Vegetarian Bao Buns & Sweet and Sour Sauce

July 30, 2020mayurisjikoni
Blog post

EVENT: SHHH COOKING SECRETLY

THEME: STEAMED FOOD

VEGETARIAN BAO BUNS 

What are Bao Buns?

The first time I saw the Bao Buns was at the lounge of the Taiwan International Airport. Hubby and I were in transit and it was lunch time. A huge buffet was spread out and bao buns were among them. However, all the fillings were non veg. I took one plain one to taste and liked it. These steamed treats are super healthy and the best part is that one can use any filling. Traditionally a Chinese dish, the popular filling is pork belly. I searched several recipes to find what would work for me. Finally, I decided to use mushrooms as my main filling.

A bit about the group:

Members of this group give their partners two secret ingredients according to the theme decided and prepare a dish. Once the dish is ready we add the photo only and other members try and guess the secret ingredients. Towards the end of the month the secret is revealed when we share the recipe link. This month’s theme Steamed Food was suggested by Anu. Her blog Ente Thattukada is a mixture of  traditional and some international recipes. Anu’s steamed  Idiyappam made from rice flour and coconut milk is what I’d love to try out.

My Partner

Each month for the theme to work well, we need to be an even number of participants. However, sometimes that’s not possible. So the admins then give the person without the partner secret ingredients. This time round I didn’t have a partner so my co-admin Renu had to give me the ingredients. In return I didn’t have to give her any as she already has a partner. I discussed with Renu that I would love to try out Vegetarian Bao Buns and she complied. From the list of ingredients that I would be using she picked milk and baking powder as my secret ingredients.

 

Do you need a Bamboo Steamer for Vegetarian Bao Buns?

Bao Buns are made from yeast dough and are steamed. Obviously the Chinese steam it in Bamboo Steamers. I don’t own one. However, that did not stop me from making them. I used my idli steamer and also the steamer I use for making dhokla. Its important to remember to use parchment paper so that the steamed buns do not stick to the metal steamer plates.

What Stuffing can you use for Bao Buns?

Anything from pork belly, chicken to numerous vegetarian options like mushrooms, tofu, tempeh, mixed vegetables, cauliflower, jackfruit, etc. Let your imagination take over. Usually served with a bit of salad and sauces, it makes a perfectly healthy meal.

Sauces

You will come across fusion vegetarian bao buns that are served with guacamole, salsa, Sriracha sauce, peanut sauce, and even an Indian Style green chutney. Obviously, as I was trying out this recipe for the first time I stuck to Sweet and Sour Sauce and Chinese Style Chilli Sauce.

Advantages of Steamed Food

  • Before I go into the recipe for Bao Buns, would like to stress the importance of including steamed food in your diet.
  • Large amounts of fats or oil is not required when food is steamed.
  • When food is steamed, usually retains the nutrients like vitamins and minerals whereas when food is boiled the nutrients are lost.
  • Steamed food retains its colour, is crunchy and crispy and more tastier than boiled food.
  • Steaming softens the fibre of vegetables and fruits, making it more digestible.
  • Adding herbs, sauces, condiments, lemon juice, etc makes steamed food more tastier.

Some Steamed Food Recipes

Indian Cuisine has a large variety of steamed food which one can enjoy:

Gujarati Cuisine:

  • My all time favorite steamed food is Dhokla. Sometimes I have it without the tempering on top, just hot steaming dhokla with chutney.
  • Khaman or Instant Dhokla is a quick and easy steamed snack to make.
  • Make some Farali Dhokra, on fasting days or when you feel like including millet in your diet.
  • Muthiya/ Muthia is another famous steamed dish from the Gujarati Cuisine. The good thing about this dish is that one can add any vegetable like grated bottle gourd, cabbage, spinach, fresh methi(fenugreek) to make this healthy snack. I love to have it as light dinner with some lemon juice drizzled over it.
  • Arvi Paan Bhajia, yet another steamed snack from the Gujarati Cuisine. All Gujarati snacks are not fried!
  • Fancy some steamed Idra/ Idada/ White Dhokra with aam ras?
  • Papdi no Lot is a very famous Patel Community steamed snack made from rice flour and spices. A favorite of so many with some red garlic chutney and oil drizzled over it.
  • No Diwali celebration in our home is complete without making Kansar which is steamed sweet dish made using semolina or coarse wheat flour.

Maharashtrian Cuisine:

North Indian Cuisine:

  • When I prepared Bafauri ,a steamed snack famous in the state of Chhattisgarh for the first time, I thought the steamed snack would taste like dhokla, but I was so wrong.
  • Siddu/Sidku –  a Himachal Pradesh dish, wheat flour dough is stuffed with poppy seeds, walnuts and spices all ground together and steamed. Sometimes its stuffed with vegetables and steamed. Usually served with ghee and chutney or dal.

