Chicken Sheng Jian Bao: Pan Fried Buns

Sheng Jian Bao is a delicious Chinese pan-fried bun with a savoury chicken filling, a crispy bottom, and soft top. Perfect as a snack or meal!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Rising Time 1 hour 20 minutes
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Chicken Sheng Jian Bao is delicious because it combines the tender, juicy texture of chicken with the crispy and slightly chewy texture of the pan-fried buns. The chicken filling is seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and spring onion/scallions, which give it a wonderful flavour.

The cooking method involves both steaming and pan-frying in a little bit of oil and water, creating a crispy and golden crust on the bottom while keeping the top of the bun soft and fluffy. The result is a perfect balance of textures and flavours, with a crispy bottom, tender filling, and fluffy bun.

Close up pan fried bao texture

Why this recipe is amazing

Flavour & Texture: A flavourful and savoury chicken filling that is seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and spring onion/scallions. The bao dough or wrapper has a soft and fluffy texture on top with a crispy and slightly chewy bottom from the pan-frying process. Overall, it is a delicious combination of textures and flavours that is both satisfying and comforting.

Difficulty & Time: This can be considered mild/moderately difficult as it involves making the dough, filling, and pan-frying the buns. The hardest thing could be folding but I’m here to help you out! With some practice and following the instructions carefully, it is achievable. The preparation time for the recipe is around 20 minutes, 1hr 20 mins rising time and the cooking time is approximately 15-20 minutes.

Versatility: They can be customized according to personal preference. The filling can be made with different types of meat or vegetarian options, and the seasoning can be adjusted to taste. Additionally, the buns can be made in different sizes, and the cooking method can be modified to achieve a different texture.

What ingredients are needed:

  • Bao Dough / Wrappers:
    • Warm Water: Warm water is used to activate the yeast and help the dough rise. It also makes the dough easier to knead and work with.
    • Sugar: Sugar is used to feed the yeast and help the dough rise. It also adds a slight sweetness to the dough.
    • Instant Yeast: Yeast is a leavening agent that causes the dough to rise and become fluffy. Instant yeast is a quick-acting yeast that doesn’t need to be activated first.
    • Plain or Bleached Flour: Flour is the main ingredient in the dough and gives the structure of the bun. Plain or bleached flour is used because it has a lower protein content than bread flour, which makes the dough softer and more tender.
  • Filling:
    • Ground Raw or Poached Chicken: the main protein in the filling. It can be ground raw or poached beforehand.
    • Garlic: adds a pungent flavour to the filling and is commonly used in Chinese cuisine.
    • Spring Onion / Scallion: adds a mild onion flavour to the filling and also adds colour and texture to the filling.
    • Fresh Ginger: adds a slightly spicy, warm flavour to the filling and is commonly used in Chinese cuisine.
    • Soy Sauce: adds saltiness and umami flavour to the filling.
    • Toasted Sesame Oil: adds a nutty flavour to the filling and is commonly used in Chinese cuisine.
    • Shaoxing Cooking Wine: a type of Chinese rice wine that adds flavour to the filling and helps tenderize the meat.
    • Homemade Szechuan Chilli Oil: My chilli oil adds a spicy flavour to the filling. It can be made at home by infusing oil with Szechuan peppercorns, chilli flakes, and other aromatics.
    • Cornflour/Starch: a binding agent to hold the filling together.
    • Salt: used to season the filling and enhance the flavours of the other ingredients.

How to make Sheng Jian Bao?

Folding bao tutorial
Folded bao on tray to show texture

Setting you up for success – Tips & Tricks

  • Use a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients accurately. This will ensure that the dough and filling are in the right proportion and help with consistency.
  • Knead the dough well until it becomes smooth and elastic. This will help the buns to rise and cook evenly.
  • Let the dough rest and rise in a warm, draft-free place until it has doubled. This may take an hour or more, depending on the temperature of the room.
  • When shaping the buns, try to make the centre of the wrapper thinner than the edges. This will help the buns to cook evenly and prevent the filling from leaking out.
  • Use a non-stick pan with a lid to cook the buns. This will prevent them from sticking to the pan and help them cook evenly. You can also use a cast iron skillet or a wok with a lid.
  • When cooking the buns, add a little water to the pan and cover it with a lid. This creates steam, which will help cook the buns and create a juicy filling.
  • Make the filling ahead of time and let it cool completely before using it to fill the buns. This will make it easier to handle and will help prevent the filling from leaking out.
  • Change up the filling! Use a mixture of different types of meat for the filling, such as ground pork, beef, or chicken, to add more flavour and texture.
  • Experiment with different sauces and seasonings to customize the flavour of the filling, such as soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and spring onion/ scallions.
  • Finally, practice makes it better. Don’t worry if your first few batches of Sheng Jian Bao don’t turn out perfectly. Keep trying and adjusting until you find the right technique that works for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

When I made this dish on our live cooking show, some community members asked:

Can I use a different type of meat for the filling?

