I say it straight: It makes no sense to make steamed meat buns (or 包子baozi in Chinese) while living in a famous night market in Taiwan. A big variety of flavours and kinds is available easily, and it is probably even cheaper to buy them from vendors than to buy all ingredients. So, why spend time and effort making ugly, crooked, amateurish versions of them? Well, I could say that there is the advantage of giving them exactly that special flavour that you like that no vendor can produce. Maybe it is also because I simply don’t trust the cleanness and healthiness of the night market food. But after all, I guess it is because of that DIY challenge that underlies all cooking and baking projects…
- Leak onions
- Minced meat
- Spices and sauces as you like (I used: Salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, mustard, oyster mushroom soy sauce, black vinegar (“Worcestershire sauce”), thyme, rosemary)
- 1kg Flour (I used 250g whole grain flour, 750g white wheat flour)
- 30g sugar
- 15g salt
- 50g butter
- 600ml warm water (or 100ml milk + 500ml water)
- yeast (I use instant dry yeast)
Chop the vegetables into small pieces. Really small! The smaller the better!
In order to unfold the aroma of the spices like garlic, leak onion and ginger, pan-fry the chopped vegetables shortly (also because otherwise the carrot and leak would still feel too raw after steaming the bun). Meanwhile, mix the minced meat with eggs (just as a rough orientation: I used ~800g minced meat and two eggs), a big spoon of mustard (French Dijon mustard! NEVER use that American crap they call mustard!), soy sauce, and the other spices of your choice. When the vegetables are done pan-frying, mix them well with the raw meat mixture.
Make a standard yeast dough. Using 1kg of flour, in my case, was enough for 24 meat buns. Add sugar, salt, butter (alternative: olive oil) and instant yeast, then pour 600ml of liquid (water, or milk with water) into the bowl. Knead for 10 minutes to get a homogenous dough. Let it stand for 30 minutes in a warm environment. It will usually grow to 2 or 3 times its original size. Knead it again thoroughly and let it stand for another 30 minutes. Then, the dough is ready for further processing.
Now comes the tricky part that needs experience and training. A skilled cook can do the whole thing in his or her hand, but it also works on a board or bench. Take a bit of dough (roughly: a ball of 4 cm diameter) and make it flat (by hand or with a stick). Then, form a meat ball with a spoon and place it in the middle of the flat dough piece. Now, try to form a completely closed pocket. If you are not sure how to manage that, I am sure you can easily find a youtube video in your preferred language. The easiest is to take opposite ends of the dough, squeeze them together, add other ends until you hold eight sides between two fingers, then twist the bundle until all sides are securely connected.
As you can see from the photo, my skill is not very advanced. My meat buns are ugly and amateurish. Yet, the real success rate is revealed in the last step: Steam the buns in a steamer or in steaming plates (with holes in the bottom) above boiling water for approx. 30 minutes. The yeast dough will grow again, which you should consider when placing the raw buns on the plate, and the meat should be completely done by then. Your folding technique is “successful” when the buns don’t open during the steaming process. In my case, 3 out of 24 buns opened. The rest looks OK, I believe (even though it is very sure that I won’t win any prize for these!)…
The buns can be kept in a freezer for some time. Whenever you want to eat one, just steam it for another 15 minutes and it is ready. I have just prepared my breakfast for the next three weeks!