Shuijianbao: This double-pan-fried bun is crispy perfection

Season 3 - Ep.9 /May 11, 2021

You might know pan-fried buns from Shanghai, but have you heard of double pan-fried buns from Shandong?

Pan-fried buns can be found throughout Asia, but there’s one county in Shandong, eastern China, that claims to be the birthplace of a specific kind called shuijianbao 水煎包, which is fried on both sides.

“There is shuijianbao in Taiwan, but they were all made by people from Lijin,” claims Liu Xiu’e, owner of a pan-fried bun shop in Lijin County. “During the war, they went south and brought it to Fujian. A lot of Lijin people also went to Taiwan.”

The war she speaks of is the Chinese Civil War, which pitted the Nationalists against the Communists over control of mainland China. The Nationalists ultimately lost and fled to Taiwan.

Liu’s family has been making shuijianbao for over a century in Lijin. She’s the third-generation owner of the shop, after her father and grandfather, who started the business.


“This county is famous for our family’s buns,” Liu brags. “Everyone learned from us.”

“Shuijianbao is tender on the inside and outside,” she says. “You can taste the crispiness. When the filling is well-done, it is delicious, it is always hot.”

Making the buns is a time-intensive process. It starts with the skin, which is made with yeast, flour, and water.


For filling, Liu’s shop offers customers six options: sea cucumber with pork, seafood with pork, celtuce with pork, cabbage with pork, vermicelli, and fried tofu. All come with a healthy dose of scallions.

To keep the filling in the skin, Liu makes at least 18 folds. “The stuffing must be wrapped up tightly,” she says. “If it’s not tightly wrapped, the soup will leak.”

“They come from the south and from the north. They all come to learn.”

Finally, the buns are cooked on a pan. Controlling the heat is the tricky part. To prevent the buns from sticking to the pan, Liu puts a precise amount of water to allow the buns to cook through while covered.


“If you add too much water, the scallions become soggy,” she says. “But without enough water, the buns won’t be well-cooked.”

Once the pan starts giving a crackling sound, the buns are done. It’s a practice that takes skill and good timing.

“People come from all over,” Liu says proudly. “They come from the south and from the north. They all come to learn.”

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Producer: Clarissa Wei

Videographer: Patrick Wong

Editor: Nicholas Ko

Narration: Tiffany Ip

Animation: Frank Lam

Mastering: Victor Peña