If you like buns, you need to try this Pan-fried Steamed Bun or Sheng Jian Bao today! The buns are fluffy and soft with an amazingly crunchy bottom that’ll have you wanting more after your first bite.
What is Pan-fried Steamed Bun (Sheng Jian Bao)?
Pan-fried Steamed bun or 生煎包 (Shēng jiān bāo) is a popular street food from Shanghai but it’s now well-known around the world. ‘生煎包’ translates to Raw (生), Pan-fried (煎) and Bao/bun (包). The name comes from how it is cooked and the method is very similar to potstickers.
There are two parts to cook the buns; First, pan-fry the buns until golden with the pleated side down on a shallow oiled cooking pan. Then, add enough water to steam the buns until they are fully cooked through.
They are normally served with sesame seeds and chopped scallions. Because they have a hard crispy side, they are not as fragile which makes them a perfect portable snack or meal.
Although they are normally not vegan/vegetarian friendly you can now enjoy them with this simple recipe here. I filled them with crunchy zucchini, carrots, and flavorful mushrooms. So, let’s see how to make these buns with the steps below.
How to make Pan-fried Steamed (Sheng Jian) Buns
The filling ingredient is quite flexible (I used shredded zucchini). To retain the crunch and color, rub zucchini with salt to draw the water. I also added carrot, sautéed mushrooms, and chopped scallions for flavor and texture.
I’m using a stand mixer to knead the bun dough which can be done by hand as well. Place flour in a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Mix together active dry yeast in warm water with sugar until well incorporated.
Then, add the mixture into the flour along with a drizzle of oil and knead into a soft dough. Cover the dough and let it proof until double its size.
Remove the dough and divide it into 14 equal portions and roll them into a ball.
Roll out the dough into a circular wrapper and place a spoonful of filling in the middle (please see below for rolling tips).
Then, bring all the sides together or pleat to seal.
To cook the buns, add a drizzle of oil in a heated 10″ non-stick pan. Place the bun’s pleated side down in one layer, slightly apart.
Cook until the bottom turns golden brown and add in enough water to cover 1-2cm of the buns.
Cover with a lid and let it cook until all water has evaporated.
Remove the lid and garnish with chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve warm as-is or place a plate in the pan, and flip to remove so the crispy bottom layer is shown upright.
Pan-fried Steamed Buns Variations
Filling – There are a variety of vegetables that you can use to make the filling. Some great options include; bok choy, cabbage, kale, and protein of choice. They can be sautéed or use the salt method to remove moisture. One quick note is to drain the filling well so the extra moisture will not make the bun soggy.
Bun – I am using plain or all-purpose flour here and some readers have made it with gluten-free raising flour blend with great results.
Unsweetened plant-based milk vs water – I find no major difference in either ingredient other than plant-based milk may create a denser dough with a ‘milky’ aroma. Opt for a lighter version such as almond or hemp.
Active dry vs Instant yeast – Both yielded great fluffy buns but the former will need to be activated with warm water before use.
Pan-fried Steamed Buns FAQ
Here are some that I found when testing the recipe along with comments from the readers. I hope these are helpful:
Can I sauté the vegetables instead? Yes, simply sauté your veggies of choice with protein or mushrooms, then season it accordingly. Be sure to drain them well before use.
Yeast – As mentioned above, both active dry and instant work great in this recipe. The active dry version needs to be activated in sugared water. If there are no foams at the top after 10 minutes, then, your active dry yeast has expired. When working with yeast, be sure to not add them directly in salt as it will kill the yeast.
I can’t have yeast – Yeast helps make the bao fluffy but I understand that some may have allergy concern. A great option is to use baking powder and I have tested this on my steamed bun which worked really well albeit the less fluffy texture. Use about 1 teaspoon of baking powder for every cup of flour.
Can I knead the dough by hand? Yes, place the flour on a cleaned surface like a mound. Create a space in the middle using your palm or the bottom of a bowl so you can add the yeast mixture. Slowly combine the flour with the yeast mixture and knead it into a soft dough.
