Thursday, February 4, 2016

Vegetarian Chinese Steamed Buns with Bok Choy and Mushrooms 蔬菜包 - Vegan too!

To most Chinese, the reunion dinner is an important Chinese tradition to celebrate the Lunar New Year’s Eve. It is also known as Tuan Nian, translates from Chinese words 團年 which describes the tradition of family gathering at the reunion dinner that concludes the end of the year. Hence, the best foods with auspicious meaning are served in abundance for this meal as we believe that abundance of good food will bring the family great wealth in the new year.

Ironically... After a night of sumptuous feasting, our family including most Buddhist Chinese will observe a vegetarian diet on the first day of Chinese New Year. Why? For all these years, I can't understand this rationale after noticing the drastic contrasts of the before and after Chinese New Year eve feasting! Maybe people are feeling guilty or sinful after digging in excessive food eaten on Chinese New Year eve and need to obtain good karma for the New Year. Hmmm...

These Chinese bok choy and mushroom vegetarian streamed buns are always our all time favourite. I know that my husband and son will love these regardless of all occasions... on the first day of Chinese New Year or even Chinese New Year eve!

We are loving these not because we are guilty of having too much good food before Chinese New Year... We are loving these because these vegetarian steamed buns "got standard"!!! LOL!

vegetarian vegan vegetable Chinese steamed buns bok choy mushrooms
Vegetarian Chinese Steamed Buns with Bok Choy and Mushrooms 蔬菜包

These vegetarian buns got standard? Please pardon my husband's Singlish way of praising these buns.

"Hmm... Hmm... Hmm..." said my son as he was enjoying four buns at a go.

"Got standard! Got standard!" said my husband as he was nom nom nom noming through these buns.

"You know these vegetarian buns are vegan too!" I just wanted to kick start a conversation about these buns.

Then, it was quiet with my son's hmm... hmm... hmm.. and my husband's nom nom nom in the background.

"These vegetable buns are vegan, you know..." I was like hey hey... asking for a response or an assurance as I can't believe that my meat-loving husband and son are loving these vegetable buns.

"I don't care." replied my husband. "All I know that these buns got standards!"

Can you imagine this is the way we enjoyed these buns? LOL!

Now, do you want to make these "got standard" vegetable buns?

The fillings are very simple as it contains mainly bok choy and fresh shiitake mushrooms.
This step is essential as it makes the filling less wet and soggy.
Then I added these...
... and these into the vegetables
Stir to combine and set aside.
To ensure the buns are white and fluffy, I always like to use Hong Kong flour to make the bao dough.
If you can't find this in the area that you live, you can use any bleached finely milled cake flour.
After kneading and proving the dough, I divided it into 20 portions.
Flatten each portion of dough and place 1-2 tbsp of filling in its middle.
I have wrapped the filling inside the dough with these two different kinds of pleat.
Just 15-20 mins of steaming and the buns will be ready!
My son was excited when he saw these!
He is very happy too enjoying these!
My husband too!
Me three!
Update on 13 May 2020:
Found an old video that I made about 2 years ago when I made these steamed buns again.

I missed these buns very much but have not been able to make these buns lately due to my busy schedule juggling with my work, family plus the current Covid-19 situation. What a shame!

Nevertheless, I thought that I should publish these video at my blog and also my YouTube. Enjoy!

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Here's the recipe that is mostly adapted from here

Makes 20 medium buns

For the buns:
500g Hong Kong flour or any low protein (7-9%) bleached flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder, preferably double acting baking powder
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup (50g) caster sugar
265ml (1 cup + 1 tbsp) water
25ml vegetable oil, preferably something light like canola oil

For the filling:
400g bok choy, (about 3 medium), washed and finely chopped, plus 1/4 tsp salt
7-8 (100g) fresh shiitake mushroom, washed, thoroughly drained and finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt or the amount according to your taste
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sesame oil
a dash of finely ground white pepper

For the buns:
Place water, oil, sugar, flour, baking powder and yeast according to this order into a breadmaker and use dough setting to knead and prove the dough for 1 hr.

If breadmaker is not available, kneading by hand is possible. Combine flour, baking powder, yeast, sugar in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the flour mixture, add water and oil mix to form a dough. Transfer dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead to form an elastic and smooth dough (at least 20 mins) and then let it rise for 1 hr.

