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Steamed Chinese Buns

Bāozi are a popular type of Chinese stuffed dumpling made from yeasted wheat flour dough and then steamed in a bamboo steamer. They are usually found on dim sum menus. Lydia Downey, Chinese cookery expert and tutor on our  vegetarian Chinese cookery courses, introduced us to her family recipe for steamed buns with a vegetarian filling. It is now a firm favourite dish with which to celebrate Chinese New Year!

Vegetable Bāozi: Steamed Chinese Buns

Makes: approx 20 small buns

Dietary: Vegan

Prep Time: 2 hours, Cook Time: 10 minutes 



  • 450g strong white flour
  • 1 tbsp dried yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 275ml lukewarm water


  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 spring onions, chopped finely
  • 5 cm piece of ginger, minced finely
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 200 g chopped mixed vegetables, ex. Chinese leaf or green cabbage shredded finely, grated carrot, mushrooms, fresh or rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, black fungus, cashews
  • 30 g dried tofu skin, rehydrated, shredded and chopped finely
  • 1/2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp shoyu
  • 1 tbsp Kecap Manis, Indonesian sweet soya sauce
  • 2 tbsp Chinese Shāoxing, made from glutinous sticky rice, or rice wine



  1. Whisk the sugar and dried yeast into the water and leave to stand until frothy.
  2. Put the flour into a large mixing bowl or stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, and add the yeast liquid, stirring till combined.
  3. Knead by hand for roughly 10 minutes, or mix in the machine till the dough feels smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and leave to rest for an hour till doubled in size.


  1. Finely chop the spring onions, garlic and ginger either by hand or in a mini electric chopper or hand blender.
  2. Prepare all the vegetables.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan, and stir-fry the spring onions, garlic and ginger for about 30 seconds. Add the vegetables and sesame seeds, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the rehydrated tofu skin, shoyu, Kecap Manis, rice wine and sesame oil. Taste and check the seasoning, adding more shoyu if required. It is important to season the mixture really well, as Bāozi fillings tend to be strongly flavoured. Leave the filling mixture to cool.
  4. To make the buns:
  5. Lightly flour your worktop and knead the dough again. It should feel soft, smooth and elastic. Roll into a long sausage shape, and cut into 20 pieces roughly the size of a golf ball. Take a piece of dough, and flatten slightly in the palm of your hand into a small pancake.
  6. Put a heaped teaspoon of filling into the centre, and gather the edges of the dough to the centre, pleating and pinching them together at the top with a little twist. This creates a classic characteristic pattern and shape of the bun.
  7. Cut out 20 small squares of baking parchment, the size of the dumplings
  8. Heat a saucepan of water, for the steamer to fit on to.
  9. Place the Bāozi in the steamer, each sitting on a square of baking parchment allowing space in between each for expansion. Steam on high heat for 10 minutes. Serve hot with a shoyu dipping sauce, or a sweet chilli sauce would go well with the Bāozi.
  10. The cooked steamed buns can be frozen and re-steamed from frozen for 15-18 minutes. Pierce with a metal skewer for 10 seconds and check the heat of the tip of the skewer to test they are hot in the centre of the bun before serving.

Shoyu Dipping Sauce


  • 1 tbsp shoyu
  • 1 tbsp Kecap Manis, Indonesian sweet soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine, made from glutinous sticky rice and has an amber colour and nutty flavour
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli sauce
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • water to mix


  1. Mix all the ingredients together and add enough water to make the consistency of a dipping sauce.

Mouthwatering photos by Rob Wicks of Eat Pictures.

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