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How To Make Sheng Jian Bao - Juicy and Crispy Pan Fried Dumplings

The ideal pan fried bao are crunchy on the bottom, fluffy on top, and juicy in the middle. These Sheng Jian Bao are all of those things and then some. The pork is juicy and flavorful, and the whole package is easy to devour. We'll make our own dough from scratch for extra softness. They can easily be frozen and saved for a later date, but they're best eaten after they come out of the pan with a little chili oil and black vinegar. This homemade Sheng Jian Bao recipe is totally worth making, even if you've never made dumplings before. I've got a few tips to make the rolling and filling process really simple.




Dough

250g AP flour

4g instant yeast or 5g active dry yeast

50g cornstarch

4g sugar

75g water

75g half and half


Filling

10oz ground pork

Handful of sliced scallion

5 tbsp water

1 tbsp garlic paste

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbsp mushroom soy

1 tbsp regular soy

White pepper and salt

Sprinkle of unflavored gelatin



To start, we need to make the yeasted dough, which will form the outer layer of our bao. In a large bowl, combine 250g of all-purpose flour and 50g of cornstarch. The addition of cornstarch helps ensure that the dough remains tender and not overly chewy. To this mixture, add 4g of white sugar and 5g of active dry yeast. The sugar plays a crucial role in making the dough fluffy and light. In a separate container, warm up 75g of half-and-half and 75g of water, heating it just above body temperature. Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ones until the mixture appears crumbly. Then, roll up your sleeves and switch to using your hands for kneading. This dough may seem rather dry at first, but persist – it will come together beautifully. Once there's no trace of unincorporated flour, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for a full hour. This allows the flour to become fully hydrated and the dough to double in size.


Meanwhile, let's delve into the creation of the succulent pork filling. To ensure it's juicy and bursting with flavor, start with 10 ounces of ground pork. Add a generous handful of sliced scallions; mainly the green parts. In a bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon of regular soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of dark mushroom soy sauce, which adds an extra umami-rich dimension. Stir in 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of garlic paste, and 1 teaspoon of ginger paste. To achieve that coveted juiciness, pour in 5 tablespoons of water, and here's where our secret ingredient comes into play – powdered unflavored gelatin. It might sound unconventional, but it mimics the gelatinous stock that soup dumplings have. Season the mixture with salt and white pepper. Once everything is well combined, cover the filling and store it in the refrigerator while the dough completes its rise.


After an hour, the dough should have doubled in size. Give it a good punch to release the air and then knead it briefly until it's smooth. Now, we're ready to roll and fill the bao. This took me a lot of practice and I'm still not good at it, so just stick with the process.


Cut the dough into quarters; each quarter of the dough can be divided into six equal pieces, roughly weighing 19-20g each. While working on one piece, make sure to keep the others covered to prevent drying. Roll out a dough ball on a dry surface, avoiding the use of flour, as this will make sealing them later on easier. You'll want the outer edges to be slightly thinner than the center. Place a bit less than a tablespoon of the pork filling in the center of each dough circle. When it comes to rolling and pleating, gravity can be your ally. Some prefer to do this in the air, but keeping the bao on the board simplifies the process. Begin by pulling one edge in and pinching it to create the first pleat. Hold onto that pinch with your left thumb and pointer, and gradually add more dough to the pinch by folding with your right hand. As you do this, turn the bao and keep the filling pocket on the board. The final pleats may be a bit tricky, but if all else fails, you can simply twist it closed and fold the top down on itself. It may not be perfect, but it's homemade and filled with love. (watch the video for a helpful walkthrough).


Continue this process until you've successfully rolled and pleated the first 12 bao. A cast iron pan can accommodate precisely 12 bao, and since they're best enjoyed piping hot, consider cooking this first batch before deciding whether to cook the remaining ones or freeze them. If you choose to freeze them, let them proof while filled for around 10 minutes and then transfer them to a tray in the freezer. Once frozen, store them in a plastic bag until you're ready to enjoy them.


***If you've frozen the bao, simply heat the pan as before and brown the bottoms of the frozen bao. Cover halfway up with water, cover and lower the heat. Set a timer for 12 minutes. Once that's done, remove the lid and cook off any water left in the pan. Top with your sesame seed and scallion. The texture of the dough won't be as fluffy as a fresh one, but that's the price we pay for convenience.


Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. Carefully arrange the proofed bao in the pan, ensuring they fit perfectly without touching each other. Initially, your goal is to achieve a delightful golden brown color on the bottom of these bao. Be gentle when checking them to avoid any accidental tearing that might release juice into the hot oil. Once the bottoms are beautifully browned, turn the heat down to low, and add just enough water to reach just below halfway up the bao. Cover the pan and turn the heat to medium-low. This gentle simmering in water will both steam and cook the filling and the dough to perfection. Set a timer for 8 minutes and allow them to work their magic. After the timer expires, remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium, and cook off any remaining water. Sprinkle the bao with toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions. They're ready when the water has evaporated, and the bottoms have crisped up once again.


These Shengjianbao are best devoured while they're still hot, as this is when they are at their most succulent and flavorful. However, please be careful while taking your first bite – the hot pork fat within can be rather unforgiving if it splatters. Like a soup dumpling, do a lil bite and suck. Whether you choose to pair them with chili oil or a combination of black vinegar, soy, and sesame, these bao are an absolute sensation. The bottoms are crispy, the filling's juicy, and the top is fluffy. What more could you want?

Cheers!


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Hey, I'm Cameron, and I'm glad you're here. I post new recipes every week, all intended to build your confidence in the kitchen, each one with video tutorials to help. Craving something specific? Drop me a note in my contact form! 

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