What Are Bao Buns (and Why Are They so Delicious)?
What Are Bao Buns (and Why Are They so Delicious)?

Everyone says “wow” when they taste bao buns (also called gua bao, especially when filled with traditional fillings like pork belly)! Originally from China, these delicious lotus leaf buns made a big splash on this side of the pond when they appeared on Momofuku restaurant menus in the early 2000s. Thanks to their cloud-like texture, handheld size, and versatile fillings, these beloved buns are starting to pop up everywhere!

Flat, folded, and oh-so-fluffy, bao buns are the perfect complement to just about any kind of filling or flavour profile. Their small size (about 6-8 centimetres across) makes them perfect for quick and easy lunches, dinners, appetizers, or snacks. Simply steam, stuff, and chow down. If you haven’t tried our members’ favourite buns yet, now’s the time to up your sandwich game.

Did you know? In Mandarin, “bao” means “bun”, so bao bun technically translates to “bun bun”. This translation situation also happens with “chai”, which means “tea” in many languages, and “naan” which means “bread” in Farsi!

 

How to Prepare Bao Buns

 
Preparing bao buns is just as easy as preparing any other types of buns, but bonus: no crumbs! You can make them in batches ahead of time for lunches or leftovers, as they last in the fridge for a few days (and a few weeks in the freezer).

Here are two easy ways to prepare your bao:

1. Steam them

 

  • Fill a medium pot with about 2-3 inches of water.
  • Place a colander on top and line with parchment paper. Make sure the colander doesn’t touch the water (you can remove a bit of water if needed).
  • Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Carefully place the bao buns in the colander, keeping them separate from each other so they don’t overlap (you may need to steam in batches).
  • Cover the colander and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until light and fluffy.

Comment cuire des pains bao à la vapeur

2. Cook in the microwave

 
Full batch:

  • Place the sealed plastic bag in the microwave and heat, 15-20 seconds, until warmed through.

Smaller batch :

  • Place bao buns on a microwave-safe plate.
  • Put a small cup of water next to the plate (to create steam).
  • Heat for about 60 seconds or until warm, light, and fluffy.

That’s it! Easy peasy.

Find it on your selection page : Bao buns (10 units)

 

3 Bao Bun Recipes for Quick and Easy Meals

 
Now that you know the ins-and-outs of bao, let’s get stuffing! There’s an infinite number of delicious ways to fill up your bun with mouthwatering ingredients.

Here are 3 of our members’ favourite recipes you can try at home:

Spicy Peanut Tofu Bao Buns

 
Spicy Peanut Tofu Bao Buns

No wonder this one always tops the charts! This bao is loaded with saucy tofu, spicy mayo, fresh cucumber and cilantro, and a sprinkling of fragrant toasted peanuts. Totally vegetarian, totally delicious.

Chef’s Tip : Want to switch up your veggie protein? Replace tofu with tempeh!

 

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

• 1 cucumber •1 bunch of cilantro
• 15g peanuts • 225g tofu
• 30g peanut butter • 6 bao buns
• 15g white miso paste • 15ml sambal oelek
• 30ml lightly smoked jalapeño aioli • 7g honey
• 15ml lime ponzu (or soy sauce and lemon/lime juice)

 


 
Mise en place

Thinly slice the cucumber into rounds. Cut the tofu crosswise into 6 equal pieces. Pick the cilantro leaves off the stem. In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, honey, sambal oelek to taste, the miso, lime ponzu, and 2 tbsp water.

Steam the bao buns

Fill a medium pot with a few inches of water. Line a steam basket (or colander) with parchment paper. Place the steam basket in the pot, making sure the water does not touch the steam basket. Bring the water to a simmer on medium-high. Working in batches, place the bao buns in the steam basket. Cover the pot and let the buns steam, 8-10 minutes, until light and fluffy. Carefully remove the steam basket from the heat and set aside in a warm spot.

Toast the peanuts

While the buns steam, heat a drizzle of oil in a large pan on medium. Add the peanuts and cook, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl and season with S&P to taste; wipe out the pan.

Cook the tofu

In the same pan, heat a drizzle of oil on medium-high. Pat the tofu dry with a paper towel; season with S&P. Add the tofu and cook, 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden brown. When there are 2 minutes left of cooking, add the sauce and spoon over the tofu.

Assemble & serve

Divide the steamed bao buns between your plates. Fill each bun with a spoonful of lightly smoked jalapeño aioli, cooked tofu, and cucumber slices. Garnish with cilantro and the toasted peanuts.

 

Find it on your selection page : Extra-Firm Plain Tofu, Lightly Smoked Jalapeño Aioli (for a kick), Liquid Clover Honey, Peanut Butter, Bao Buns.

 

Sweet Chili-Garlic Shrimp Bao Buns

 
Sweet Chili-Garlic Shrimp Bao Buns

Seafood fan? Load up your new favourite bun with sweet and tangy sautéed shrimp and crunchy slices of cucumber. Top with a good dollop of zesty ginger-mirin mayo for a perfect finish.

