Does anyone else here barter with their significant other?
A typical Sunday morning dialog in our room as we groggily open our eyes to our son’s bubbly face goes something like this:
“Oh no…we don’t have any bread in the house.”
“I think there is some flatbread in the freezer.”
“Or you could go for baozi.”
(Cue our son’s input, “Yay! Baozi, baozi!”)
“Because I went last week. It’s your turn.”
“What’s in it for me?”
Fast forward 10 minutes and one of us has undoubtedly agreed to go for the weekly market run, clean the bathroom, or give the other one a foot rub at the end of the day.
And then we have baozi for breakfast.
I think I’ve professed my love of baozi in other posts. Baozi is a steamed bun filled with a wide variety of things. In my region, I’ve learned to recognize a few: there’s pork, beef, mushroom, pickle (straight up pickle…), and cabbage. The lady next to our apartment complex makes a pretty mean pork one (you can taste the ginger…not always the case – and I love a little ginger!) and mushroom bao that are to die for.
I did blacken one of my brand new bamboo steamer baskets in the process, and I’m still getting the hang of the folding techniques (there are two I’m trying to master) which seems even more complicated given I’ve chosen to make my buns rather small, BUT I’m pretty confident in my version of her mushroom baozi.
The filling in and of itself is pretty straightforward. It’s a mix of sweet flour sauce (tian mian jiang), soy, and sugar poured over shitake mushrooms and mei gan cai (one of the many ways the Chinese pickle mustard…). I added a little ground pork for authenticity (and to dial back the saltiness provided by the pickles).
Tian Mian Jiang, or sweet flour sauce/paste (you may find it under both translations) is a thick almost jelly-like sauce that is salty with a very slight sweetness. If you’re not sure you should spring for it, we often use it with sesame oil, soy, and sugar over stir-fried pork or in a lo-mein stir-fry.
As for the pickles, these have received attention on sites like… which suggest you try finding them at Asian supermarkets in your area. I haven’t yet had the experience of tracking down these ingredients in the US, but in case you can’t find Mei Gan Cai locally, you can also substitute the pickles for Yi Bin Ya Cai (yet another kind of pickle made with the same vegetable with a slightly different taste but not in an unpleasant way), which I know you can find on Amazon. In a real pinch you could just double up on the shitake mushrooms or the pork and create a completely different flavor profile for your bun!
Anyway, Mushroom Baozi are so delicious we might be able to stop bribing each other on the weekends and have an extra cup of coffee and another bao – no strings attached.
- Baozi Dough
- 1 pound flour (regular or special “hard flour” for baozi)
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons oil
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 11 ounces (approximately 12-14) shitake mushrooms
- 1 cup mei gan cai
- 7 ounces or 1 cup ground pork
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large chunk of fresh ginger, grated or minced
- 4 scallions, chopped (halfway up the green part)
- ¼ cup tian mian jiang (sweet flour sauce)
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Pan/wok + bamboo steamer
- Combine the flour, the instant yeast, the sugar and the salt. Then add in the oil and the water.
- Mix until it starts to come together in a loose ball.
- Generously flour your kneading surface and turn the dough onto it. Knead with your hands, lightly reflouring your surface as needed, until the dough is elastic and smooth.
- Form it into a ball. Lightly brush some oil onto the bottom of a mixing bowl and place your dough in the bowl, covering for 1-2 hours until it doubles in size.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
- Cut the garlic, ginger, and scallions. Chop your mushrooms and mince the pickles (we didn’t do this in the video…we have since discovered we prefer smaller bits of pickles in our bao). Get your sauce ready by combining the tian mian jiang (sweet flour sauce), soy sauce, and sugar.
- Then turn on your wok and pour 2 tablespoons of oil to preheat. Once hot, gentle swirl the pan to coat the bottom of the wok and add your garlic, ginger, and scallions. Stir-fry for 30 seconds or until fragrant, and add the mushrooms and pickles. Pour the sauce over everything and stir-fry for approximately 3 minutes or until the mushrooms have diminished lightly in size. Turn off the stovetop and remove from heat.
- Dump the stir-fry ingredients into a separate bowl and then add your ground pork, using a fork or a spatula to thoroughly mix into the stir-fried mushrooms. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the buns.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and quarter it. Then, roll out the sections and cut them into 8 pieces, each. This recipe makes small baozi – perfect for snacking and appetizers, but you can alternately cut each section into 4 and use more filling to make large baozi – perfect for breakfasts and lunches. Your baozi will be up to 50% bigger once cooked.
- Roll out the pieces into disks and fill with 1-2 spoonfuls of mixture. See the video to see how much dough is needed to fold the bao into little pockets.
- Set each completed bao into a bamboo steamer lined with parchment paper cut into squares and steam for 15 minutes. If you are cooking in a wok be extremely vigilant and add water as necessary (or else you will burn the bottom of the steam the way I did ;( ).
- Once finished, turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes before uncovering and serving.
- To reheat, steam again or warm in the microwave.