South Indian Cuisine:

  • Mention steamed food to any Indian and the first thing that comes to mind is hot steamed Idli with chutney and sambhar.
  • Delicious steamed rice flour balls with a flavorful tempering makes a delicious snack. I love ammini kozhukattai.
  • Ragi Sevai – I love making this  steamed South Indian breakfast from scratch.
  • I’m still waiting for an opportunity to try out Renu’s steamed Palak Paneer Stuffed Idli.
  • Sanna, steamed rice cakes made from rice and coconut are so delicious with  a coconut based curry.

Ingredients Required for Vegetarian Bao Buns:

  • Plain Flour – all purpose flour or maida
  • Yeast – I used instant active dried yeast. If you use dry active yeast, then you need to allow it to ferment in warm milk or water for at least ten minutes before adding to the dough.
  • Milk – optional. Can replace it with water for a vegan version.
  • Salt
  • Baking Powder – an additional leavening agent
  • Melted butter or oil – for vegan version use oil. I used oil. Also need some for greasing.

Ingredients for the Filling:

  • Mushrooms – I used button mushrooms. Use any variety of your choice. Can use any other filling of your choice.
  • Garlic – Use either paste or chopped
  • Ginger – use either paste or thin strips
  • Sesame Oil
  • Salt
  • Sweet and Sour Sauce – make at home or buy ready made
  • Chilli Sauce – make at home or buy ready made
  • Cucumber – either slices or strips
  • Carrot – grated or sticks
  • Coriander or parsley – optional

Ingredients for Sweet and Sour Sauce 

  • Water
  • Cornflour – corn starch
  • Brown Sugar
  • Tomato Ketchup or fresh tomato puree – I prefer using fresh  thick tomato puree
  • Chilli Sauce
  • Vinegar – if you don’t have rice vinegar use any other good quality vinegar like cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Soy Sauce – use either dark or light.

Dietary Tips:

  • Vegetarian
  • For satvik version avoid garlic and onion
  • For Vegan friendly bao buns omit dairy milk and butter. Replace the milk with nut milk or water.

bao buns 8

bao bun collage

bao buns 9

bao buns 11

 

Print Recipe
5 from 7 votes

VEGETARIAN BAO BUNS & SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE

Healthy, steamed, fluffy, soft, delicious veggie bao buns. Perfect as a starter or as a light meal. Use a filling of your choice.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time2 hrs 35 mins
Course: Appetizer, Light Meal
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: baozi, fluffy, healthy food, Steamed, steamed chinese buns, vegetarian, yeast dough
Servings: 15 buns

Ingredients

FOR THE BAO BUNS:

  • cups plain flour
  • 1 cup milk warm
  • 2 tsp dry active yeast
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • extra oil for greasing
  • extra flour for dusting

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 250 g mushrooms, cut into quarters or slices
  • 1 tbsp sesame seed oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced or paste
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ¼ - ⅓ tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sweet and sour sauce
  • 1 tbsp chilli sauce
  • 1 medium cucumber sliced
  • 1 large carrot shredded
  • some fresh coriander or parsley leaves

FOR THE SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE:

  • cup water
  • tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp thick tomato puree
  • 1 -2 tbsp chilli sauce
  • 1 -1½ tbsp vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

Instructions

PREPARATION OF BAO BUN DOUGH:

  • Sift flour, salt, and baking powder into a big bowl.
  • Add instant dry active yeast and sugar. Mix well.
  • Mix oil and warm milk.
  • Using the oil milk mixture, make a dough which is not too hard or too soft.
  • Dust the worktop with a bit of flour. Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes till it becomes smooth.
  • Shape the dough into a ball. Rub some oil over it.
  • Grease the bowl with some oil.
  • Put the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or a lid.
  • Place the bowl in a warm place. Allow the dough to ferment for 1½ hours or till double in size.

PREPARATION OF BAO BUNS:

  • Line the steamer trayor plate with some parchment paper. Brush a little oil over it.
  • Dust the worktop with some flour.
  • Roll out the dough into a big circle that is about ½ inch in thickness.
  • Uisng a cookie cutter or a lid that is about 3 inches in diameter, cut circles from the dough.
  • Gather up the sides and roll it again. Cut circles. Keep on doing that till all the dough is used up. If the dough cannot be rolled, let it rest for 5 minutes and it will become pliable again.
  • Brush some oil over all the circles.
  • Fold them into half, to resemble a semi circle or half moon.
  • Using your rolling pin, gently roll over the semi circle once to flatten it a bit. Remember, roll gently.
  • Place the rolled semi circles on the prepared steamer tray.
  • Allow the buns to ferment for 30 minutes.
  • Heat water some water in the steamer till it begins to boil.
  • Place the tray or plates with the buns in the steamer.
  • Steam for 8-10 minutes.
  • Remove the tray or plate from the steamer.
  • Let the buns cool down a bit.
  • Remove from the parchment paper.
  • Slowly pull apart from the folded seam. Each bun should open up easily.
  • Smear some red chilli sauce and sweet and sour sauce on the inside of the bun.
  • Add the filling and salad.
  • Serve with extra sauces on the side.