Chef’s Tip: For a quick and easy topping with no prep required, add kimchi to your shrimp bao as a slaw (makes a great side salad too)!

 

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Portions: 2

Ingredients:

• 285g shrimp • 60ml mayonnaise
• 1 cucumber • 30ml sweet chili sauce
• 20g ginger • 15ml mirin
• 2 garlic cloves • Sesame seeds
• 1 scallion • 6 bao buns

 


 
Steam the bao buns

Fill a medium pot with a few inches of water. Line a steam basket (or colander) with parchment paper. Place the steam basket in the pot, making sure the water does not touch the steam basket. Bring the water to a simmer on medium-high. Working in batches, place the bao buns in the steam basket. Cover the pot and let the buns steam, 8-10 minutes, until light and fluffy. Carefully remove the steam basket from the heat and set aside in a warm spot.

Mise en place

Thinly slice the cucumber into rounds. Thinly slice the garlic. Peel the ginger and mince. Cut off and discard the root end of the scallion; thinly slice, separating the white bottoms and green tops. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mirin and up to ½ of the ginger (to taste). Stir to combine thoroughly.

Cook the shrimp

In a large pan (non-stick if possible), heat a drizzle of oil on medium. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towel and remove the shells from the tails; season with S&P. Add the garlic, the white bottoms of the scallions and ½ the ginger to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the shrimp* in a single, even layer and cook, 1 to 2 minutes per side, until opaque and cooked through. Add the sweet chili sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp is coated and the sauce has thickened slightly.

*Health Canada recommends cooking shellfish to a minimum internal temperature of 74°C.

Assemble & serve

Fill each bao bun with a spoonful of the ginger-mirin mayonnaise, sweet chili shrimp and cucumber slices. Garnish with sesame seeds and as many of the green tops of the scallions as you’d like.

 

Find it on your selection page: Tail-On Pacific White Shrimp, Mayonnaise, Lightly Smoked Jalapeño Aioli (for a kick), Kimchi, Bao Buns

 

Char Siu Pork Bao Buns

 
Char Siu Pork Bao Buns

Filled with sticky, sweet, salty char siu pork (a method of cooking pork popular in Cantonese cuisine) and quick-pickled bok choy, carrot, and scallion slaw, these garlicky bao are brimming with fabulous flavour.

Chef’s Tip: Hungry right now? Swap out the ground pork for fully cooked BBQ pulled pork, ready in just a few minutes.

 

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Portions: 2

Ingredients:

• 285g ground pork • 15ml rice vinegar
• 100g julienned carrots • 15ml ketchup
• 15ml minced garlic • 45ml hoisin sauce
• 200g sliced bok choy • 30ml soy sauce (low sodium)
• 2 scallions • 6 bao buns
• 12g Sichuan flavours spice blend (brown sugar, sea salt, white sesame seeds, garlic, ginger, black pepper)

 


 
Steam the bao buns

Fill a medium pot with a few inches of water. Line a steam basket (or colander) with parchment paper. Place the steam basket in the pot, making sure the water does not touch the steam basket. Bring the water to a simmer on medium-high. Working in batches, place the bao buns in the steam basket. Cover the pot and let the buns steam, 8-10 minutes, until light and fluffy. Carefully remove the steam basket from the heat and set aside in a warm spot.

Start the pork

While the bao buns steam, in a large pan, heat a drizzle of oil on medium-high. Add the ground pork*; season with ½ the spice blend. Cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, 4 to 6 minutes, until browned and cooked through.

*Health Canada recommends cooking ground pork to a minimum internal temperature of 71°C.

Make the salad

While the pork cooks, cut off and discard the root ends of the scallions; thinly slice, separating the white bottoms and green tops. In a large bowl combine the rice vinegar with 3 tbsp oil (double for 4 portions); season with the remaining spice blend. Add the bok choy, carrots and up to ½ the green tops of the scallions (to taste); toss well. Season with S&P to taste.

Finish the pork

To the pan of pork, add the white bottoms of the scallions, garlic, soy sauce, ketchup, hoisin and 1 tbsp water (double for 4 portions). Cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes until reduced and thickened; season with S&P to taste.

Plate your dish

Divide the steamed bao buns between your plates. Fill each bao bun with a spoonful each of the char siu pork and the bok choy salad. Garnish with as much of the remaining green tops of the scallions as you’d like. Serve any remaining bok choy salad on the side.

 

Find it on your selection page : Lean Ground Pork, BBQ Pulled Pork, Bao Buns.

 

Bao Buns: Always a Delight

 
Easy to prepare and even easier to enjoy, it’s no wonder that soft, fluffy bao buns are a hit with foodies around the world.

With all your newfound bao know-how you can create your own custom feast using this versatile bun! Don’t be shy to experiment with different seasonal ingredients to find the flavour profiles you and your family enjoy best. Which filling will you try first?

 
Image Credits

Feature Image, Image 1-4 : via Goodfood

Posted by Edouard Guay 0 Comments

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