This pork bao tastes just like the ones in Taiwan and it’s SERIOUSLY DELICIOUS. Pork bao has been one of the most-requested recipes. You can make authentic, hot, steamy, juicy, delicious pork bao in your own kitchen following this recipe. Folding instruction video is included.
I’ve been making these pork baos and bringing them to potlucks (we even made them outdoors while camping!) and everyone’s been asking me for the recipe. We also teach a class on how to make them! I just never got to take photos of these baos before they are devoured. EVERY TIME.
WHAT’S A BAO(包)?
Chinese can be a complicated language. Bāo, 包 can mean many things- an action of folding something in, a bag, or here it’s a steamed bread. More often it’s called “BāoZi” 包子- this is a generic term for steamed buns that are shaped like the picture with fillings. These BaoZi can be called different things depends on what goes in it- red bean bao (hóngdòubāo 紅豆包), vegetable bao (CàiBāo 菜包), black sesame bao (HēiZhīMáBāo 黑芝麻包)… etc.
Baked western-style bread is often referred to as “MiànBāo” (麵包).
Ground pork is probably the most important ingredient in this recipe. The key to a good pork bao is high-quality pork! Taiwanese food is big on showcasing flavors of simple ingredients, and good pork will help crazy the weight and flavor in this recipe. We get our ground pork from Moenning’s meats at Rochester Farmers Markets. Knowing who grows the food and how the farmers raised the animals is also a plus to amazing flavors.
We did a back-to-back flavor comparison between Moenning’s pork and pork from Hy-Vee’s pork(likely from Hormel), and we were surprised that we could tell the difference. Moenning’s pork is sweeter, juicier and more flavorful. There’s simply something slacking in hy-vee’s ground pork.
How can I create the juiciest filling you ask? In Taiwan, a method called “打水”(DǎShuǐ) is often used when making meat fillings. The literal translation for “打水”(DǎShuǐ) means beating water. Water or broth is beat into the ground pork a little at a time until all of it is absorbed. When cooked, this filling is the juiciest you’ll ever taste. The same method is also used in making traditional pork dumplings.
THREE CLEAN- MAKING THE DOUGH
When kneading the dough, “three clean” is the goal. This is a rule for pretty much ALL dough on this blog. In Chinese, we call it “三光”(SānGuāng), three clean or three shine. The dough is ready when “盆光(PénGuāng), 手光(ShǒuGuāng), 麵光(MiànguGuāng) -the dough will pull away from the bowl(bowl’s clean), your hands should be clean, and the dough looks clean(smooth).
When choosing rolling pins, I like ones I can control with one hand. The baos are small, and the skins are round, it’s easiest to roll with one hand and rotate the dough with the other. I found most Western rolling pins too big for me so I had my husband Sean (AKA Knotty Woodpecker) custom make a few pins for me. These black walnut rolling pins are super easy to use, finished with natural, food-safe finish. The rolling pin is 1-3/8 inches thick, 14 inches long, just as I requested. It’s perfect for baos but also big enough for noodles or pies.
FOLDING THE PORK BAO
I could describe it to you, but it’s probably easier for you to watch a video. The secret to a pretty looking bao? Practice. You might not get it right the first time, but keep doing it! Feel it, play with it. Start with less filling might help too.
- Steaming Baskets
- Rolling Pin
- 1 C Warm Water Warm to touch
- 1 TBsp Sugar
- 1/2 TBsp Active Dry Yeast
- 2-3/4 C All-Purpose Flour
- 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 TBsp Vegetable Oil
- 1 lb Ground Pork
- 2 TBsp Corn Starch
- 3 TBsp Soy Sauce
- 1 TBsp Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/8 tsp Ground white pepper
- 1/8 tsp Five Spice Powder
- 1/2 inch Ginger Finely sliced
- 3/4 C Water
- 1 big bunch of Scallions About 3 Cups, Chopped
- Mix 1C of warm water(warm to touch) with 1TBsp sugar and 1/2TBsp Active Dry Yeast- This step helps the yeast dissolve and mix better in the next step.
- Add the rest of the dough ingredients and knead till smooth and elastic. "3 clean" is the goal. Your hand should be clean, the dough looks clean(smooth), and it will pull away from the bowl(bowl's clean).The dough should pull away from the bowl easily and shouldn't be sticky. If it's too sticky(summer humidity might change the proportion), add 1/4C flour until the dough is soft, smooth and not sticky.Cover with a wet towel and rest for 10 mins. (Full video can be found on IG TV @CHOOCHOOCACHEW)You can also do this in a stand-up mixer with a dough hook- about 6 minutes.
- While the dough rests, make the filling.
- Add sliced ginger to 1C of water and let it rest.
- Beat 1lb of ground pork with a fork until it's sticky, lumping together and not crumbly.
- Mix in 3TBsp Soy Sauce, 2TBsp Corn Starch, 1tsp Salt, 1TBsp Toasted Sesame Oil, 1/8tsp white pepper, 1/8tsp five spice.
- Remove the ginger from the water. Add the ginger-infused water to the pork mixture, roughly 1/4C at a time, beating the pork with a fork. Making sure all the moisture is absorbed before adding the next 1/4C. Repeat until all the water is absorbed.(You can also use a stand-up mixer with a mix paddle for making the pork mixture)
- Add the 3C of chopped scallions to the pork mixture. Keep in the fridge if you're not ready to fold right away.
- Line a steaming basket with parchment liners. If your liners don't have holes in them, make sure you poke some!
- Now we roll and fold. Separate the dough into 16 portions, each one weighing about 45g.
- It's easier to roll a round dough if you start with a round dough. Dust a little flour on the counter to prevent sticking. Flatten a dough and roll with a rolling pin from the outside in, with your left hand turning the dough, roll again and turn. Till the dough has turned into a circular shape with thinner skins around and thick in the center. About 5 inch in diameter.(It's OK if the dough is not a perfect round!)
- Now fold. Hold the dough in one hand, add the filling- how much depends on how well you can fold. Start small and work your way up.With the other hand, pinch the outskirts of the dough and gather them together. It's honestly easier if you watch the video above. Place the baos in the steamer, with at least 2" gap between each one. (My 10" bamboo steamers fits about 5 baos per tier)Repeat until you've finished with all the baos.
- Put the lid on the baos, and let the baos rest for 20 minutes. (Summer, 75+ degrees) 45h in winter (75 and below)The longer you rest your baos the bigger they will grow and the more air bubbles. They will grow bigger when they are steamed.
- With a pot which you can stack your steamers on, bring 2" water to a rapid boil.
- Stack the rested baos in the steamer on the boiling water.
- Steam: 10 minutes for two stacks, 15 for 3 stacks, 20 for 4 stacks. This is just a rule of thumb, your actual steam time may vary.Check if your bao is done: poke it. If it springs back, feels bouncy, it's done. If it's soft and leaves a mark, steam them longer!
- Eat the baos while they're HOT. Keep in the fridge for a week or freeze them for up to 3 months! Reheat the baos by steaming them.