Dangerously Tasty Steamed Chinese Baozi Buns

By Mark Wiens 6 Comments
Baozi (包子)
Chinese Baozi (包子) Buns

Comforting, filling and lip-licking-tasty.

I’m talking about Baozi (包子), the ubiquitous steamed Chinese bread buns stuffed with porky goodness and other heavenly fillings.

Growing up with a Chinese mother, we normally referred to these steamed buns as “bao” or “bau,” or by their Hawaiian nickname of “Manapua.”

When I was a kid, it was a rare (and beautiful) occasion when I got to eat these Chinese comforting breakfast buns.

So when I travled to China and realized that they were everywhere to be seen (especially for breakfast), I was pretty excited!

Baozi (包子)
Baozi (包子) Stall in Yangshuo, China

The buns are steamed on giant bamboo platters that are stacked on top of each other.

This particular man, is one of the most popular morning boazi vendors in Yangshuo. His steamed breakfast buns were being purchased like hot cakes.

People would stop their motorcycles and get a big bag of hot fresh buns to go!

Beautiful Selection of Baozi (包子)
Beautiful Selection of Baozi (包子)

While I was visiting China, I simply couldn’t resist the tempting scent of the baozi and the excitement of not having a clue as to what was inside and just pointing and choosing a random selection.

And you just never know what you might get inside!

Since I was doing a lot of hiking and biking, I allowed myself to really devour quite a lot of Chinese food (as you can see above).

Chinese food
Steamed Chinese Pork Bun

Cha siu bao (steamed buns filled with Chinese red barbecued pork), which is famous as a dim sum dumpling, is a popular type of baozi.

But I personally prefer the minced pork, garlic and onion dumpling. As the bun steams, the scrumptious porky oils coat the inside of the bun, making it wonderfully flavored.

Glutinous Rice Steamed Bun
Chinese Cinnamon Roll

Another favorite fo mine was what I started calling the Chinese cinnamon roll – a hearty piece of steamed dough wrapped full of glutinous rice and Chinese red beans.

It was deceivingly filling but excellent tasting.

Vegetable Stuffed Baozi
Vegetable Stuffed Baozi

Another favorite was the spontaneous vegetable baozi, an assortment of vegetables including cabbage, leek, and probably some pork oil.

Mantou (馒头)
Mantou (馒头)

If you aren’t so much inclined to devour a calorie boost of pork early in the morning, plain steamed baozi buns are also available.

Known as Mantou (馒头), the bread is steamed so it is fluffy, hot and often slightly sweetened.

I’d highly recommend a few pieces of mantou to go along with a morning cup of coffee.

Chinese Steamed Bread
Chinese Steamed Bread

Here’s another version of mantou, just plain steamed Chinese bread.

Crystal Baozi
Crystal Baozi

Warning: The Danger

Not knowing Chinese, I did all my ordering by the “point and eat method.”

It’s always fun to have a big bag of randomly chosen steamed buns and then having to bite into each one for a surprise.

And they were all delicious

…apart from one…known as the Crystal Baozi.

I excitedly bit into it, expecting deliciousness, but as my lips touched the crystal balls it turned into pure horror.

Yes, though I do enjoy almost all food throughout my travels, you’d have to tie me down and force me to eat another Cyrstal Baozi.

The bun was filled with pure chunks of translucent pig fat, known in Chinese as crystal balls, and I just can’t handle blatant lardy chunks of pure fat!

Apart from that single baozi, all the other baozi’s I sampled in China were outstanding, freshly steamed and dangerously tasty!

Do you like Chinese steamed baozi buns?