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This is a recipe for the dough of the fluffy white skins of the char siu bao and the shanghai cabbage buns. It's truly versatile -- you can use the same dough and fill it with sweetened mashed red beans or lotus seeds for a dessert treat. Or just steam it by itself to turn it into "man tou" essentially steamed white bread that is used to soak up the wonderful sauce of Sichuanese or Hunanese dishes. If you shape the bun into a flat disc, it becomes the base for peking duck.

The dough can be allowed to rise slowly, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 day. Bring to room temperature before using. If you are not using the dough straight away, punch it down and wrap tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.

For the Cha Siu Bao recipe, see Useful Link below.

Prep time:
Cook time:
Servings: 20


Cost per serving $0.03 view details
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ tablespoons active dry yeast
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons hot water
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 3 cups unbleached 00 bread flour plus additional for kneading and dredging
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted


  1. Part 1: Making and proofing the dough.
  2. Proofing the yeast: Dissolve sugar in hot water. Add cold water to make a warm solution (105 - 115°F). Dissolve the yeast in the sugar solution. Stir lightly, and let stand in a warm place until mixture develops a creamy foam, about 7 minutes. (If mixture doesn't foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
  3. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle, and add yeast mixture and oil and stir to incorporate the flour until dough holds together and just come away from side of bowl. Add a little more water if needed.
  4. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead. Lightly flour your hands if necessary. Knead (by using the heels of your hands and your body weight to push away from you, pull it back and fold in the sides of the dough towards the center. Turn the dough right angle every few kneads) until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form into a ball.
  5. Lightly oil a large bowl, put the dough into the bowl and turn the dough so that all sides are coated. Cover the bowl tightly with a plastic wrap/damp tea cloth and let dough rise in a warm (75-80°F), draft-free place until doubled in bulk, 1-3 hours. The dough is ready when it does not spring back when poked with a finger.
  6. Part 2: Finishing the dough - Using the dough
  7. Uncover the dough, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten it and make a well in the center. Sprinkle baking powder in the well, gather up the sides and fold to the center to incorporate the baking powder. Knead lightly for a few minutes till it becomes a ball again.
  8. Divide the dough into two cylinders about 1 inch thick. Cut each into 10. Make 20 1-inch ball portions. Cover dough with a damp tea cloth as you work.
  9. Proceed with dumpling recipes
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Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving %DV
Serving Size 21g
Recipe makes 20 servings
Calories 20  
Calories from Fat 12 60%
Total Fat 1.37g 2%
Saturated Fat 0.1g 0%
Trans Fat 0.04g  
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 127mg 5%
Potassium 6mg 0%
Total Carbs 2.0g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0.1g 0%
Sugars 1.89g 1%
Protein 0.11g 0%



  • Mihir Shah
    August 4, 2008
    Made these at our cooking class; fantaatic! I do wish we had left for more than 1 hour to rise Not as fluffy as it would have been. But GREAT taste.
    I've cooked/tasted this recipe!
    • Kelsey Martin
      August 5, 2008
      Light, sweet and delicious!
      I've cooked/tasted this recipe!
      • Ava
        November 25, 2012
        There's too much water in this recipe, I ended up having to add a lot more flour cause the dough was so wet and sticky.
        Also, is it clear exactly how much salt is needed?
        I've cooked/tasted this recipe!


        • Linda Tay Esposito
          July 12, 2010
          I use "00" unbleached flour. Essentially a finely milled bread (high protein) flour.
          • Leslie Tibbetts
            June 20, 2010
            I look forward to trying this steamed bao recipe. I grew up near San Francisco, and remember eating bao my Grandfather would bring from Chinatown. The dough in the 50's and 60's was probably made from a different type or blend of flour, as the texture was not so fluffy and the color, not pure white as all the commercial bao are now. The taste of the dough was also not so sweet. From the look of the pictures, here, this recipe "looks" more like the "old fashioned" bao I miss!

            I'd love to receive comments about the flour one should use to create the old style bao.
            • wangdazhang
              September 13, 2008

              • Andrea Faz
                August 5, 2008
                Really fun to make, and to eat! :)

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