Recipe: Classic pork bao

02 March 2023
Recipe: Classic pork bao

Recipe for classic pork bao from Bao by Erchen Chang, Shing Tat Chung and Wai Ting Chung

Makes 10-12 baos

For the soy-braised pork belly

  • 1kg pork belly, cut into 5cm cubes
  • 50ml light soy sauce
  • 40ml dark soy sauce
  • 60ml Shaoxing rice wine
  • 20g spring onion
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 20g fresh ginger, peeled, sliced and crushed
  • 1 star anise
  • 20g rock sugar
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • 4 dried red chillies
  • 6g cinnamon bark

For the fried mustard greens

  • 2tbs vegetable oil
  • ½tsp doubanjiang (fermented chilli bean paste)
  • 100g drained fermented mustard greens, chopped
  • A few drops of rice vinegar

To serve

  • 10-12 Gua baos (see below)
  • 1 small bunch coriander, chopped
  • 90g peanut powder

Soy-braised pork belly

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the pork cubes and blanch for 2-3 minutes to get rid of any impurities. Drain, then place in a flameproof clay pot or large saucepan.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot or pan and pour over enough water to just cover the ingredients. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 3 hours. There should just be small bubbles on the surface of the liquid. Halfway through cooking, flip the pork cubes to ensure they are evenly cooked.

Transfer the pork to a plate and leave to cool. Strain the braising liquid, then bring to the boil and cook until it is a light, sticky consistency, reducing it by about half. When the pork has cooled slightly, chop it into cubes of about 1 cm (½ inch). Put the cubes into the reduced sauce, give it a good stir and remove from the heat.

Warm the pork with the sauce over a medium heat for about 10 minutes before serving.

Fried mustard greens

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the doubanjiang (fermented chilli bean paste) and, when the oil starts to turn red, add the fermented mustard greens. Stir-fry for 5 minutes until super fragrant and wilted. Season the greens with a few drops of the vinegar.

To assemble

While the pork is reheating and the greens are cooking, steam the gua baos. Open a bao and line with 45g of the piping-hot, glistening pork, then top with 1 teaspoon of the fried mustard greens. Finish with 1 teaspoon of the chopped coriander and 1 tablespoon of the golden, sweet peanut powder. Repeat with the remaining baos and fillings. Hold a bao lovingly in your hand. Open your mouth fully, like the bao, and eat from the side.

Gua baos

Our baos are made using the tangzhong technique. Tangzhong is an Asian culinary technique that helps dough absorb more liquid and retain moisture, resulting in a softer fluffier bread. All you need to do is cook a portion of flour and water into a thick consistency, similar to a roux.

For the tangzhong

  • 100g plain flour
  • 500ml cold filtered water

For the bao dough

  • 100g tangzhong
  • 42g plain flour, plus extra for dusting 90g caster sugar
  • 40g milk powder
  • 2.5g fast-action dried yeast
  • 5g baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 80ml milk, at room temperature
  • 80ml water, at room temperature
  • 10ml vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing


Put the flour into a small saucepan, pour in the cold water a little at a time, and mix in the flour until smooth. Slowly warm over a low heat until it becomes gluey and you can draw a line on the surface. Remove from the heat, cover tightly with cling film so that the film touches the surface of the tangzhong and leave to cool.

Bao dough

Put 100g of the tangzhong and all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Start mixing on a low setting and then slowly add the milk and water. Finally, add the oil and continue mixing until the dough is smooth. Cover with a damp cloth or cling film and leave to prove somewhere warm for 2-3 hours depending on the temperature, until doubled in size. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.

Shaping the bao

Divide the dough into 40g pieces. Give each a strong knead, then roll into smooth balls. Cover with baking paper to prevent them drying out while you roll the rest.

Flatten one of the dough balls with the palm of your hand, then using a rolling pin, roll it into an oval shape 8cm long. Brush the top with oil, then, with a short edge facing you, place a chopstick horizontally across the middle and fold the oval in half over the chopstick. Remove the chopstick and repeat with the remaining dough balls.

Place each bao on a square of baking paper a little bigger than the size of the bao, then transfer to a large tray. Cover with a sheet of baking paper and leave to prove somewhere warm for 15-20 minutes until the baos have doubled in height. They they should look relaxed, puffed up and the surface should no longer be damp.

Imagine touching a smooth baby's skin. (Alternatively, you can do this final prove directly inside the bamboo steamers.)

Steaming the baos

When the baos are ready, transfer them, on their squares of paper, to a prepared bamboo steamer. Cover and steam over a medium-high heat for 15 minutes until they look soft and podgy, not firm, and their surface glistens with a satin sheen. If you feel any resistant patches in the centre that don't bounce back, keep steaming.

Remove from the steamer and either eat straight away or leave to rest at room temperature until the steam has fully evaporated and the baos are completely cool.

Recipe from Bao by Erchen Chang, Shing Tat Chung and Wai Ting Chung (Phaidon, £29.95)

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