All about bao

China and Indonesia have blessed the culinary arts world with a plethora of dishes. One of those dishes that Westerners have grown to love is baozi, also known as bao. Bao dates back to the third century and is a steamed soft bun filled with either something sweet, like coconut jam or custard, or something savory like meat or egg. The bun is made up of mantou, which is fluffy with just a hint of sweetness. Mantou is made by steaming the yeast instead of baking it.

Though bao can be eaten as a side with any dish, it’s most commonly a breakfast food in China. It’s great for busy mornings, as it can be easily eaten on the go. Though the buns themselves take a little too long to make in the morning before a busy day, they’re simple to make ahead of time so you can grab one on the way out the door every day that week. Here are some of China’s most popular bao fillings:

Meat bao465096359
A variety of meats are used in bao, with an array of different sauces and spices.

  • Cha siu bao is made with barbecue pork. It’s like China’s version of a pulled pork sandwich.
  • Xiaolongbao is filled with various meats and a juicy broth.
  • Shengjian mantou is made with meat, but is fried rather than steamed.
  • Shaobao is filled with chicken or shrimp.
  • Bah-pau is filled with pork. You can also get “big pau,” which is like a “super-sized” bah pau with eggs mixed in as well.

Non-meat bao
Bao that isn’t made with meat is usually sweet, but some varieties are considered vegetarian alternatives to meat-filled savory bao.

  • Tangbaozi is bigger than the average bao and filled with a savory broth. It would be messy to take a bite of this bao, so the broth is sipped through a straw and the bun is eaten afterward.
  • Doushabao is filled with sweet bean paste. This bean paste can be made with azuki, mung, navy or soybeans.
  • Lianrongbao is filled with lotus seed paste, which is similar to sweet bean paste. It’s considered to be more decadent than sweet bean paste, since lotus seeds are more expensive than beans. The dried seed are ground and mixed with oil and sugar to form a paste.
  • Kaya baozi is one of the sweetest bao, filled with a jam made of coconut and egg.
  • Nai huang bao is filled with a sweet custard made up of corn flour, custard powder, butter, sugar and vanilla.
  • Cai bao is filled with various vegetables.
  • Zhimabao is filled with black sesame paste – a Chinese staple in desserts. The roasted sesame seeds give the bao a nutty flavor.

If you plan to make bao for one of your upcoming online baking courses, make sure you give yourself ample time to allow the dough to rise so your buns are light and fluffy. After all, you don’t want them to resemble dumplings instead! Luckily, once your dough has risen and you’ve prepared your filling, bao only take about 15 minutes to steam before you can enjoy your nice warm pastry.

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