Posubao: A flaky Chinese bun that’s like a croissant, but steamed

Season 3 - Ep.7 /Apr 23, 2021

Stuffed with pork belly and mushrooms, posubao is a popular street snack in Yunnan and Sichuan.

Flaky, layered buns are a specialty of Yunnan Province in southwestern China. The method of making them is similar to the process for a croissant.

But instead of being baked, they’re steamed, creating a fluffy, pillowy pastry.

A popular snack in Yunnan and neighboring Sichuan, posubao 破酥包, as it’s known in Chinese, is usually stuffed with mildly seasoned pork belly.

Chen Wenjun, the owner of Xiang Man Lou in Sichuan, has been making posubao for over 20 years after he discovered them on a trip to Yunnan. He brought one home with him and tried to reverse-engineer it.

“I dedicated a day to doing this,” he says. “I did not succeed the first time. The skin wasn’t fluffy. I succeeded on the third try.”

A plate of posubao at Xiang Man Lou in Sichuan.
A plate of posubao at Xiang Man Lou in Sichuan. / Photo: Guo Yong

The bun’s highlight is the wheat wrapper’s layered texture, which is achieved by folding dough into itself. The most important step, Chen says, is selecting the right type of flour.

“Low-gluten flour ensures that the bun stays soft and crumbly,” he says.

(Read more: The origins of Hong Kong’s iconic pineapple bun)

The flour is combined with yeast and warm water because “if you knead it with warm water, the fermentation process is quite fast,” Chen says.

The bun’s signature layers are formed by brushing lard on the dough sheet and folding it into itself, similar to the folds in croissant dough.

Chen fills his posubao with matsutake mushrooms, a prized species that grows in Yunnan in small yields. “Matsutake is the king of mushrooms,” the chef says.

Matsutake mushrooms grown in Yunnan.
Matsutake mushrooms grown in Yunnan. / Photo: Nicholas Ko

The stuffed bun is steamed for 30 minutes and served. Chen’s shop makes about 1,500 posubao a day.

“It’s actually quite easy,” Chen says. “You just combine low-gluten flour with lard, and you can create a beautiful posubao. As long as you make the skin right, you can put in any filling. The special part is the skin.”

Eat China: Bao EditionYunnanSichuan
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Producer: Clarissa Wei

Videographer: Guo Yong

Editor: Hanley Chu

Narration: Tiffany Ip

Animation: Frank Lam

Mastering: Victor Peña