A 250-year-old recipe from the birthplace of Chinese buns.
Pork buns can be found everywhere in China. They’re a mainstay of Chinese cuisine, made in varieties such as delicate soup dumplings in Shanghai and baked roast pork buns in Hong Kong.
(Read more: An illustrated compendium of Chinese baos)
But buns—or bao 包 in Chinese—are especially prolific in the north, where they’re eaten every day. The coastal city of Tianjin is said to be the birthplace of bao. Here, there are legacy chains going back generations, and chefs who tout recipes that supposedly date back to the Qing Dynasty.
(Read more: Why does northern China eat so many buns?)
Every restaurant does bao its own way, but in general, they’re stuffed with fat chunks of pork and wrapped with slightly leavened skins. The ratio of wheat to meat is just right.
Tianjin pork buns are a cross between Shanghai soup dumplings and Cantonese char siu buns. They retain the moisture of a soup dumpling, but have a soft pillowy skin that’s substantial and filling.
Here’s a recipe we got from Tong Yi Cheng, a legacy bao shop that’s been around since 1776.
For the skin
- 4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon of yeast
For the filling
- 500 grams of minced pork with fat
- 100 grams of chopped spring onion
- 40 grams of minced ginger
- 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons of dark sauce sauce
- 3 tablespoons of sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons of yellow cooking wine
- 1 tablespoons of canola oil
- ¼ cup of water
- For the filling, combine all the ingredients and stir until evenly mixed. Freeze the filling for at least two hours, preferably overnight, before wrapping.
- For the skin, combine flour, water, and yeast. Mix until the dough is smooth, and then feed it through a pasta machine, or continue kneading until the exterior is glossy. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for two hours.
- Cut the dough into thick two-inch slices. Roll out with a small rolling pin to ensure the skin has even thickness.
- Put in a spoonful of filling. Rule of thumb: the ideal ratio is 22 grams of wheat to 18 grams of filling.
- Pinch the tops together, and pleat the dough together.
- Steam the baos for four to five minutes and enjoy.