Shuijianbao: A Tasty Exotic Meal For Relaxation And Pleasure

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

There is no better way to experience the culture of other people than partaking of their cuisine either alone to end boredom or as part of a group in a backyard party after the day’s work, the pan fried pork buns recipe is just the recipe to the meal that will help you achieve that.

Shuijianbao (Chinese:水煎包), also more commonly referred to as pan fried pork buns is an easy to prepare meal with sumptuous fillings and each piece, more accurately referred to as each bun is almost similar in size to a golf ball.

The pan-fried pork buns also known as Chinese fried buns or Chinese meat buns are filled with a delectable mixture of chives, pork, white pepper, cornstarch and dried shrimps. Frying the buns on a pan gives a dual impression with the bottom forming a tender and brittle base while the steamed top remains chewy.

For those with concerns regarding the dried shrimps, it gives the pan-fried pork buns just the right taste and aroma (the umami flavour) without an overly shrimpy flavor. Best I dig into the art of preparing this cuisine before I get carried away. But then first things first, let’s talk about how this dish started.

Shuijianbao – A brief history behind the meal

The shuijianbao meal is a cuisine that originated from North China. It is recorded that one of the then rulers, Zhuge Liang introduced the meal to China and it was originally considered a variation of Chinese mantou. Mantou is a bun with no fillings.

This bun has been introduced to many other countries.

The dish was introduced to Taiwan, during the mass expedition of Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuomintang army in the late 1940s. Chiang’s army was mainly from the region of Yangtze, his hometown in the Zhejiang province. The inflow of these troops and their families into Taiwan changed both the social life and the culinary art of the locals.

Among the delicacies introduced into Taiwan is the recherche shuijianbao or the pan fried pork buns, which is enjoyed by both the young and the elderly. The dish is enormously popular in Taiwan and also available in almost all Chinese restaurants over there.

The dish aside from being a favorite breakfast meal in China, Taiwan, and Indonesia, it is also the perfect snack to get you by on a busy day. The dish could be served alone or could be served along side a dipping sauce. Syrups like orange syrup and the ever delightful maple syrup can also be drizzed on to it.

The journey to perfect the shuijianbao recipe started in China (it only seems natural that this quest starts from where it began) and this quest has spread to other parts of the world, especially those in the continent of Asia, I mean who would not want a piece of this yummy goodness.

This dish belongs to the food family of baozi or bao( Chinese: 包子) in China. The baozi food family consists of buns that has been stuffed. The dough of these buns are made with yeast, thus giving them a bread like feel. In the case of the shuijianbao, the filling of the bun consist of pork – minced pork and some veggies and spices. Other types of baozi could have vegetarian fillings or differently flavored meat flavor. More on this will come later, so let us get on to other things.

The pan fried pork buns literally translate to mean that the buns are pan fried first when raw and then immediately, the buns are steamed with a splash of water and flour on the very pan in which it is being pan fried.

There are different culinary techniques to carry out this process, traditionally, it is done by steaming the dish over water. They are often times prepared in a large pan in the presence of a waiting line of customers earning them their popularity as a street food and a party delight.

The Mouth-watering Chinese pork buns

These Chinese meat buns are mouth-watering porky goodness with soft crispy dough offering a taste of both worlds.

Ingredient list

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 2 and a half cup of all purpose flour and a little extra for dusting and kneading.
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil or peanut oil.
  • 2 tablespoons of baking powder.
  • 1 tablespoon of salt.
  • 2 tablespoons of icing sugar (optional).
  • Half a teaspoon of instant dried yeast.
  • 3/4 cup of warm water.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 500 gram of minced pork.
  • Half a tablespoon of white pepper and extra to taste. Not a fan? Then stick to black pepper but I really recommend white pepper.
  • 1 tablespoon of dried juvenile shrimps (shrimpling).
  • 1 and a half tablespoon of cornstarch (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons of sesame oil.
  • A handful of chopped chives. This should be able to fill a cup.
  • 1 tablespoons of salt.
  • Water
  • 5 teaspoon of rice wine.
  • 1 teaspoon of light soy sauce. Some persons use this along with dark soy sauce.
  • A cabbage head.

Ingredients for the cooking process:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • 1/4 cup of water.
  • 2 bulbs of spring onions; which should be finely chopped.
  • 2 bulbs of leeks (optional, it can be used in place of the spring onions or in combination with it. The quantity should be reduced when both the spring onions and leeks are used together).
  • Toasted sesame seeds (I suggest you use your discretion regarding the quantity).
  • 1/3 cup of water with 1 and a half tablespoon of all purpose or plain flour (blend to form a mixture).

Ingredients for dipping sauce:

1 teaspoon of black vinegar plus half a teaspoon of ginger plus some light soy sauce with 1 and half teaspoon of chili oil. Mix well.

