There is a Shanghainese restaurant in Edmonton named “Shanghai 456” which my brother-in-law would frequent quite regularly for their Xiao Long Bao (小笼包) aka “XLB” and noodle dishes.
But one time, he convinced us to go on a Sunday. It turned out that the owners would have a special item on the menu that you couldn’t order any other day of the week.
That item was Sheng Jian Bao (生煎包), also known as Pan-fried pork buns.
WHAT IS SHENG JIAN BAO?
Sheng Jian Bao is a Shanghainese mini pork-filled bun that is the cousin of the more famous Xiao Long Bao (XLB). The dough that wraps around the pork is a leavened dough.
While the buns cook, green onions and sesame seeds are added.
There are 2 main differences between Sheng Jian Bao and XLB:
- sheng jian bao doesn’t contain as much soup (gelatin/pork fat) compared to XLB and
- the skin (dough) is much thicker and fluffier than XLB.
I find that these buns are a lot more satisfying than XLB because you get more meat and bun within a small bite.
HOW TO MAKE THE PORK BUNS
There are two components to making this delectable treat:
- the meat filling and
- the dough
You can make meat filling ahead of time and place it in the fridge while you work on the bun dough.
The filling consists of lean ground pork, cabbage, mushrooms, and leeks. I like adding more veggies to my dumpling fillings. Of course, you can add whatever veggies you like, or opt for just a pork filling.
The dough is a simple dough primarily consisting of all-purpose flour, yeast, cornstarch, sugar, milk and baking powder.
Divide the dough into rounds, and flatten them with a rolling pin. Then, take a heaped teaspoon of the meat mixture and place it in the centre of the dough. Pleat the seams of the dough and repeat with the remainder.
Next, place the buns into a large pan coated with some oil. The buns are pan-fried for a few minutes, before they’re steamed with water.
Make this recipe at home and your friends and family will surely be impressed. Serve the Sheng Jian Bao piping hot with a side of Chinkiang black vinegar dipping sauce and chili oil if you like.
Let me know if you try out this recipe — tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment below!
Sheng Jian Bao (生煎包) - Pan-Fried Pork Buns
- 1 lb lean ground pork
- 1 C cabbage chopped
- ¼ C shiitake mushrooms chopped (optional)
- ¼ C leeks chopped (optional)
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 1 T soy sauce
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 green onion chopped
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 T ginger finely minced
- 1 T cornstarch
- 1 C plus 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 T cornstarch
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 ¼ tsp dry yeast
- ½ cup warm milk
- 3 T warm water
- 3 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp oil
Black Vinegar Sauce:
- 3 T black vinegar Chinkiang
- ¼ tsp ginger finely julienned
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- green onion chopped
- black or white sesame seeds
- Place cabbage into a colander and sprinkle 1 teaspoon coarse salt over the top. Massage the cabbage for 10 seconds and set aside to drain for about 10 minutes. This is to remove any excess moisture so that the buns do not get soggy. After 10 minutes, squeeze the cabbage with your hands and drain away remaining liquid.
- Place the cabbage, mushrooms and leeks (if using) into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Remove and place mixture into a large mixing bowl.
- To the finely chopped cabbage, mushrooms, and leeks, add ground pork, garlic, ginger and all the seasonings into a bowl. Mix all of the ingredients together in one direction only (to create long meat protein strands). Place into fridge for 20 minutes.
- Combine yeast, sugar, milk and warm water in the bottom of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Leave to proof for about 5 minutes.
- When the yeast has been activated (bubbly), add flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and oil.
- With the mixer running, knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes, until shiny and elastic. If the dough is too dry, add 1 T of water at a time; if it's too wet, add 1 T of flour until it is smooth.
- Turn out dough onto a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place to double in size (about 1 hour).
- Once dough has risen, gently deflate and move it over to a workspace dusted with a little flour. Divide into 4 quarters and from each quarter, roll it into a log and cut out equal 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten.
- Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a circle about 3" wide. Place 1 heaped teaspoon of meat filling into the centre of the dough and pinch and pleat around the dough to seal. Place the finished buns onto a lightly greased plate and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough and meat.
- Mix all ingredients together. Set aside.
- Heat a large frying pan with a little bit of oil over medium heat and place the buns in. Ensure that you leave some space in between the buns for them to expand a little. Briefly pan-fry the buns until they are slightly brown, approximately 2 minutes.
- Then add about ½ C of boiling water to the pan and cover with a lid to steam the buns for about 5 minutes, until the meat is fully cooked and the water has evaporated. Remove the lid to let any remaining water evaporate and let the bottoms of the buns crisp up and turn golden brown.
- Remove and garnish with sesame seeds and chopped green onions.
- Serve immediately, with some black vinegar dipping sauce.
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.