Yes, you can use ground pork, beef, or other types of meat for the filling. You can also use a combination of different types of meat to add more flavour and texture.

Can I make the dough ahead of time?

Yes, you can make the dough ahead of time and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight. This will help develop the flavour and texture of the dough. Just be sure to bring it to room temperature before shaping and filling the buns.

Can I freeze the Sheng Jian Bao?

Yes, you can freeze the Sheng Jian Bao after they are cooked. Simply let them cool completely, then place them in an airtight container or freezer bag and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, simply steam or pan-fry the frozen buns until they are hot and crispy.

My buns are sticking to the pan, what should I do?

Make sure you are using a non-stick pan or a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Also, be sure to oil the pan lightly before adding the buns. If the buns are still sticking, you can add a little bit of water to the pan to create steam and help release the buns from the bottom of the pan.

My buns are not cooked through, what should I do?

Make sure you are cooking the buns on medium heat and that the pan is covered with a lid to create steam. Also, make sure you are cooking the buns long enough on each side, usually around 3-4 minutes per side. If the buns are still not cooked through, you can add a little bit more water to the pan and cook them for a few more minutes.

Can I make the Sheng Jian Bao smaller or larger?

Yes, you can adjust the size of the buns to your liking. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

close up of bao in frying pan

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Sheng Jian Bao: Pan Fried Chicken Buns

Servings 14 buns
Deliciously moist chicken wrapped in a steamed bun with a crispy bottom. My version of a Shanghai Sheng Jian Bao. This recipe is incredibly versatile, try it out with pork, turkey, beef and more!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Rising Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Equipment

  • stand mixer or large bowl

Ingredients
 

Bao Dough / Wrappers

  • 160 ml ( cups) warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 250 g (2 cups) plain or bleached flour

Filling

  • 250 g (1 lb) ground chicken mince try pork, beef etc
  • 3 tbsp boiling water
  • ½ tsp gelatin
  • 1 tsp chicken stock powder
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup spring onion / scallion finely sliced
  • 2-3 tsp fresh ginger grated
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 2 tsp homemade Szechuan chilli oil
  • ½ tsp cornflour/starch
  • ½ tsp salt

Extras

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 250 mls (1 cups) water
  • sesame seeds
  • coriander / cilantro chopped
  • spring onion / scallion finely sliced

Instructions

Make the dough:

  • In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Cover and set aside for 5-10 minutes until frothy and active. 
  • Combine the flour with the yeast mixture and stir with a chopstick or bread knife to form a ball.
  • Place the mix on a clean bench surface and knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms. 
    You may use a stand mixer if you would like. Put all the ingredients into the mixing bowl. Knead for 5-6 minutes on low.
    Return the dough to your work bench. Lightly dust with flour and punch down the dough to remove the air. 
  • Set aside in a warm place until double in size, around 45 mins /1 hour. 
    Note that time depends on room temperature. The warmer it is, the faster the dough will rise. If it is not rising, allow more time.

Make the filling:

  • In a small bowl combine hot water, gelatin and stock powder. Stir together to allow gelatin to dissolve. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, including gelatin mix. Stir well to create a cohesive mix.
  • Add 1-2 tsp water if you think the mixture needs more moisture. 

Bring it all together:

  • Return the dough to your work-bench. Lightly dust with flour and punch down the dough to remove the air. 
  • Divide the dough into 14 equal portions. Cover with a dish to ensure that they do not dry out. 
  • Take one portion and roll it into a round shape with thinner edges, about 12 cm / 4.7-inch wide. 
  • Place 2-3 tsp filling in the middle of the wrapper. Use the other hand to fold the edge by pinching between your thumb and index finger until the bun is completely sealed. 
  • Repeat the process with the rest of the mixture and dough. Set the buns aside for 20 minutes to rise a little. 

Fry time:

  • Gather a deep non-stick frying pan that has a tight fitting lid. Place over medium high heat with oil. 
  • You can place the buns folded side up or down. Cook for 1-2 minutes before adding the water. Place the lid on and steam until all evaporated and the dough is cooked through. 
  • Uncover  and cook another minute or so to ensure the bottom is crispy.
  • Place on a plate or serve in the pan. Sprinkle with coriander, sesame seeds and spring onion. Drizzle with extra homemade Szechuan chilli oil if you'd like. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 128kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 195mg | Potassium: 133mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.4g | Vitamin A: 19IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

Recipe Published: May 8, 2023 Last Updated: May 8, 2023

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