Monday, September 8, 2014

How to form and fill baozi

Last week we looked at how to make basic steamed bread. Today it is all about steamed filled buns, or baozi. This is China’s answer to the sandwich, only better. Hot and juicy, snack food just doesn’t get any better. 

Most parts of China have their own takes on this delicious way with steamed bread and filling: Guangdong’s char siu bao, for example, with their reddish sweet-salty pork filling, are standard issue in dim sum restaurants, and near the mouth of the Yangtze they are filled with nothing but vegetables, packed with meat, or turned into tiny morsels packed with broth called xiaolongbao. Up north around Beijing and Shandong, baozi are often very large, stuffed with pork or sweet paste, and meant to stick to your ribs.
Step 1

These might look daunting if you have never made them before, but the simple truth is that they are a snap to make. All it takes is an understanding of the basic principles and a bit of practice. After that, the sky’s the limit.

A quick note on the nomenclature, before we get any further: These are often simply referred to as bao in English, but in Chinese, they are called either baozi or something-something bao — like xiaolongbao or shuijianbao — but never plain old “bao.
Step 2

Now, on to the directions:

Follow the last week’s directions on A Steamed Bread Primer all the way to the end. Once that is done, we can start shaping and filling the buns. (We will discuss the insides later – today it is all about learning how to fill and wrap baozi.)
Step 3

1. Work on one piece at a time and keep the rest of the dough covered so that they do not dry out. Cut the dough into as many pieces are directed. Lightly roll the piece into a ball between the palms of your hands.  

2. Press down on the ball with the palm of your hand to flatten it into a disc.

Step 4
3. Lift up a side of the disc with the left hand* and use a Chinese rolling pin in the other to roll the disc out into a thin circle. Do this by rolling down one edge of the disc from near the center all the way out to the edge. Turn the 
disc counterclockwise  (or clockwise, if you are left-handed) about 45 degrees, meaning that you will do this 8 times before you get back to the starting point, while you continue to roll out the dough. This way you will end up with a fairly even circle. Keep rolling and turning the dough until you have a circle of the desired diameter.
Step 5

4. As you roll out this circle, leave the exact center alone so that you end up with what looks like an egg fried sunny-side up.

Step 6
5. The best baozi have an even layer of bread around the ball of filling, so it is important to make the top as thin as possible. However, you are going to be pleating that dough, which naturally makes the top pretty thick. This is what I have discovered: You can reduce this thickness by lightly pulling up on the edge all the way around. This makes the edge very thin and will give the final circle the look of a sombrero.
Step 7

6. To fill the baozi, make a cup shape with your left hand and poke the circle into that cup, so that the base of the dough is cuddled up against your middle finger.

Step 8
7. Carefully place the filling inside the center of the dough. Do not get any filling on the edges, as the oil in the filling will not allow you to seal the dough.

8. Pleat the top of the baozi closed: Do this by using the thumb of your left hand to poke down the filling while you pinch the dough closed with the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger of your right hand.
Step 9

9. Work your way around the circle, pinching with the thumb, pointer, and middle fingers, while the thumb of your other hand keeps the filling away from the pleats.
Step 10

10. If you keep all of the pleats controlled with your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers, you will end up with a pointed top.

11. If you release the pleats as you go along, you will end up with a little depression in the top, which is also pretty. Place the filled baozi on oiled steamer paper and let them rise once more before steaming.

Step 11

* These directions are for right-handed people. If you are a lefty, reverse the hand directions.


  1. wowza baozi! Thank you for the left-handed clarifying directions. I went back over the instructions a couple of times, re-imaging and practicing movements with my hands. The photos of the steps are really helpful, too! Will you have some recipes for mixtures of vegetarian insides? Like something taro or something sweet potato ...anything with coconut shreds? yummmm!

    1. You're welcome! I'm thinking about writing about a recipe from my favorite Buddhist recipe in downtown Taipei. Really lush and green and lovely.

      As for coconut and taro fillings, use the Moon Cake coconut one here ( and the taro one here ( -- you will most likely need to multiply the taro one a couple of times to get enough filling. I agree... yummy!

    2. Janet, so sorry, but the post you sent today was mistakenly trashed. Please send it again! Thanks.

  2. No worries Carolyn...just wanted to thank you for the links to the recipes and procedures for the fillings. Admittedly, when reading such instructions, it's like a new language to me. I didn't have the traditional upbringing - hanging around at my mother's feet while she was preparing meals. Truth is, neither one of us spent much time in the kitchen. The family did eat well-balanced meals, they just weren't fancy.