Instructions:

  1. Season the minced pork with the salt, chives, corn starch, white pepper, Sesame oil, and rice wine. Allow the pork mixture marinate overnight in the refrigerator. The cabbage is prepared by chopping into very fine pieces and with the addition of a pinch of salt rubbed on to the cabbage and left for about 15 minutes, this is to prevent loss of water from the cabbage into the filling after wrapping.
    The cabbage is then squeezed of water and sieved before being added to the other filling ingredients. Then add the chopped ginger and chives to the pork mixture. Blend well and lay aside. Note, a little water is added to the minced pork to moisturize it and make it extra bouncy.
  2. The yeast should then be added to warm water and allowed to dissolve for about 10 minutes or so. A little olive oil or peanut oil should be added to the yeast mixture.
  3. In the making of the dough for the wraps; pour or turn the dough into a mixing bowl along side the icing sugar, baking powder, all purpose flour, and salt, then blend well.
  4. Combine the yeast mixture to the dried ingredients, then knead on a flour dusted surface for about 10 minutes till consistent and elastic. Put aside to rise in an oiled bowl for 60 minutes until it increases in volume – double the original size.
  5. Beat down the risen dough and knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Divide the dough into two equal halves and leave one half in the bowl and keep covered to retain the moisture. Divide the other half of the dough into 16 portions, rolling each piece into balls the size of your palm or golf ball.
  6. Scoop 1 teaspoon of filling into the middle of dough and enclose or fold the edges in a circular fashion to form a bun. You can also make a plaiting folding, makes for a finer looking bun. Folding the dough to form a bun can be a little daunting and time wasting if one is unfamiliar with the folding technique, but no worries, you sure will get around it. Imitate the process for the remaining dough and fillings.
    Note: you can place the plaited or folded side downwards if you so choose but ensure the plaiting or folding is properly done to prevent any of the juice from leaking out of the filling.
  7. Heat up the olive oil in a sauce pan, preferably in a non-stick flat sauce pan. Place the buns in the heated pan while allowing for small gaps between each successive bun for expansion during the steaming process. The buns should be left for proofing in the pan and covered for about 15 minutes.
  8. At this stage, the buns should be left to steam on medium heat and pan fried for about 4 to 7 minutes until the base forms that awesome golden brown colour. The trick is to ensure that the pan is evenly or uniformly heated. Ah! Let’s not forget that the crispy feel the base provides. Hmm, an absolute delight.
  9. Remove the lid and turn the flour and water mixture on the bottom of the pan producing a bubbling sensation. The lid should be immediately replaced and the buns allowed to steam for about 9-15 minutes or better still until it produces some cracking noise signifying the drying up of the water. The lid should be partially opened first to allow some of the steam escape before it is completely opened, gradually introducing the flossy buns to the room temperature. This prevents the deflating of the bun and keeps it smooth.
  10. I specifically like this last step of preparation; generously sprinkle and garnish the top of the buns with finely chopped leeks or spring onions and toasted sesame seeds. The leeks or spring onions sprinkles with the residual steam from the pan helps it stick to the buns, enhancing both the flavor and looks. Serve promptly with the dipping sauce of your choice or the one described earlier.

Dishes Offering A Similar Flavour Thrill Like Our Chinese Pork Buns

You would be amazed by the number of variation of buns in the Chinese cuisines that are similar to ours truly – the pan fried pork buns, Chinese fried buns, shuijianbao or whatever name you are sticking with.

These dishes are different in their various sizes, shapes, preparation and of course fillings which can be meat or vegetarian fillings so dear vegans, the baozi family food has got your back. Some of the examples of dishes in this buns family or bao family are;

  • Cha siu bao: This is a Cantonese buns with an interesting blend of barbecue flavored char siu pork fillings. They are perhaps the most famous type of baozi, thanks to the barbecued drill. It is sold in many Chinese bakeries, and is a special delicacy in Hong Kong and Guangdong province of China. This bao is steamed or baked, but not fried.
  • Shengjianbao: This is the closest and most similar baozi to shuijianbao. They are so similar that you might take one for another. Trust me, you most likely will unless you are a baozi pro. Like the shuijianbao, it is also fried.
  • Tianjin Goubuli
  • Shanghai Xiaolongbao
  • Tangbao in Yangzhou
  • Naihuangbao, and a whole lot others.

Shuijianbao is a Chinese dish that is really delicious. Chances are you might not find this dish around in the Chinese restaurants, well, except you are in China or in another country where the dish has gained widespread fame.

If you can’t find this meal, then your best bet is to make your own shuijianbao and don’t forget to share with your loved ones. This is shuijianbao signing out.

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Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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