Chinese Steamed Buns, Three Ways

蒸包

Steamed pork buns, usually unspeakably sweet and gooey on the inside, are a regular fixture of Cantonese-style Chinese eating in America. In China, the same steamed bun dough is found throughout the country, stuffed with something different as one travels from province to province and eats of the imagination of different cooks. What follows is a trio of excellent fillings, each unique in character and fairly novel to the Western experience of Chinese food, plus specific instructions on the hows and whys of the dough.

  • Steamed buns are extremely easy to make once you have the knack and may be put together leisurely days in advance if you like, and then resteamed with no appreciable loss of flavor or texture. A food processor mixes the dough with speed and skill, and the time needed for the dough to rise gives the cook time for other things.
  • I personally like to make the filling a full day in advance of beginning the dough and leave it in the refrigerator to marinate or develop in flavor. The dough itself I prefer to make 6–12 hours before steaming, to let it rise slowly in a cool place and let it rise twice, in the interest of a lighter texture and finer crumb. This is perfect for the cook and for the buns if you like to stretch things out. If, however, you need to be speedy, you can put steamed buns on the table within 3–4 hours and they will still taste delicious.

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