Saturday, June 29, 2013

Shanghai Pan-Fried Bao – Sheng Jian Bao

Here's another awesome "pocket food" option! Like when making dumplings or fried rice, it's always reassuring to make a "clean" version of Asian foods, using whole ingredients and, more importantly knowing what goes into it. Traditionally, these buns use minced pork belly, but I found that using good quality minced pork works just as well. 

A few summers ago, I took a cooking class during my stay in Shanghai. Sheng Jian Bao are pan-fried buns, filled with pork. A street-food favorite, they are typically eaten for breakfast or as a snack. It's hard to find these in Chinatown, so this recipe was a must-learn. I had to play around with the measurements for this recipe, as while we were making it during the lesson, there was a difference between the written measurements and what we prepared. To be exact is not so important, but I like to make sure that each of my recipes works out every time.  


2 cups (240g) flour
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup (120ml) water
1 free-range egg yolk
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 lb (453) pasture-raised minced pork 
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp tamari
1 Tbsp minced ginger

The bottoms, pleated, only thing to do is to pinch the
center "hole" together to seal it up.
4 Tbsp sunflower seed oil, divided
1/2 cup (120ml) water
1 scallion, finely chopped
sesame seeds
Chinese black vinegar

  • In a large bowl, measure out dry ingredients, and stir to combine. In the measuring jug, beat the egg, water and oil together. Using your hand, combine the wet ingredient mixture into the dry. It gets really sticky, but after kneading for a few moments, the dough will form a large ball. Turn this out onto a lightly floured surface, along with any bits that have not been incorporated and knead for 5-10 minutes with the heel of your hand, until smooth and elastic (like playdoh). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes, but not more than an hour. 
  • In a separate bowl, combine all the filling ingredients together, using your hand to stir in a circular motion and incorporate the ingredients together for 5 minutes, until the the meat starts to look "sticky" and lumps together. 
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a long skinny roll (about 24" long, 1" in diameter). Cut into 10-12 even pieces. Using a rolling pin, flatten each piece of dough and roll to 1/8" thick round(ish) wrappers. 
  • Scoop a generous spoonful, roughy 1.6 oz (45g), minced pork mixture into the center of the wrapper. In a counter-clockwise, direction, pinch and fold the dough together to form pleats until you go all the way around, sealing it completely. The folding is a little tricky, but because the pleats are on the bottom of the bun, which you fry, it's not so important to be neat and perfect. Just make sure to completely pinch and seal it shut, so the juices don't run out whilst cooking.
  • Heat a frying pan (that will snugly fit all the buns). Add half of the oil and let heat for a minute. Arrange the buns in the pan, touching each other. Fry on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan a bit to make sure the bottoms aren't sticking to the pan. VERY CAREFULLY add the water, cover immediately, turn the heat down and steam for 7-10 minutes. 
  • Lift the cover off, pour in the remaining oil and crisp up the bottoms of the buns again for a further 2-3 minutes. 
  • Sprinkle with spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve with Chinese vinegar on the side.

On the streets of Shanghai. Yum!!!