I first tried Shinese steamed buns when a vegan friend prepared an elaborate dinner for a little party. They were delicious. Whenever I try to find Chinese steamed buns like her’s, they ALWAYS have pork in them. That’s when I took matters into my own hands. “I can bake, and I can cook. I should be able to combine the two to make vegetarian Chinese steamed buns.” As it turns out, making these is a little harder than I initially thought. I messed up whole batches of these little buns. I made enough that were successful for both my boyfriend and myself for lunch, so that’s good. Plus, the ones that came out well were absolutely delicious. The dough was the perfect consistency and the filling was very tasty.
One other thing I love about these is that you can stuff them with whatever you want! You like carrots? Go ahead. Maybe you like chicken? Do it. The stuffing is really all up to you (but I still shared what I did). Because these buns are so versatile, I included the nutrition facts for both the dough and the Chinese steamed bun as I prepared it.
Now, I’m going share all the pitfalls I had so you can avoid them (and believe me, there were a LOT of pitfalls). Works out well for you, I’d say.
Tip #1 – Let the filling cool before you try to stuff the buns. I didn’t do this and my buns began to bake from the inside out and fall apart. It was sticky and disastrous.
Tip #2 – If you cannot steam all the buns at one time, check between batches to make sure there is enough water to steam the next batch. My second batch didn’t cook and I was very confused about why. Turns out, there was nothing to steam them. It was bad for the buns and my pot.
Tip #3 – Bring the water to a boil and make sure it doesn’t boil into your steamer. This resulted in the bottom of my buns disintegrating into the water. That was very unpleasant to clean up.
Tip #4 – Place the buns on wax paper to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the steamer. Otherwise the bottoms will fall off and all your hard work will go to waste. It’s rather tragic when that happens.
Ok. We have helpful tips, now it’s time for the recipe! Good luck!
Begin with the dough first. Combine the water, yeast, sugar, salt, flour, and vegetable/canola oil in a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix until a ball of dough forms. Remove from the bowl and knead on a smooth surface until the dough becomes smooth. Knead for a few minutes more after this point. Place the dough in a greased bowl and allow to rise for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, begin working on the filling. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet to medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic, cauliflower, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Cover to cook faster. After 5-7 minutes, add the onion and cook uncovered. After another 5 minutes, add the mushrooms and green onions. Continue to cook until all the ingredients are soft. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Allow to cool. To cool faster, place in the refrigerator (or freezer, but keep a good eye on it there).
After the dough is done rising, knock it back and sprinkle the baking soda over it. Knead gently until the baking soda is mixed in. Divide the dough into 24 equal parts. Roll each part into a ball. Cover the balls parts that are not being used with a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out. Roll each ball into a circle that is about 5" in diameter and about as thin as a tortilla. (Since I cooked mine in batches, I prepared 6 of these circles, stuffed them, let them cook while I prepared the next batch. You may want to do something similar.)
Line either a metal or bamboo steamer with wax paper. Bring water to a boil under the steamer Spoon a little of the cooled stuffing mixture into the middle of one of the circles. Pleat the top by pinching small bits together. Once the edges are all together and you have a little bag, squeeze all the ends together and twist them. Use a little water if the ends won't seal.
Place the buns in the steamer and steam for 10 minutes with half the lid cracked. Remove from the steamer and allow to cool. Serve immediately or store for up to 3 days. Enjoy and don't forget to go for second helpings!