To prepare the filling:
Combine the finely chopped bok choy with 1/4 tsp salt. Allow mixture to sit for about 15 mins at room temperature. Divide bok choy into 3-4 batches. Place each batch in the middle of a large muslin cloth and squeeze out its water content. You can either use the pok choy water to make green buns or discard it if you like your buns to be traditionally white. Repeat the same with the remaining portions of the bok choy. Mix the rest of the filling ingredients into the squeezed bok choy until combined. Set aside.

When the dough is ready, divide into 20 portions. Flatten each dough pieces with your hands or roll it slightly with a rolling pin. Wrap 1-2 tbsp of filling inside each rolled dough as shown in the video at here and here (method 4). Repeat the rolling and wrapping steps with the rest of the dough and filling. Place each bun on each paper cup liner or a small piece of baking paper with its seam sides down. Rest the bun in warm mist for 30 mins or until the dough look puffy.

While waiting, if you are using the stove for steaming, set water to boil for the steaming later. Steam bun with medium heat for about 15-20 mins until done. The steam timing varies if you have multiple layers of baos to steam. The layer that is closest to the direct steam will take 15 mins to cook. When ready remove the buns immediately from the steamer and serve warm.

Leftovers can be kept in fridge or freezer with cling wrap and cover. To freeze, allow buns to cool completely at room temperature. Wrap each bun in each small freezing bag and place them in the freezer. To consume, no thawing of frozen buns is required. Just re-steam the kept buns until hot before serve.

Happy Steaming
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  1. Hi Zoe,
    Aiyoh I'm drooling over these fluffy soft vegetarian steamed buns! Simple ingredients for the filling yet taste so yummy !

  2. Hi Zoe,

    This post of yours is so timely as I have resolved to eat less meat this year on. I often buy these very similar buns from Box Hill at $2 each. I also often think, "It would certainly be cheaper to make my own." Thank you for posting this recipe in time for the weekend, I'll certainly try it.

  3. Your bun look so beautiful !!! I always cant make the pleat so professional !!! Thanks for organising the CNY baking celebration .. Always inspire and wish to bake more like you all.

    Have a great new year celebration !! Happy Monkey Year ^^

  4. Definitely gonna try making pao some day, Zoe! Simply delish! xoxo

  5. Hi Zoe, your paus look so lovely. Bookmarked to try. Happy CNY to you and family.

  6. zoe,这包子好好好赞哦。捏得很美丽。


  7. Hi Zoe, your vegetarian bao looks good! We also abstain from meat on 1st day of CNY. Gong Xi Fa Cai to u and your family!

  8. Wow, these look amazing! I would love to try buns that "got standard" ;)

  9. yummm, never had a savory ones, looks delish. Wishing you a very happy new year!!

  10. Oh my goodness, Zoe! What lovely Steamed Buns you have shared with us. Simply delectable!

    Thank you so much for sharing...A Happy Chinese New Year to You and Yours:)

  11. Thanks! They were delicious! I didn't have any fresh shiitake mushrooms, so I soaked some dried mushrooms. I also added some finely chopped toasted hazelnuts, just for fun. I haven't got the hang of the shaping of the bao yet, but the dough was perfectly easy to handle and and perfect tasting. I followed your pastry flour substitution suggestion.

  12. A bao restaurant opened in the city recently. I bookmarked the place and the next time we were there, I had the opportunity to try one. My sister had the vegetarian one, I had one with chicken. I'm not brave enough to try to make one on my own, nor do I have a steamer, but someday I may make it happen. Thanks for the recipe.

  13. I don’t like your filling recipe I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t use the right bokchoy or because u don’t cook it first u use way too much sesame oil it’s very bitter and not enough soya sauce I thank you but I will make my own filling next time. any tips would be appreciated thank you

    1. Hi, Sorry to hear that your buns are bitter! I have used this recipe many times and my filing is never bitter!!! Something that you did or used must have gone very wrong!!!

  14. I steamed them in vinegar water Did that make them bitter? I read u use a lil vinegar to make them white but only proof them not cook🙁😫😩

    1. Hi, Please read my recipe! There is NO vinegar mentioned in my recipe!!! You must have make up your own recipe and blame me for your mistake. What can I say???

  15. Can I omit the amount of sugar from the dough ingredients?

    1. Hi, It is really up to you... but I prefer the buns to have a little nice sweet taste.