September 30, 2009

Xiang Cong Hya Juan Bao (Chinese Flower Steamed Buns)

The Bread Baking Babes having been baking (or should I say steaming, this time?) again and this month it's Xiang Cong Hya Juan Bao! That's quite a mouthful if you don't know Chinese (I don't) but these are very pretty looking steamed buns made with dough that has both yeast and baking powder.

I remember saving a recipe, quite a few years ago, for some steamed Chinese lotus buns. Not only did I never get around to making them, I don't even know where that recipe disappeared to!
I have been joining the BBBs as a buddy for a little while now and thought I ought to try these ones too.

This month's recipe was chosen by Karen of Bake My Day from the Global Baker by Dean Brettschneider. He says,

"Everywhere you go in China you see people eating steam buns, also known as mantong Typically Chinese, a sweet bread is combined with a savoury filling, such as red bean paste and barbecued pork, but take care and avoid using too much filling or the bun will fall apart during the rising and steaming stage. The baking powder helps to open up the texture and gives a little tenderness to the eating quality of the buns. If you can, use imported Chinese flour from a specialist Asian food market or store".
I used the same recipe, just converted measurements into cups and spoons! I also substituted a part of the all purpose flour with rice flour as I felt it would improve the texture of the buns, and upped the amounts of both yeast and baking powder to 1/2 tsp each.
It took me while to figure out the shaping procedure and I'm still not sure I've really got it right! I must mention it is indeed very important to keep the filling a bit on the lesser side, or else it will leak out.



1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup rice flour

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tbsp butter, at room temperature

good pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp active dry yeast

150 ml chilled water, placed in the refrigerator overnight


rice bran oil, for brushing on dough

40 g finely chopped spring onions or chives

25 g finely chopped red chillies ( I used chilli flakes/ crushed black pepper)

salt to taste


To make the dough, place all the ingredienst into a large mixing bowl and, using your hands, combine to form a very, very firm dough mass. Don't be tempted to add any water or the steam buns will be flat after steaming.

Place the dough on a work surface and, using your rolling pin, roll out to a thin strip, fold this in half and roll again. Repeat this 10-15 times with a 30 second rest in between each time. This is a way of mixing a very firm dough, the dough will start to become smooth and elastic as a result of the rolling process.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warmish place (23-25C) for 15 minutes. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece to a 25cm square.

Brush the dough surface lightly with oil and sprinkle the chopped chives and chillies evenly over the dough. Season with salt.

Fold the dough in half and then cut into 2.5cm strips so that you end up with 10 folded strips. Stretch each strip and, starting at the folding edge, twist the two pieces of each strip over each other to form a rope.

Take the twisted rope and tie into a double knot, tucking the loose ends underneath. Place each bun with ends facing down on a lightly oiled steaming plate (idli trays are also excellent for this) and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Prove for approximately 30-45 minutes in a warm place.

Bring a wok or saucepan of water (or steamer) to the boil with a bamboo steamer sitting on top. Remove the bamboo steamer lid and place the buns on the paper in the steamer 3-4 cm apart to allow for expansion during steaming. Replace the steamer lid and steam for 20 minutes.

I used my idli tray, one bun in each depression, and the buns were perfect. Repeat until all the buns have been steamed and are firm to the touch.

This recipe makes 10 buns. Serve with a soya based sauce.


I made these twice, first using red chilli flakes to spice them up and the crushed black pepper the next time. These buns are a bit bland otherwise. They also are much better with a sauce or something to dip them into before eating.

I made a slightly spicy sweet and sour sauce with soya sauce, green chilli sauce, some tomato ketchup (yes, I did say ketchup!), a bit of smooth peanut butter and salt and sugar adjusted to taste. I just added a little water to adjust the consistency and cooked everything till it came to a boil.

We found them quite soft and a bit chewy. I did like them and was happy to finish off the ones no one wanted, though I won't say they were fantastic. My husband and daughter didn’t particularly like them.

Having said that, I think this was more because we are used to steamed food which is traditionally made from rice flour and very soft. These buns, on the other hand, were chewy and yet not like bread as we know it so perhaps they're more of an acquired taste.
So I would recommend you try them (perhaps half the recipe) and you might just like them.

These steamed buns are being YeastSpotted!

Print this recipe


Ilva said...