PREPARATION OF THE MUSHROOM FILLING:

  • Heat oil in a wide pan over medium heat.
  • Add garlic and stir fry till you get the aroma.
  • Add ginger and the chopped mushrooms.
  • Stir fry the mushrooms over high heat till they appear a bit soft. You don't want to overcook them.
  • Let the mixture cool for a bit.
  • Add salt, sweet and sour sauce and the chilli sauce. Mix well.
  • Adjust the spices according to your taste.

PREPARATION OF SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE:

  • Mix ¼ cup of water with cornflour (cornstarch) and leave it on the side till required.
  • Heat the remaining water in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add tomato puree, chilli sauce, vinegar, sugar, salt and soy sauce.
  • When the water begins to simmer add the cornflour slurry.
  • Keep stirring the sauce all the time till it becomes a bit thick.
  • Take the pan off the heat. The sauce is ready. If it becomes too thick add a little water.
  • For the homemade chilli sauce, check for the link in the ingredient list.

Notes

  • Bao Buns can be served cold. However, you can easily warm them up in the steamer again for just about 5 minutes. 
  • Use any stuffing of your choice. 
  • Use ready made sauces of your choice.

 

Pin for later:

bao buns pin 2

A little request:

If you do try this recipe then please either

  • add a comment below,
  • send a picture to my email mayuri.ajay.patel62@gmail.com
  •  tag me as #mayuri_jikoni on Instagram
  • or tag me on Twitter as #Mayuri1962

 

40 Comments

  • Renu

    July 31, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe, a completely new to me. I would definitely love to try this. First because it is steamed . Second because I love the different filling options here, which are healthy and one can adjust as per veg and non veg. So all my family would be happy :-). Beautiful clicks

    1. mayurisjikoni

      July 31, 2020 at 9:40 pm

      Thank you so much Renu. Please do try the recipe out. It was really delicious and planning to make them again, soon.

  • Poonam Bachhav

    August 4, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    5 stars
    Bao buns is a new dish to me as well. The steamed dish interests me because of the health factor and also because of the mushroom filling. Would love to try it out soon.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 4, 2020 at 7:41 pm

      Thanks Poonam, I know you love to try out different recipes so am sure you will love this one. As I mentioned you can fill it with any veggies.

  • The Girl Next Door

    August 6, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    5 stars
    I’ve had a chance to try baos at a couple of Pan-Asian restaurants here in Bangalore. I had no idea they can be made easily at home!

    I’m not a big fan of baos as such, but I guess it is a matter of finding the right filling which perfectly suits your tastebuds. I would love to try making them at home for this very reason. Thank you for the detailed explanation!

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 6, 2020 at 12:32 pm

      Thank you so much Priya. Would love to know which restaurants you tried them at. And yes I guess the right kind of filling to suit your taste buds is paramount.

  • Azlin Bloor

    August 7, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    5 stars
    One of my favourite childhood snacks and breakfasts. I just love the way you’ve presented it in that last photo, especially. And your group sounds like so much fun, challenges are so great! And I love idiyappam too, but grew up calling it putu mayam.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 7, 2020 at 5:13 pm

      Thank you so much Azlin. Interesting to learn different names of dishes that are more or less pretty common in so many South and SE Asian countries.

  • Maria

    August 9, 2020 at 10:20 am

    5 stars
    Such a detailed and informative writeup! I love the look of these buns – they seem light and fluffy as clouds and very very soft. It’s a keeper of a recipe. I’ll try it soon.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 9, 2020 at 12:30 pm

      Thank you so much Maria, the buns are soft and fluffy unlike any baked bread. So go on try the recipe.

  • Priya Vj

    August 9, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    5 stars
    more than the recipe the clicks are so beautiful and a lovely eye candy presentation . Have heard and read a lot about bao buns but never got a chance to relish it . I hope to try out this delicious recipe sometime soon !

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 9, 2020 at 8:18 pm

      Thank you so much Priya. I hear a lot of the pan fusion restaurants in Bangalore serve bao buns. Or better still try out the recipe.

