Sourdough Steamed Buns

Sourdough Surprises starts the new year with steamed buns.


However… I’ve never met a steam bun I’ve liked. We’ve ordered them from Chinese takeaways and had them in Dim Sum. At best they’ve been dull, but most of the time they’re just wrong: sweet buns with slimy savoury fillings…

So: this is a great chance to learn to love steamed buns!


My knowledge of steam buns general comes from computer games and anime.


On the savoury side, the Sleeping Dogs computer game introduced me to pork buns as a staple Chinese street food, and once I knew this I tried one in London’s China Town. I wasn’t a fan… but I’m willing to give them another go.

Nice as a slow cooked pork belly would be… that would leave nearly all of a pork belly leftover after making a few buns. MyRecipes has a quick pork tenderloin version… but it’s still 500g of expensive meat for a few buns. However BBC Good Food seems to have had the same idea that was bubbling away in the back of my mind: just use bacon! If bacon can’t make me like steamed buns, nothing can! So fry up bacon, ginger, garlic, then mix in soy, honey, tomato purée (paste) & liquid smoke.


On the sweet side, the anime Bleach introduced me to red bean paste buns. Even the anime admits this is weird, as the character Orihime who likes red bean paste so much is ridiculed for her love of it.


But it can’t be any worse than any of the other steam buns I’ve tasted, so I’ve ordered some red bean paste from Amazon and I’m going to run with it.


Finally we’ve got some kimchi in the fridge, so I’m going to do some buns with that.


That box of kimchi has looked that full for months. I know we only use small amounts each time, but I’m sure it should show some signs of getting used up!

Bun Recipe

Sourdough Surprises suggested a couple of links, but one of them had problems with the buns collapsing… so I’m not going to follow that one. The other recipe, from Loaves and Stitches, uses 100% hydration starter, which I have, and seems pretty simple, so this seems like a good start.

The monthly Pinterest board didn’t have much to add: some yeast buns, some using cake flour, a few discussions… nothing that grabbed my attention, and so as a n00b to these buns I’m going to stick with the Loaves and Stitches recipe, and not complicate things (for a change!).

The recipe makes 24 buns… way too many! 12 will be plenty, so halving and converting to metric I get:

Day before:

  • 60g 100% sourdough starter
  • 85g water
  • 140g plain (AP) flour

Mix together…


…and let rise overnight at 21C in my new proofer.


(The pie in the background is a sourdough crust cherry pie!)

On the day:

  • 85g water
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder (see note below)
  • 1/4 salt
  • 2 Tbsp golden caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable shortening
  • 210g self-raising (rising) flour

Mix the above together, then mix in all the overnight starter, and knead for five minutes in the stand mixer.


The recipe now has you make the buns and proof. However the overnight mix rose then fell again, and I’m worried it’s run out of steam. So I’m mixing the above, replacing the bicarb (baking soda) with baking powder, and giving it a one hour rise in the new proofer at 27C before making the balls.

Then make 12 balls of dough, add fillings (four pork, four red bean paste, four kimchi) and place each on 8cm baking parchment square, and proof for and hour, again at 27C in my new proofer.



We’ve had a bamboo steamer lying around for years that I haven’t tried using. So many years that I couldn’t find where I’d put it in the kitchen, and started to worry that we’d thrown it out. It turns out that it was in the back room with all my cycling gear for some reason!


So I’ll be using the bamboo steamer, placed on top of a frying pan (skillet) of boiling water.


The buns should take 12 minutes to steam.


We’re having the buns with my healthy General Tso’s Chicken, stir fry veg, more Kimchi, and rice.


So… moment of truth. Were the buns edible?

  • Kimchi: NO!
    • Do not put kimchi in sweet steamed buns, it’s a crime against gastronomy!
  • Pork: Yes, but…
    • … it’s bacon: of course it tastes good!
    • But to be fair, it was better than we’d ever had before
  • Red bean paste: Orihime was right!
    • The texture and sweet flavour of the paste works well with the sweet, soft buns
    • Turns out these are a perfect dessert for a Chinese dinner

So the cast of Bleach can ridicule Orihime all they want, but her red bean paste is the only way to eat steamed buns!

Check out the other steam buns the Sourdough Surprises crew made:


9 thoughts on “Sourdough Steamed Buns

    1. I only got the proofer as an extravagant 40th birthday gift, but it turns out to be really useful every week (especially during the cold winter., and when it’s not in use it folds down and hardly takes up any space.


  1. Jealous of your proofer there! Now for red bean paste. I thought red bean paste was a spiced, savouring thing. Dessert? Now I need to research.


    1. It is lightly spiced, but the red beans themselves must be very sweet as that’s the overriding flavour.


  2. I too am very jealous of your proofer. I’ve never tried red bean paste, but I’ve always been intrigued by it. Maybe I’ll order some and try it in steamed buns too. Yours look great anyhow, and the pork sounds delicious (of course!).


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