Sheng Jian Bao Recipe

The less internationally famous brother to the xiao long bao (小笼包), sheng jian bao (生煎包) are texturally far more complex than their siblings. They are comprised of a pork and soup filling inside a dough wrapper with a characteristically crisp bottom and steamed upper. It is important to note that when eating sheng jian bao, timing is key, as they are not made to order like XLB. Arrive minutes before a fresh batch is ready and you’re in for a treat. Arrive at the end and you will wonder what all the fuss is about. Part of the ceremony is watching them being made behind a window in a giant cast-iron pan, turned with a pair of pliers and a handle made of cardboard.

Within the sheng jian bao category there are three key styles, with levels of qualitative expression within each.

First, there is the fully leavened dough version that you can find at Da Hu Chun in Shanghai. Personally, I find their locations ugly and their sheng jian bao doughy and unsatisfying. There are those who argue that this style is the original, and in fancy high-end restaurants, especially in Hong Kong, you will find this style, crusted with sesame seeds and served in dainty paper muffin wrappers. They are always lacklustre. The Taiwanese chain Gaochi uses a sourdough starter, which in principle is the original method, but I find theirs horribly sour and again unbalanced.

The second type uses a totally unleavened dough. This style can be found at Xiao Yang’s, a chain in Shanghai with many locations. These are the workhorse version, the dough thin enough to allow you to consume several portions, potentially with a side of noodles or soup. They are almost comically stuffed and explode with soup- first-timers are horrifically scalded.

The third version is somewhere in the middle, and it can be found at Dong Tai Xiang, a small chain in Shanghai. We lived closest to their Shaanxi Nan Lu location and I would visit every week like I was taking a religious pilgrimage. This is the version I would introduce visitors to as the best example, and what makes it even better is that their locations are open 24 hours. They also make one of the better Congyou Banmian in the city.


TRY: Learn Michael Zee's recipes for Congyou Banmian and Hongyou Chaoshou!

This recipe is from Zao Fan: Breakfast of China by Michael Zee. (Bloomsbury Publishing, Hardback, £26)

Ingredients for Sheng Jian Bao

 For the dough

 For the filling

  • 400g fatty minced pork (15% fat or more)
  • 50g bamboo shoots (tinned or vacuum packed),
  • finely chopped
  • 70ml water
  • 1 tablespoon dried shrimp, finely chopped or ground in a pestle and mortar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • A pinch of granulated sugar
  • A pinch of salt

 To serve

How to make Sheng Jian Bao

  1. First, make the dough. Combine the water, milk, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl and stir well until dissolved.
  2. Put the flour into a bowl or stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and add the wet ingredients, then mix until you have a smooth dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl. Cover and leave to rise at room temperature for 45-60 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, then use your hand in a claw shape to mix the meat in one direction and one direction only. This will help whip the protein structure, creating a light and delicate texture.
  4. Weigh the dough and divide it into 16 equal-sized balls. Roll each ball into a disc about 6-7cm in diameter.
  5. Place a generous amount of the filling in the centre of one of the dough discs and fold the dough up around it. Then, either daintily pleat the top or just smush it together. The pleated side will go face down into the pan anyway, but more pleats mean more surface area to become crispy.
  6. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the bao and let them gently sizzle- you don’t want them to burn. Cook for 5-7 minutes until golden brown on the bottom.
  7. Meanwhile, boil a kettle of water. When the bao are browned on the bottom, pour over the boiling water until it is just less than halfway up the side of the bao and cover with a lid. Continue to cook for a further 10 minutes. Once the water has been absorbed and the pan is looking dry again, scatter over some black sesame seeds and finely chopped spring onion, then serve with Zhenjiang vinegar for dipping.
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2024

Shop the Recipe


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Latest Articles & Recipes

  • Bulgar Wheat & Vermicelli Noodles (Pourgouri) Recipes

    Bulgar Wheat & Vermicelli Noodles (Pourgouri) Recipes

  • Cypriot Lamb Shanks in Sticky Sauce (Arnisio Kotsi Me Saltsa) Recipe

    Cypriot Lamb Shanks in Sticky Sauce (Arnisio Kotsi Me Saltsa) Recipe

  • Giant Baked Beans In Tomato Sauce (Gigantes Plaki) Recipe

    Giant Baked Beans In Tomato Sauce (Gigantes Plaki) Recipe