Aparna, they look perfect! Your mention about steamed rice flour 'things' made me very curious, do you have any recipe?

Sunshinemom said...

I haven't attempted this for the same reason and am glad you have cleared that doubt for me!

Maybe I won't make them with maida. I will just try making chinese kozhokottais:D

Priya said...

Woww this looks too gorgeous Aparna!

Bharti said...

Bread Baking Babes? Love the name! Thanks for the honest review of the recipe Aparna. The buns look fantastic and I do think that you are right about steamed buns being an acquired taste.

Baking Soda said...

They are beautiful Aparna! Thanks for trying this recipe. I think your decision of using rice flour was a good one. We too found the original recipe a bit bland and chewy. I expected a softer pillowy bun. Your badge is on its way!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

They do look gorgeous! Good call on the extra leaveners - that would have helped a lot with the rising.
You asked about the rennet - there is such an thing here as vegetable or vegetarian rennet. Ask at your local cheesemaker's if they can recommend a supplier. :)

Cham said...

Steamed buns, hah they always stuffed with meat, this one is so cute!

Superchef said...

those look fancy!!

Uma said...

ooh, yum and unique! Love the look and the name :)

Soma said...

The buns look really cute.. but i was actually wondering while reading if the flour should make it elastic.. but it is really worth a try with some spicy dipping sauce.

Manggy said...

Soft and chewy sounds perfect, Aparna :) Beautifully formed buns!

Indhu said...

am completely awed by the daring bakers challenges... love this bun :)

jayasree said...

Buns look beautiful.. Thanks for the honest review.

♥♥♥Ria♥♥♥ said...

Those steamed buns look nice and I am trying to imagine how they would taste like :) momos?

MeetaK said...

just fantastic aparna! this looks sensational!

Lien said...

How lovely that you tried these too! Yours look very good. Love the pictures (especially the first one, very good!!!).

Anita said...

They look like very pretty flowers - nice work!

Happy cook said...

Wow you made this, i have seen them and always saif noway as it looks so difficult to make, your look so beautiful and so yummy.

Bong Mom said...

I have never even heard of them, looks so darn cute. You know what Aparna, you should open a restaurant in Goa.

Malar Gandhi said...



Hannah said...

Now this is a bread I've never seen before! I've also never steamed bread dough... What an interesting concept all around.

singinghorse said...

Aparna, those buns look perfect! Though I'm not surprised. I'm going to make these tomorrow. :-)

Aparna said...

Thanks Ilva. Yes, I do have the recipe and will post it as soon as I can. Will let you know.

Chinese kozhukottais, that's a good one! Harini, I'm not sure how well an all rice flour bun would rice with yeast though. And you would need some flour (APF or WW)for elasticity, I think.

Thanks Karen. I feel better knowing you felt that too. I thought it would be pillowy too. Thanks for the badge.

Natashya, the extra leavening certainly helped.
We don't make cheese in India (except paneer) so there's nothing like a local cheese maker or veg. rennet here. :)

Soma, flour would make buns a bit chewy, especially if they're steamed. Think its just an acquired taste. I knida liked them. :)

Sort of momos, Ria.

That's some compliment Sandeepa! Thanks. :)
I'd probably have to close it the 3rd day. While I enjoy cooking for family and friends, don't have the ambition/ drive to do this on a business scale. :)

Singing horse, I'm waiting to see your effort.

Mallugirl said...

My hesitation to try them stems from exactly ur last few lines.. we are more used to steamed rice items and steamed maida didn't feel right. maybe the sweet filling would turn out better.

sra said...

They look so pretty, flecked with green. I tried these Chinese buns in Singapore, the taste varied.

sra said...

They look so pretty, flecked with green. I tried these Chinese buns in Singapore, the taste varied.

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

It looks to me like you did a perfect job on the shaping. And the sauce you made sounds great!

Madam Chow said...

They look wonderful - I love the flecks of green, and your idea of using rice flour sounds like a good one.

Andreas said...

Well done.
I really like the arrangement in the first picture.

Mimi said...

I must say, every time I bump into these buns, they look so pretty. Your picture makes them look especially scrumptious!

Bergamot said...

The pics are really amazing. Would love to have one. I love steamed buns... your recipe seems ideal considering the ingredients available here. This goes in my recipe book.