Steamed Buns

rows and rows of steamed buns

You don’t have to make your own steamed buns for Momofuku Pork Buns. As Chang says, “how many sandwich shops bake their own bread?”

bread flour, yeast, non-fat milk power, water, baking soda and water, pork fat

Momofuku still sources their steamed buns from elsewhere, so if you want to take Chang’s advice, you can easily buy plain steamed buns at most Asian grocery stores in the freezer section. The most common plain steamed bun is the mantou, which doesn’t have the sock-puppet mouth shape that Chang uses, but you can substitute it easily, just slice them open and fill.

dough hook kneading dough

The problem is, when you do find steamed buns that are the right sock-puppet shape they are mostly too big compared to the Momofuku steamed buns.  I highly recommend taking the time to make your own steamed buns. You can always freeze them. I froze a bunch of steamed buns and am looking forward to instant pork buns whenever my little heart desires! (Well, I guess I need to have roast pork belly on hand too, but who doesn’t have slabs of roast belly in their fridge waiting to be consumed?)

the kitchen aid doing all the work

Really though, this is a fantastically easy snack to put together when you have everything at hand, so even though the recipe yields 50 buns, trust me, you’ll eat them all. I know we did!

balls of dough

The steamed buns are a basic bread recipe but steamed, instead of baked. Yeast, water, bread flour, sugar, non-fat milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda and pork fat are all kneaded together into a sticky ball and left to rise. After the dough has doubled, it’s punched down, divided into 50 balls, and left to rise again.

flattened ovals with chopstick to fold over

The balls are then flattened into an oval and folded over to form the floppy sock puppet mouth shape. One more rise and then they are ready to steam! (That’s three rises, just in case you were counting.)

sock puppet mouth shaped bun

I steamed my buns in a wok because I don’t have a bamboo steamer. Apparently bamboo steamers are ideal because steam condensation doesn’t drip down on the buns, which causes wrinkly bun skin. That was exactly what happened to me: wrinkly bun skin. Nobody wants wrinkly bun skin! My inventive solution was to stretch a tea towel over the rim of the wok so that the drops of water from the lid would catch on the towel instead of falling on to the skin. The towel trick worked, the buns were less wrinkly as the steaming progressed.

un-steamed buns waiting for the wok

I was also worried about the colour of the buns. They weren’t pure white, more of a very pale yellow. The buns tasted good, they just didn’t look super white, which is what I wanted, because I’m a bit of a prefectionist like that. I looked up “why are my steamed buns yellow” on google and found a little trick where you put some white vinegar in the steaming water. I tried it and (surprise surprise) it didn’t work.

::fluff:: buns become fluffy after steaming

Even though they were wrinkly and not pure white, they were fluffy and tasty. At least I have that! As one friend said, “I could eat the [bun] just on it’s own.” (Actually he said “sponge,” but I know he meant bun.)

23 Comments add yours

  1. After making the pork belly and using store bought buns, I’ve decided that this dish is just too good to not have my own little stash in the freezer. I’m going to make my own buns too…just so I can eat these little goodies whenever I want to.

    Hi Sharlyn,
    I tried store-bought buns too, but it just wasn’t the same. Having a stash in the freezer is great, if you don’t go through them in less than a week, which is what happened to me! Pork buns are addictive!

    steph on January 24th, 2010 at 12:59 pm
  2. Pork Buns are a favorite of min but I haven’t made them. Now I have a recipe!

    Hi Ed,
    Pork buns are so good and pretty easy to assemble, I’m glad you’re going to give them a try!

    steph on January 24th, 2010 at 12:58 pm
  3. Andrea Nguyen has a great post on her blog about why your buns aren’t white (it’s the flour) and how to make them white (find the right uber-bleached flour)…

    Thanks for the tip! Don’t know if I’ll be searching out super-white flour anytime soon, but if I run across it, maybe I’ll be making some white buns!

    steph on February 17th, 2010 at 8:41 pm
  4. Pretty KitchenAid I say! Is it in Ice Blue or Pistachio?

    It’s pistachio! It’s probably wrong to love an inanimate object as much as I love my Kitchen Aid.

    steph on September 19th, 2010 at 1:04 pm
  5. hi – i’m researching bao recipes for my dinner club and would like to use this recipe. is the recipe posted for this? thank you

  6. it cou;d be the flour (bleached AP) but its white…right. i think the addition of soda (baking soda) is what turns it yell-er. think about baking biscuts? or scones, certain rising agents stain dough…in some noodles…the additon of sodium chloride (sodium…salt) turns them yell-er. try the recipe without salt soda or baking powder.

  7. What exactly is the recipe you followed? I can’t find it anywhere.

  8. how do you steam something in a wok?

  9. I think is because of the baking soda. The recipe I use calls for baking powder but, by mistake, I used baking soda and they turned out golden brown. the same has happened to me once with experimenting with meringue they turned light brown.

  10. i made some last week and they came out white fluffy and beautiful…….Just made a batch today same recipe same batch of flour same method and they are yellow and dense! WHY?????

  11. the reason you baos turned out yellow is you alkadilized your dough. the vinegar won’t help as the alkaloids already worked on the gluten in the flour. my mum never used baking powder or soda and hers were perfectly white

  12. as for Jimmy, was there a delay between when you steamed the second batch and not for the first?

  13. Hello! Just saw this post, and I was wondering if it is ok to replace the milk powder with fresh milk instead? I don’t really use milk powder that much so it could be a waste if i buy a tin of it. Thanks!

  14. I currently live in rapid city, SD and want some steamed buns shipped over to me (zero asian markets here). Does anyone know a good online market where i can find them?

  15. Your steamed buns look so beautiful! Soft and fluffy. I would like to know if your buns stuck together after folding them into halves (after proofing)? And did you brush with oil? What is the function of using a chopstick? Thanking you in advance.

  16. Hi there, help desperately needed!
    Im using the frozen shop bought ones on a market stall as my baker cannot replicate the fresh ones and i am yet to master it.
    I am having real issues with the frozen ones, they are eiher very difficult to separate when frozen and stick, they crack slightly before i use them or they dont open very well once steamed. My steamer is also on for hours and im struggling to find a way to keep the buns warm for service and keep a smooth operation line going. Also the buns are getting soggy from the condensation and im having to throw them away..please help!!

  17. where is the list of items for this recipe

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