If you have ever ordered bao (or baozi) out at restaurants, then you understand why we are so obsessed with these delicious steamed buns. As you know, we have a passion for all cuisines of the world. And we love to learn about different food cultures and try our hand at cooking the foods of those cultures at home. Recently, Mark learned to make bao during his International Cuisine term in culinary school, so we couldn’t resist adding these cutie Pumpkin Shaped Pork Steamed Buns (Bao) to our menu for the season!
Big thanks to our friend and fellow chef, Venessa Wilson-Watson, who developed this recipe with the cute pumpkins with us for the blog!
Bao (or Baozi) are filled steamed buns of Chinese origin. We love Chinese cuisine, and we have barely scratched the surface of actually cooking this classic cuisine.
Sources say that bao originated in Northern China thousands of years ago. Since, they have become quite popular in many other countries throughout Asia and beyond.
It would be hard to say there is one “traditional” filling for a dish that has spread so wide and has even been adopted by other countries, but generally we have found that pork is the most common for savory varieties. However, almost anything can be put in this delicious steamed bun! The filling is often raw before steaming, but it can be precooked as well. Bao can have a variety of meat mixtures, just vegetables, or in some cases a sweet, rather than savory, filling.
Northern China is not the only home to bao these days. In fact, other areas in China as well as several countries, including Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and many others, have adopted and modified bao, often with a different name. But bao and baozi are the two most common names of Chinese origin you will come across. The most common preparation is to fill the soft, slightly sweet, leavened dough, then steam it.
What we hope to do with this recipe, or other recipes with origins around the world, is to share delicious content that we enjoy making that also exposes you to cuisines that you may not have tried to make at home but have always wanted to try. We also encourage you to seek out bloggers from the cultures where these recipes originated to dive deeper into these cultures. This is exactly what we aim to do when we try new recipes as well!
For authentic Chinese recipes, you need to look elsewhere, such as HERE.
Our Version of Bao
Our version of bao in the recipe here is a bit whimsical and not traditional in looks at all. But these are still beautiful, seasonal, and tasty, nonetheless.
We stuff the dough with a raw pork filling that cooks while the bao steams. We have found that the time needed to cook a ground pork mixture from raw coincides with the steaming time to finish the bao. This process yields an internal filling that does not dry out and creates an amazing taste and texture!
Coloring and Shaping the Pumpkin Shaped Pork Steamed Buns (Boa)
Making bao with its beautiful pleats is definitely something that takes practice. The pleating you see with traditional bao isn’t as important in this recipe since you are mainly just trying to seal in the filling and tie strings around each bun to make the pumpkin shape. For a more traditional version of bao shaping, visit HERE. But the dough itself isn’t challenging to make. If you have made any type of homemade bread before, you will find this recipe fairly easy to follow.
We chose to color the dough to look like pumpkins, but you can leave them white if you want as well, or use natural dyes like spinach or carrot juice.
To color the dough, we divide the dough into two parts for the stems/vines and the pumpkins. For the stems, you can pinch off a small amount of dough, smaller than a golf ball, to dye green. You will dye the remaining dough orange.
To get the pumpkin shape, we used oil-soaked kitchen twine and we tie the filled raw buns like a present. To do this, place the dough ball in the center of the kitchen twine. Then wrap the strings somewhat loosely around the ball 3 times, crossing them each time you get to the top or bottom of the ball. You will create 6 segments of dough that will expand as they steam to create grooves like a pumpkin.
After the baos finish cooking, you will cut the strings off the buns. The indentations will remain to look like pumpkins.
To steam the buns, we highly recommend that you pick up a bamboo steaming basket to make the process easier, but a regular steamer basket used for vegetables in a pot with a lid will work here as well. It’s important that the buns aren’t touching during cooking as well, so you may need to steam these in batches depending on the size of your basket.
We hope you enjoy this recipe for Pumpkin Shaped Pork Steamed Buns (Bao)! If you give it a try, leave us a comment below or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!
Did you enjoy this recipe? Check out more seasonal recipes below: