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Chinese Steamed Buns

Chinese Steamed Buns are called baozi or popularly known as bao, bau, pow, pau. They are plain or filled buns (bread-like/brioche made of flour) that comes in various forms, with a variety of fillings (meat or vegetarian). In its bun like form, it is quite similar to the traditional Chinese mantou. In the Chinese culture, we eat this for breakfast or as snacks in between meals or during a meal.

One of my childhood favourite bao is Birthday Buns made in the shape of a peach with a lotus-seed paste fillings. Why in the form of peach? Peach is a symbol of long life in the Chinese culture. When I was a little girl growing up back in my village, we used to live in a typical big Chinese household of 3 generations under 1 roof - grandparents, uncles & aunties, cousins. That was back in the 70s before all of us were relocated to our new spanking multi-storey like pigeon holes home HDB flat (Housing Development Board) in the city. But before that happened, my grandparents used to host grand birthday celebrations with about 10 tables or more at home on their birthdays each year. My cousins & I used to sneak into the kitchen during the celebration to help ourselves with another one of those delicious and beautiful looking birthday buns. Sometimes the cooks caught us and kick us out of the kitchen but sometimes, he would kindly give one to each of us before sending us back to our parents.

When Jamie of Life's a feast who is hosting this months Bread Baking Day throws a « Baking Bread for a Birthday Party! » theme, I thought this is a wonderful occasion for me to try my hands at making Chinese Birthday Buns to honour her birthday in January.

Eager to bring some peach bao to Jamie's birthday bash, I plunged into this task with zealous energy and concentration. Little did I know forming bao in a shape of a peach would be this hard. I tried several times to shape it the best I could but failed miserably; it always turned out like a round bun after steaming. Then I thought every party needs some party animals, so I decided to make some party animals for her instead.

Some recipes calls for bao flour or Hongkong flour (gives your bao a whiter colour than normal flour but Hongkong flour is very expensive if you live overseas), while others uses a traditional method which takes 3 days but gives a fluffy outcome. I opted for a simpler recipe that is very suitable for making home-made bao using plain flour (easily available) and the result is pretty good. And since I live in France now, I decided to give these bun a little twist in East meets West version. And please don't spit out your coffee or fall off your chair upon seeing my artistic work!

I'm also sending my some of party animals to YeastSpotting! team as well as to celebrate World Nutella Day (5 Feb 2010) created by Ms Adventures in Italy & Bleeding Espresso.

Chinese Steamed Buns
  • 300 g plain flour
  • 5 g instant yeast or normal dry yeast
  • 40 g sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 160 ml water (approx)
  • 3 g butter
  • some beetroot juice for colouring


  • nutella
  • caramel
  • jams (or whatever sweet fillings you like)
  1. In a big bowl, mix the yeast with some lukewarm water and let it sit for a few minutes.
  2. Add the flour, sugar, butter, baking powder and the rest of the water in the bowl. Stir the mixture until it comes together like a wet dough.
  3. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic. To see if it is elastic, pinch a small portion of dough and stretch it with your fingers to see if it is stretchable. If it breaks up easily, continue to knead until you are able to stretch it sans problem.
  4. Divide dough into small portions (any size you want). Shape it into a ball, flatten it and roll it out in round shape.
  5. Drop a bit of caramel or nutella in the middle of the bun and wrap it up. Pinch the edges to seal the dough together. Make sure it is sealed properly
  6. Shape it into a peach shape. For a rabbit, shape it into oval and make a snip on the dough on top with scissors to make the ears.
  7. Put a piece of paper underneath the shaped bun and leave it aside to rise for 30 minutes.
  8. Steam over high heat for 6 - 12 minutes (depending on how small or big is your bun). Remove and spray with beetroot colouring on top. For rabbits, dot the eyes with flat tip of a toothpick.
  9. It is best eaten warm or lukewarm.
Chinese Steamed BunsChinese Steamed Buns
The Verdict

My little animal friends are so cute, aren't they. Guess what are they?

Mmm...these are so good. The caramel just simply oozes out and so did the nutella version. They are even better than the traditional version with red bean paste or lotus seed paste. But be careful when eating it, the caramel and nutella filling can be pretty hot!

And no, it's not a hamster or a mouse. I know it looks really like one but it supposed to be a rabbit. LOL! I personally think I've done quite a good job - not bad for a first try at creating an animal form bun. It could have turned out looking worse. LOL!


If you couldn't make the buns immediately after making the dough, you can let it rise in the bowl with a damp cloth drape over the bowl. And if you have any leftover dough, leave it in the bowl with a plastic film or in covered box in the fridge.

These buns can be kept covered in the fridge, or frozen. You just need to steam it again when you want to eat it.

Chinese Steamed BunsChinese Steamed Buns
#1, by Alessio (02/01/2010)

Awww so cute those little rabbits! I see you sliced that carrot lol The brioches structure seems great too:-D Looking fwd to trying these myself.

#2, by Su-yin (02/01/2010)

I love these - used to eat them a lot! I love nutella so I think it's a great idea to use them as a filling.;-)

#3, by asha@fsk (02/01/2010)

awww!! they are adorable!!! me likey:-D

#4, by ginandcrumpets (02/01/2010)

Nutella filled baozi - this is genius! In fact, it's beyond genius. I am drooling at the thought. I am going to have to make these, and soon.

#5, by Spiele (02/01/2010)

full of nutella that would be so delicious

#6, by Sarah (02/01/2010)

Those are so cute! I can't wait to make some.

#7, by ireneangele (02/01/2010)

This is lovely !
But I'm more into salty things... Any idea of a salted filling ? Pork ?

#8, by Sarah, Maison Cupcake (02/01/2010)

These are so cute! I bet Jamie loves them.

#9, by Little Corner of Mine (02/02/2010)

How cute! I love the animal design.

#10, by QIS (02/02/2010)

They look so cute!! I wouldn't bear eating them up!

#11, by Jamie (02/02/2010)

Wow! You know that I LOVE the bunnies but this is the first you have let me see the inside! Moist and fluffy (perfect) buns and that nutella filling! I want the whole tray of these! It's my birthday party so I get them all! Oh, Pam, these are such a special treat. I love the story and thanks so much for baking them for me! ((hug))

#12, by Aparna (02/02/2010)

They're adorable little buns. They do look a bit like mice or hamsters but they're cute.
I have made Chinese flower buns before and quite liked them.:-) Is the beetroot for somethingelse too?;-)
Your childhood recollection reminds me of mine. We still try get together for various functions/ celebrations as a family but it no more in the village but what you refer to as "multi-storeyed pigeon holes"! LOL

#13, by The Cooking Ninja (02/02/2010)

@Alessio: Yes decided to change prop so that you guys won't be distracted by that carrot stick or else readers will start to think I'm doing a animal food porno. LOL!

@Su-yin: U'll love it. I was actually surprised how well it turned out.:-)

@asha@fsk: Thanks.:-) U can make them plain if you wish.

@ginandcrumpets: Thank you. I have my hub to thank for. If I lived in Singapore, I wouldn't have thought of putting nutella or caramel in it instead. Living abroad forces me to improvise a lot in Asian cooking.:-)

@spiele: Thanks:-)

@ireneangele: yes you can put salty fillings in it. Chicken or pork as you wish.

@Sarah: Thanks. Do let me know how yours turned out.:-)

@Sarah, Maison Cupcake: hehehe...even poppet loves them and plays with them. LOL! And Jamie did. I'm glad.

@Little Corner of Mine: Thanks. I saw some even did a porcupine.:-)

@QIS: yes I didn't have the heart to eat them too but eat them I must or else go to waste. Just break them up into half and chomp them down from there without seeing their face. Easier on my conscience:-) hehehe

@Jamie: Happy to hear that you like your party animals. I'll gladly make a tray of them just for you.:-)

@Aparna: I have yet to try to make them into a flower shape. Oh well, you know what they are for next. LOL! It's sad isn't it that our children don't get to experience what we had in our childhood. At least my PIl live in a small village up the mountains so she more or less get to walk in the woods (better than the jungle in our parts of the world) and grow up feeling carefree like I did when I was a child.:-)

#14, by Sunita (02/02/2010)

Pam,these must be the cutest buns ever love the colour and the filling:-)

#15, by Nate @ House of Annie (02/02/2010)

You gotta submit this to World Nutella Day as well!


#16, by Kitchen Butterfly (02/02/2010)

They look lovely....forget about the peach shape...love the colours...

#17, by Nina (02/04/2010)

Wow....it looks fabulous.These must be the cutest buns i have ever seen.loved the color..loved the pics:) Beautiful ones!

#18, by deeba (02/04/2010)

Even if it's her birthday, Jamie can't have them all...POUT! How cute the little creatures are...and Nutella within! WOW!!

#19, by Susan/Wild Yeast (02/05/2010)


#20, by my spatula (02/05/2010)

so so cute! i love them!

#21, by tigerfish (02/05/2010)

Oh, those peach buns...been ages since we have those....
cute little bunnies love the carrots, yea?
your bunny bun is just too cute to eat....

#22, by Kajal - Aapplemint (02/05/2010)

This is brilliant ! I adore Bao ...I'm from HK n i love Man tao ... the steamed and fried one too, at home we make them with fillings of chicken mince or beef as we dont eat pork ! but this Nutella version is absolutely genius ! Happy Nutella Day to you:-)

#23, by catty (02/05/2010)

WOW. i was going to say my mother makes the most amazing char siu baos (which she does) but honey, you take the cake for the most adorable ones! SOOO CUTE. i wanna eat one now:-)

#24, by ap269 (02/05/2010)

Aww, these animals (rabbits? mice?) are supercute!

#25, by Fuji Mama (02/06/2010)

Oh yum! These look absolutely fabulous! I LOVE LOVE LOVE those peach buns filled with the lotus seed paste. It has been forever since I've had one! Oh, and Nutella filling? GENIUS.:-D

#26, by Stefanie (02/06/2010)

The rabbits are so cute! I think its a special short ear rabbit species.;-) I have to try the recipe, I never make steamed buns before!

#27, by Joanne (02/07/2010)

I love bao filled with red bean paste but nutella is an excellent alternative as well!

#28, by Jeanne @ Cooksister! (02/11/2010)

Oh, I *love* your little Nutella bunnies! Clevr, clever, clever - and delicious!

#29, by Irit (02/16/2010)

I tried your recipe and steamed half dough without filling it. Half the dough I filled but it was leaking so I baked it (so totally my fault! I rolled it, and then cut it, and *of course* the filling was oozing...). It came out really nice. I need to try them with different fillings too.
It was the first time I had steamed buns!:-) Thanks!

#30, by Irit (02/16/2010)

Oh, also, it's a great tip about using beets in this manner! Sometimes I steam beets- now I'll know what to do with the little bit of water left in the pot:-)

#31, by laura (02/26/2010)

These are just adorable...adorable! I would love it if someday you put a recipe for the meat filled ones up too!

#32, by nachiketa (04/06/2010)

Totally cute animal buns... adorable:-)

The Variable - Nachiketa
Crazy Over Desserts - The Variable, Nachiketa

#33, by Vivien (06/11/2010)

Woww, thank you so much for the recipe! It's much appreciated!
I am making these right now =D
The bunnies you made are so lovely, I am trying to do that as well!


#34, by Ellie Sullivan (06/12/2010)

Thanks for the recipe We made them in my culinary class today as part of our final. They were so good! we filled them with nutella and raspberry jam.

#35, by The Cooking Ninja (06/12/2010)

@Sunita: Thank you. You must try it. Your kids will love it.

@Nate @House of Annie: Thank you for suggesting it. I did.

@Kitchen Butterfly: Thank you. Hope you will try it one day. This is my childhood favourite for breakfast & snacks. Still is today whenever I'm home on vacation.

@Nina: Thank you. Thanks for dropping by my blog.

@Deeba: I'll pack some for you.;-)

@Wild Yeast: Thanks:-)

@my spatula: Thank you and thanks for dropping by my blog.

@tigerfish: I know. I have the exact feeling after I made them - too cute to be eaten. LOL

@Applemint: Try it with cream cheese or the laughing cow - truly heavenly.

@Catty: Thank you Catty. I've to try making Char Siew Bao one day.

@Ap269: Thank you. They are supposed to be rabbits but they turned out looking like mice or hamster. LOL! I'm so lacking of artistic skills.

@Fuji Mama: Thanks. Wait till you try one with laughing cow cheese in it. So delicious.

@Stephanie: Hope you'll try it one day. It's really good and easy to make.

@Joanne: Wait till you try the cheese version. I'm so making this when I'm back home in Singapore for my parents and family.:-)

@Jeanne @Cooksister: They are truly so good with nutella & cheese filling. hmm...I can imagine filling them with custard. yum yum

@Irit: I'm so happy to hear that you like it and it turned out fantastic for you. Try it with laughing cow cheese or cream cheese next time. Very good.

@Laura: I would so love to do it with meat. Will note down on list of things to make and I'll inform you once I've done one.

@Nachiketa: Thanks and thanks for dropping by.

@Vivien: Hope you like it. Try it with cheese filling.

@Ellie Sullivan: Thank you for using my recipe. I'm so happy and honoured to learn that you make my buns as part of your final culinary class and that all of you love it. Do try it with cream cheese or laughing cow filling. It's truly heavenly delicious.

#36, by Rachael (02/16/2011)

Ooh, I may have to try your recipe! I've just tried red bean paste buns and I'm hooked (though nutella or jam sounds much nicer)!

Thanks for sharing so this little English wench can taste your families heritage:-)

#37, by Holly (12/23/2011)

These are good have frozen extras... May use them for breakfast. I'm using a microwave steamer so theyre super simple after making the dough.