Vietnamese Steamed Pork Buns (Banh Bao)
I remember as a kid helping my mom make Vietnamese Steamed Pork Buns in the kitchen. The whole family would come together to spend the entire day just making these buns. We couldn't afford a stand mixer so most of the day was spent taking turns, kneading the dough. There was always an assembly line where each kid was tasked with one thing. I was usually in charge of cutting out circles from my school notebook to line the buns. Parchment paper? We don't need any stinky parchment paper. Authentic Vietnamese steamed pork buns are lined with school notebook paper. That's a fact.
Vietnamese Steamed Pork Buns, or Bánh Bao, are fluffy savory buns made with ground pork, mushrooms, hard boiled eggs and Chinese sausages. It's simple and delicious on-the-go food. Everything you need in a meal conveniently fits in the palm of your hand. My kids adore Bánh Bao so when I get a chance to make these buns, I make a large batch. Eat some straight from the steamer then individually wrap the leftover and freeze. Simply pop the frozen steamed buns into the microwave and viola! A hearty quick meal when you are famished from running errands or spying on the neighbors.
Below is my recipe for Vietnamese Steamed Pork Buns. My techniques are slightly different than traditional methods of making Vietnamese Steamed Pork Buns. Traditionally, you flatten out a small piece of dough, then add a spoonful of raw ground pork, a cooked quail egg, and a couple of large slices of Chinese sausage right on top. You'd then encase the filling with dough.
I find it a bit tricky to wrap the dough around the different size pieces of filling. These pudgy little hands of mine sometimes have the dexterity of a two-year-old. The different sizes cause the filing to constantly slip and slide against each other, making the construction unstable. I've found that it's a lot of easier to chop up the Chinese sausages into small pieces and evenly incorporate them into the ground pork mixture. I then fold the pork/Chinese sausage mixture around the quail egg. My filling then becomes a simple ball which I can easily wrap with dough. Boom.
Another thing I do differently is steam/cook my filling first. I learned this technique from my mother-in-law who explained that this process has three advantages. 1. It removes excess moisture. This prevents soggy buns. 2. It allows for easier handling. The filling gets firmed once cooked and this makes it easy to encase in dough. 3. It ensures my filling is completely cooked. I can see that the pork is cooked rather than guessing when it gets cooked inside dough.
This recipe has all the flavors of traditional Vietnamese steamed pork buns but with a few different techniques, it’s a whole lot easier to make.
Vietnamese Steamed Pork Bun Recipe (Banh Bao)
Makes about 15-20 steamed buns
1 bag of steamed bun self-rising flour (follow package instructions)
Parchment paper cut into 15-20 squares or circles to fit underneath buns
15-20 quail eggs (hard boiled and peeled)
3/4 lb ground pork
1/3 cup dried Woodear mushrooms
1 green onion (slice thinly)
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/4 cup green peas
2 Chinese sausages (dice)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
In a medium bowl, hydrate the black fungus with 2 cups water. Once hydrated, rinse thoroughly, squeeze out the excess water and mince finely.
In a large bowl, mix together ground pork, black fungus, green onions, white onion, green peas, Chinese sausages, sugar, pepper and oyster sauce. You may test the flavor of the marinated meat by quickly cooking a small piece in the microwave. Once satisfied with the seasoning, divide the marinated ground pork into 15-20 pieces.
Flatten out each piece and place a quail egg in the middle. Encase the quail egg in the ground pork by slowly rolling it back and forth in the palms of your hands.
In a steamer, cook the ground pork balls for about 5 minutes. Remove the pork balls from the steamer and let it drain and cool on a plate lined with paper towels. If you notice that the pork isn’t cooked all the way through, do not worry. It will go back into the steamer anyways.
Roll out the dough into a flat circle. Place the pork filling ball in the middle. Gently wrap the dough around the filling. Fold the dough over itself at the top to create pleats then pinch the top together to seal.
Place the now fully assembled buns onto cut parchment paper then transfer them into the steamer, leaving room in between for expansion. Steam for 10 minutes.
I like to eat my steamed pork bun with a bit of Sriracha sauce. If you end up with left overs, freeze them. If you wrap them properly, they should last for eternity. OK, not quite, but a few good months. Enjoy!