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65.Bao zi: A Chinese steamed bread with fillings (part I)

How to cook Chinese bao zi steamed bread with filling
Chinese baozi

Time is so fast, the weekend has just past, and also we are already in September. Where is the time gone? Probably I should give up the hope that summer might come around again, instead, hope for a lovely autumn.

But now, it is the best time in Northeast China in terms of food – the ‘summer food’ is still there, and ‘early autumn’ food is just starting. So, this time of the year one can find all different kinds of fruits and vegetables. In traditional Chinese ‘health’ theory, this is the best time for people to have as many nutrients as possible.

Anyway, in conclusion, eat! Must eat at the best time of the year. Oh, no… If we are really going to eat too much, soon I will have to come up with some ‘diet’ recipes out. Ha…

As I mentioned in the ‘Chinese birthday meal’ post, Bao zi are a must in a traditional Chinese birthday meal. How to describe ‘Bao zi’ – because the pastry is very similar to steamed bread, the only difference is that Bao zi has fillings, so let’s say it is steamed bread with fillings?

You cannot find more traditional food than Bao Zi in northeast China. It is definitely a regional cultural symbol. ‘Bao’ in Chinese means ‘wrap it up’, Zi is just an ‘assistant’ word here.

Bao Zi is very much a ‘northern’ food, as in the south flour-based foods are not so common in home cooking. Besides, Bao Zi are much bigger than normal Cantonese Dimsim. Well, it is probably because unlike Dimsim, you would have all different kinds of ‘dimsim’ for one meal, while Bao zi are normally served as main ‘staple’ food, instead of rice.

Baozi can be accompanied by salad (Liang cai), or soup, or congee. Actually, in my university years, we often went to a small family run restaurant for breakfast, and we always order 2 or 3 Bao Zi (because Baozi are normally really big and filling) and a big bowl of lamb soup.

Making Baozi at home is simple, but it does require — experience, I would say? For example, the pastry sheet needs to be raised up properly; the filling can not contain too much ‘liquid’, otherwise it will be very difficult to ‘wrap the baozi up’ and ‘seal’, and affect the softness of raised flour. But saying that, it is good to have a little bit ‘fat’ if you are making meat filling, because it is steamed instead of boiling unlike dumplings, it is good to ‘hold’ fat in the wrapping after steaming – have a bite, the ‘juice’ comes out. — enh… tasty.

As I said, the pastry is the same as Chinese steamed bread – raised flour. However, the fillings can vary. Most of the dumplings’ fillings can be used for Baozi. The most popular filling for Bao Zi is beef mince (or pork mince) with spring onion or celery (or Jiucai /garlic chives), and for the vegetarian options are Jiucai with eggs, or Chinese leaves with other combinations.

In this first recipe of Baozi, I made a vegan filling – Chinese leaves, Mu’er (black fungus), Chinese mushroom, and Fensi (cellophane noodles). Lately, I found Chinese leaves with mushroom or Mu’er (black fungus) is very good combination. The juice of Chinese leaves gives flavor to the ‘dryness’ of mushroom. And Fensi (cellophane noodles) here is not only good for the taste, but also very good for absorbing the excess ‘liquid’ in the filling mix, so you won’t find too difficult to ‘seal’ the top of Baozi. The only thing for this vegan recipe is I like to put a bit more oil in the filling, because for ‘steaming’, it just needs that ‘smoothness’ and ‘fat’ in the filling and for the inter part of the pastry sheet.

Am I talking too much? I‘d better stop here, continues tomorrow then. :)

Have a good fresh week!

Related posts:

7.2 Chinese dumplings: the pastry sheet
18. Dumplings with crabmeat filling
43. Chinese tea eggs
96. Chinese lamb recipe: Dry cooked crispy lamb -- Shao yangrou


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