Can I just steam the buns? Sure, if you want to skip the pan-fried, you can steam these buns using a bamboo steamer and turn them into steamed bao.
My buns collapsed as soon as I remove the lid – This usually happens when you roll out the dough too thin or didn’t remove as much air bubbles when you roll it into a wrapper. A little shrink at the top is completely normal though.
How to store these buns? Once you’ve filled up the buns, lay them in on layer on a baking sheet, then freeze until hardened. Remove and store them in a bag. To cook the buns, do not thaw the buns and simply follow the same cooking step in this recipe with just a tad more water.
Check out my other recipes
These Pan-fried Steamed Buns are
- Filled with delicious and juicy vegetables
- Easily customizable
- Delicious with a crispy bottom
- and SCRUMPTIOUS!
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Pan-fried Steamed Buns ‘生煎包’ (Sheng Jian Bao)
- Nut milk bag
- 240 g all-purpose flour or plain flour
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- ⅔ cup warm unsweetened plant-based milk or water think of bathwater temperature
- a pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 lb [450g] zucchini
- 1 small carrot
- ¼ cup sliced mushrooms
- 2 stalks of scallions/green onions chopped
- oil for cooking
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- chopped green onions
- black and white sesame seeds
Option 1: Knead the dough with a mixer
- Mix sugar and yeast in warm water/unsweetened plant-based milk until well-combined. If this is the first time using your yeast, let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes. If you see a foamy top, then, your yeast is good, if not, then it’s expired.
- Mix flour and salt until well-combined in a large mixing bowl. Then, add in the yeast mixture and oil.
- Using a dough hook, knead the mixture into a soft dough. Transfer dough onto a cleaned surface until knead until you get a smooth top.
- Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a lid, and proof until double its size.
Option 2: Knead the dough with hand
- Mix sugar and yeast in warm water/unsweetened plant-based milk until well-combined.
- Place flour and salt on a cleaned surface like a mound.
- Using your palm or a bottom of a bowl, make a hole in the middle. Slowly pour in the yeast mixture while bringing the flour from the side to the middle.
- Knead into a soft and smooth dough then place it in a bowl. Cover and let it proof until double its size.
How to make the filling
- First, shred zucchini into a bowl and massage it with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes to draw out the moisture.
- Meanwhile, in a heated non-stick pan with a drizzle oil, sauté mushrooms until aromatic. Set aside.
- Shred carrot into a small bowl.
- After 30 minutes, place zucchini in a nutmilk bag and squeeze out all the liquid. Transfer the drained zucchini into a large bowl.
- Add the carrot, mushrooms, and chopped onions. Season accordingly.
How to make the buns
- Transfer proofed dough onto a cleaned surface, roll it into a log and divide into 14 equal portions. Then, roll each dough into a ball and set aside, covered.
- Work with one dough at a time. Roll out the dough into about 5" oblong shape, then fold the dough into half. Roll it out again and fold for the second time. This step is to remove as many air bubbles as possible. (See Notes)
- Then, roll the folded dough into a circular wrapper.
- Fill the middle of the wrapper with a spoonful of filling, then pleat to seal. Set aside, covered and continue with the rest of the dough.
How to cook the buns
- Heat a 10" non-stick pan and add about ½ tablespoon oil.
- Place the buns pleated side down in one layer and cook until the bottom turns slightly golden over low med heat.
- Add about 1 cup of water, place a lid over and cook until all water has evaporated. Then, turn off the heat.
How to serve
- Once the buns are done cooking, place a plate in the pan, and flip to remove or remove the buns with a spatula. Serve warm with your favorite sauces.
- If you prefer not to roll out the dough and fold, once you cut them into 14 portions, knead each ball again to remove as many air bubbles as possible.
- I am using a 10″ pan which is just the right fit for all the buns. If you have a smaller pan, try to fit as many buns in it as possible, leaving only a small gap in between (check my video for visual picture). On the other hand, if you have a larger pan, place buns closer to the middle of the pan.
- I used 1 cup of water which when added cover about 1cm of the buns’ height.