowls. Taste and if the vinegar is too tart, add water by the teaspoon. Set these at the table along with the soy sauce and chile oil for guests to mix their own sauce.
7. To pan fry the buns, use a medium or large nonstick skillet; if both sizes are handy, cook 2 batches at the same time. Heat the skillet(s) over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of canola oil for a medium skillet and 1½ tablespoons for a large one. Add the buns one at a time, arranging them, pleated side up, ½ inch apart; they will expand during cooking. (In general, medium skillets will fit 8 or 9 buns; large skillets will fit 12 or 13 buns.) Fry the buns for 1 to 2 minutes, until they are golden or light brown on the bottom. Gently lift to check the color.
8. Holding the lid close to the skillet to lessen the spattering effect of water hitting hot oil, add enough water to come up the side of the buns by ¼ inch, about ¼ cup. The water and oil will sputter a bit. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil, placing it very slightly ajar to allow steam to escape, so condensation doesn’t fall on the buns and perhaps cause their collapse. Let the water bubble away until it is mostly gone, about 6 minutes.
9. When you hear sizzling noises (a sign that most of the water is gone), remove the lid. Let the dumplings fry for about 1 minute, until the bottoms are brown and crisp. At this point, you can serve the buns, crisp bottoms up like pot stickers. Or, you can use chopsticks to flip each bun over (separate any that are sticking together first) and then fry the other side for about 45 seconds, or until golden.
10. Turn off the heat, wait for the cooking action to cease, and transfer the buns to a serving plate. Display them with a golden side up. Serve with the gingered vinegar, chile oil, and soy sauce. Eat these buns with chopsticks—they’re a little greasy on the fingers.
Reheat leftovers with some oil and water in a nonstick skillet, as you would a pot sticker.
Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More
Andrea Nguyen (Author), Penny De Los Santos (Photographer)
Ten Speed Press