Friday, March 5, 2010

Dou Sha Bao (Red Bean Buns)

So last week I had a hankering for delicious Chinese buns. The dough for steamed buns are so delectably fluffy, especially when steaming hot. I had been searching for a good recipe for Chinese bread doughs in general. There are many variations out there, many calling for low gluten flour, some calling for bread flour, and some just using the bag of "bao mix" that you can buy at the Asian supermarket. Finally, I came across one that seemed to have good results: a nice chewy skin from steaming, and a light, white, fluffy inside.

This dough can actually be used to make all sorts of steamed buns... filled with sweet fillings such as lotus seed paste, red bean paste, black sesame paste, or even rolled into a more savory scallion bun, or stuffed with pork filling to make sheng jian bao (pan-fried buns) or BBQ pork to make tsa sao bao (also known as char shiu bao). It can even be made into plain rolls. Yummy. For the first go-around, I decided to fill it with sweet red bean paste. :) I even went and got myself a bamboo steamer! :D It was awesomely exciting. Click for the recipe!

Dou Sha Bao (Red Bean Buns)
Makes 16 big buns. Adapted from Simon Law's Journal.

* 16 squares parchment paper (~2.5 inches square), or more if you want smaller buns
* 1 1/2 cups warm water (90-110F), scant
* 3 TBSP white sugar
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 2 tsp instant yeast
* 1 1/2 TBSP oil
* 600g (~4 cups) AP flour
* 1 can red bean paste (or other fillings)

1. In a small bowl, mix together water, and salt. Sprinkle yeast onto surface of water, and let rest for 10-15, or until frothy and foamy on top.

2. Add oil to the yeast mixture

3. In a large bowl, add the flour, and make a well in the center. Pour yeast mixture into holr, and gradually mix in the flour.

4. Knead dough until it forms an elastic and smooth ball (~10-15 minutes). The dough will seem dry at first. When finished, the dough should not stick to your hands and should be quite elastic.

5. Roll out the dough into a tube ~2 inches in diameter (thinner if you want more buns).

6. Slice the tube into 16-18 loafs and place each on its own parchment paper. If you want to make plain buns, try and make sure the loafs are lying on its cylindrical edge, not the face you sliced, on top of the parchment paper. If you're going to be rolling them out and stuffing these later, it's not as important.

7. Let the dough rest and rise for about 25 minutes (or until surface has become slightly puffy).

8. Shape your buns. If you are filling them with sweet paste, then roll them out into a circle, trying to make sure that the center is thicker and the edges are a lot thinner. Put the filling in the middle, then pleat the edges of the bun into the center, and then pinch/twist the top so it doesn't leak. You can also roll them out, sprinkle/spread with a filling, and then roll it back up to make a spiraled inside. Leave to rest for another 20 minutes.

9. Arrange loaves in bamboo steamers. Leave room between buns as they will rise and spread while cooking. Place bamboo steamers on top of hot boiling water. Cover, and steam on high for 15 minutes.

10. Remove lid, and remove loaves to a plate before turning off the heat. Enjoy while hot/warm!

These are best fresh. However, if you can't eat them all immediately, you can keep them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or even the freeze for a longer time. When it comes time to eat them, just wet a paper and wrap it around the bun. Microwave for 45 seconds (up to 2 minutes if they're frozen) until hot and steamy.

My first batch came out kind of ugly, so I ate those. This whole... shaping a bun thing requires a bit of practice. But they're getting prettier! Oh! also, what's great about a lot of Chinese foods, is that they can be easily made vegan, hehe.


  1. Thanks for the recipe, they turned out very yummie. No steamer in the house so I MacGyvered some aluminum cake tins into a three-story steamer for our kettle. One bun even managed to come out the perfect shape, so I'll call the monstrosity a success.

    I tried three fillings. One with finely chopped carrot, avacado and olives ended up having too much carrot flavor after steaming. For another I did used canned chile, which was good if lazy. Lastly the banana and peanut butter was a big hit.

    Thanks again, I had a lot of fun with this.

  2. This dough is awesome! Nice and chewy and crisps up nice, perfect for Jian Bao. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  3. Thank you for this recipe! It actually turned out right! I'll be using this for my cooking class next week.

  4. Omgosh! I just happened to stumble across your awesome blog, as I was looking for a bao recipe! And yay!! Yours just happens to be vegan too!:D

    Looking fwd to trying it out!!^^ and I wish I lived in the States so that I could order your absolutely scrumptious-looking desserts (those that are vegan) and your bread!^o^ I suppose I'll simply have to suffice with your recipes =P

    Yay for ABCs cooking!;D hehe(I'm an Australian-born Chinese :) ..and am assuming you're an American-born one!?)


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