  • Swati

    August 11, 2020 at 11:00 am

    5 stars
    Since a long time I wanted to try the recipe, but somehow kept postponing it… you post has now motivated me to try these soon..these look so soft and pillowy and I am glad we can have different kind of fillings that my family will love..beautiful and invitng pics..

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 11, 2020 at 5:07 pm

      Thank you so much Swati. They are soft and pillowy. Makes a great alternate to normal sandwiches.

  • Sujata Roy

    August 12, 2020 at 5:44 am

    5 stars
    What a wonderful recipe Mayuri. A completely new dish for me. Loved the look and I can imagine the taste. Also loved the filling. Thanks for the detailed recipe. Beautiful presentation and click.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 13, 2020 at 7:38 pm

      Thank you Sujata.

  • Anu Kollon

    August 15, 2020 at 12:43 am

    This dish is completely new to me. I am sure it will taste wonderful with different types of filing and sauces. Bookmarking to try this dish.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 15, 2020 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks Anu, bao buns are actually quite famous in US.

  • Shobha Keshwani

    August 15, 2020 at 2:19 am

    5 stars
    Me and my hubby are great fans of these . We miss our week-end outings these days. Thanks for the detailed recipe. Your baos have come out so perfect just like the restaurant ones. I will make them too.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 15, 2020 at 5:03 pm

      Thanks Shobha, enjoy when you make them

  • Jayashree T.Rao

    August 15, 2020 at 10:08 am

    5 stars
    Looks tasty and something that we will like. Hope I will be able to make them rightly. It looks quite easy too.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 15, 2020 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks Jayashree, with patience yes bao buns are pretty easy to make.

  • kalyani

    August 15, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    5 stars
    wow wow !! these look so delicious… so hearty, filling and inviting… I can imagine the customisations that can go into the filling here..

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 15, 2020 at 4:56 pm

      Thanks Kalyani. At least now with this customization have been abel to enjoy a veggie version.

  • Vasusvegkitchen

    August 15, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    5 stars
    Vegetarian bao buns looks amazing di, its new recipe to me. Loved your steamed recipes from different regions, as always liked your write up with clear explanation di. Surely this veg bao buns tasted super yummy with homemade sweet and sour sauce. Bookmarking this tasty and healthy recipe to try soon.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 16, 2020 at 8:42 pm

      Thank you so much Aruna. I learnt the sweet and sour sauce a long time ago from a Chinese Chef in one of the restaurants in Nairobi. At that time I wasn’t even blogging.

  • Preethicuisine

    August 17, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    5 stars
    Home made Bao buns looks so soft and delicious. Filling can be so versatile. Loved these delicious stuffed buns.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 17, 2020 at 3:59 pm

      Thank you so much Preethi.

  • Pavani Gunikuntla

    August 17, 2020 at 9:47 pm

    5 stars
    Steamed buns look tempting and the salad inside looks colourful and healthy. Never tried steamed buns before but after reading your recipe, I want to give a try so bookmarking it to try it soon.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 17, 2020 at 10:44 pm

      Thank you so much. Pavani, please do try out the recipe.

  • Archana

    August 19, 2020 at 3:04 pm

    5 stars
    Beautifully made n explained recipe. I have been wanting to try making bao for ages now but since I have never tasted them hesitating. Your pics n write up is prodding me to try make them. Love your filling too of mushrooms. That will be also my choice of filling.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 19, 2020 at 6:16 pm

      Archana, try them out, they are really tasty. I had once had the plain steamed bun, round shape so knew what it would taste like.

  • NARMADHA

    August 20, 2020 at 10:14 am

    5 stars
    Bao buns looks so inviting with all those stuffing and sides. Perfect to enjoy as main meal. Never heard about steamed buns. Will try it out sometime.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 20, 2020 at 4:58 pm

      Thank you so much Narmadha. Try a small batch you may like it.

  • Seema Sriram

    August 20, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    5 stars
    Living in south-east asia for a long time, these steamed buns are a staple. We always pick up the sweet-filled ones or tofu filled one to have. They are so soft and incredibly tasty. Loved the filling list here.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 20, 2020 at 4:56 pm

      Thank you so much Seema.

      1. Shobana Vijay

        August 23, 2020 at 2:49 pm

        5 stars
        Always your recipes are amazing and stunning. Bao buns are super healthy and nutritious. Steaming buns are new to me and lookimg very much inviting.

      2. mayurisjikoni

        August 23, 2020 at 6:47 pm

        Thank you so much Shobana.

  • Priya Satheesh

    August 20, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    Love this. I have tried this only at restaurant but never tried at home.. Sounds easy and would love to try sometime. Loved your fillings too.

    1. mayurisjikoni

      August 20, 2020 at 4:54 pm

      Thank you so much Priya. Try making them at home. They are easy to make.

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