Learn how to make Gua Bao – a traditional steamed bun originating from East Asia. More specifically, originating from Taiwan, but steamed buns exist all over the region with variants such as mantou and baozi, from China. These bao are folded over to allow you to sandwich your filling within. Genius, right?
My first experience with bao was at University, I lived next to a small Chinese supermarket that used to sell steamed bao and fresh tofu. The first bao I tried was their mixed mushroom – which was great. The second one was their red bean baozi, which was completely different to anything I had ever tried. Beany in texture as the name would suggest, and strikingly sweet.
The shop-owner had described it as a ‘steamed milk bun’ and considering my love for all things dough, I felt this would be a straightforward recipe to figure out.
I tried 3 variations initially, 100% milk, 100% water, and 50:50. The milk dough tasted great and smelt incredible, almost like the smell of a doughnut. But I found the dough more tender which wasn’t quite what I was aiming for. I then tried 100% water, and texturally it was great but there was a wheatiness that I kept tasting and it just lacked slightly in the flavour department. The 50:50 gave me the right balance of flavour and texture (and still smells like doughnuts).
This recipe will teach you how to make steamed gua bao which are perfectly soft and fluffy. I have plenty of filling ideas that would go well with these. A few recommendations would be my chilli paneer bao or even my salt and pepper tofu bao. In all honesty, my crispy chilli panko mushrooms go really well with these too. But be creative and use anything you like!
How to steam:
These buns need to be steamed, otherwise it won’t work. You can use a traditional bamboo steamer lined with greaseproof paper – my method of choice. If using a bamboo steamer, make sure the steamer size matches the size of your pan/wok where the water will be placed.
But, any steamer set-up will work. Here’s a link to School of Wok that explains the process perfectly, plus he has a video to show you how to do this: https://schoolofwok.co.uk/tips-and-recipes/how-to-steam-buns-without-a-bamboo-steamer
I picked up my bamboo steamer from my local East Asian Supermarket, and it cost me roughly £5. It’s an inexpensive piece of kit and handy to have on hand. Furthermore, I would definitely recommend popping in to your closest supermarket and familiarising yourself with the incredible goods.
I do hope you all enjoy these! And check out my Instagram feed for more bao ideas!
- Any kind of steamer set up
- 350 g plain flour
- 30 g sugar
- 5 g instant dry yeast 7g active dry yeast, 10g fresh yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
- 100 ml cold milk/plant milk of choice
- 100 ml boiling water
- Mix boiling water with cold milk and sugar, allow to dissolve and then add your yeast. Mixing the refrigerator cold milk and boiling water gets you the perfect temperature for the yeast. Bloom for 5 minutes. This is only necessary for active dry and fresh yeast, instant can be added directly into your flour
- Mix flour, salt and sieve in baking powder
- Combine together and add oil. The dough should have a slight stick and should not be dry.
- Knead for 8 minutes by hand or standing mixer on medium-low speed
- Cover your dough and rest for 3 minutes
- After resting, form into a dough ball and cover with a damp towel – allow to rise for 2 hours (or cold rise in a fridge overnight if you want breakfast bao)
- After rising, roll out the dough until it’s about 5mm thickness. If you go thinner, you’ll get more bao, thicker and you’ll get fewer
- Cut into circles, I used a 4″ cutter and got 11 buns out of this recipe
- Lightly grease the surface of each circle and gently bend half way to form a semi circle
- Cover your folded bao buns and allow them to prove for another 20-30 minutes. This makes them puff up and I highly recommend this step
- Steam for 10 minutes, I had my steamer over a pan of boiling water on high heat. You can use a normal steamer, just place some grease proof paper at the base and allow an inch between each bao bun for them to rise