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Shuijianbao – Pan-Fried Pork Buns(水煎包)

Located at the mouth of the Yellow River, Lijin in the Shandong Province, has long been a popular place of settlement for immigrants from all parts of the country.
Course Snack
Cuisine Chinese
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4


  • 400 g pork belly rind peeled off
  • 25 ml sweet flour sauce
  • 25 ml light soy sauce
  • 25 ml dark soy sauce
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 100 g green onions

Make the dough for the buns

  • 250 g high gluten or bread flour. Our bun skin is on the thin side, so we must use higher strength gluten flour, or the buns will break easily during cooking
  • 125 ml warm water. Put the water in the microwave for 10-15 seconds until it feels warm to the touch. Warm water promotes yeast activity.
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder. Baking powder forms tiny sponge-like cavities in the dough and will make the buns softer. The main ingredients of baking powder are sodium bicarbonate and sodium pyrophosphate, making it quite safe to use.
  • ½ teaspoon dry yeast


  • Cut off the rind/skin and dice into 5-7mm pieces.
  • Mix the sweet flour sauce with the soy sauces and pour into the diced pork. Mix well to combine.
  • Add the ginger, either grated or chopped finely. Then add the pepper (preferably fresh ground), sesame oil and salt, and mix well. Cover the bowl with cling film and put it in the refrigerator while you make the buns.
  • Wash the green onions, drain and set aside to chop a little later. The chopped green onion will react with the air and worsen its taste, so it’s better to cut it nearer the time when you use it.

Now we come to make the dough for the buns.

  • First, mix the baking powder with the flour.
  • Spread the flour on the pastry board and using a scraper, push the flour from the middle to the edges to form a space in the middle of about 25cm in diameter.
  • Pour the dry yeast into the center.
  • Add the warm water, and stir gently until the yeast fully dissolves.
  • Gently “wipe” the flour from the inner wall into the water with your hand until the yeast solution forms a thick batter.
  • Using the scraper, blend in the rest of the flour and bring it all together into a dough. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes until it is even in texture, smooth and elastic.
  • Put the dough in a sealed container and allow it to relax for 20 minutes.
  • In the meantime, chop the green onions. Try to chop them as finely as you can, making it easier to package them in the buns, and so there are not big chunks of onion. Put the chopped onion aside in a bowl.
  • The relaxed dough is a little bigger than it was 20 minutes ago and is ready to roll out. You do not need to worry whether the dough has proved sufficiently at this stage. It will continue to ferment in the hot pan, and the heat will also cause the baking powder get to work expanding the buns making them nice and soft.
  • Form the dough into a log and cut it into 16 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and cover with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out as you work with the dough.
  • Roll each ball to a diameter of about 11 centimeters, thicker in the middle and slightly thinner around the edge.
  • First, put a teaspoon of chopped spring onion onto the dough disk.
  • Press the pork mixture onto the green onions with a small fork or teaspoon.
  • Pinch the edges up and around the stuffing to enclose it.
  • Cut off any excess dough to make the surface nice and flat.
  • Place the bun folded side down on the chopping board and shape it with your hands. Place each bun into an oiled container (bottom and sides) with space between them, so they do not stick together.
  • After the buns are all done, they can be fried in the pan (without waiting for the second fermentation). The most suitable pan for making Pan-Fried Pork Buns at home is a thick non-stick pan, which has even heat, and you do not have to worry about the buns sticking to the bottom. A 24 cm pan will fit 16 steamed buns perfectly. Never use a stainless steel pan to make these buns as they will most certainly stick.
  • Brush a layer of vegetable oil onto the bottom of the pan; soybean oil works best giving the buns a delicious fragrance and golden color. If you can’t get soybean oil, you can use fresh virgin olive oil, which is also a beautiful colour, but it will not produce an “Asian” fragrance.
  • Take the buns out of the container and place them on the chopping board. Reshape them a bit more – oil your hands first, so they don’t stick to you or each other.
  • Arrange the buns one by one in the pan, starting from the outer edge. A 24 cm pan will take two rounds, 11 buns around the outer edge and 5 in the middle. Heat the pan on the stove for 5 minutes.
  • Make the flour water by mixing 300 ml water with 20 g flour, and pour it over the buns so that the liquid comes 2/3 of the way up the side of the buns. Continue to boil the pan for 2 minutes and then cover for 5 minutes. While you are waiting, get yourself another larger non-stick pan (we used a 30 cm, but 26 or 28 works well) and brush the bottom with vegetable oil.
  • Carefully flip the buns from the 24cm pan into the larger one. The best way to do this is to cover the smaller pan with the larger one and flip, then remove the smaller pan from the top. This process requires a bit of strength if you are using heavy pans (two single-handled pans plus the weight of the buns). You might need to recruit a helper for this step and perform it over the sink to catch any drips.
  • If all goes well, the bottom of the buns should look like the picture below. Continue to heat the pan, and when the buns start sizzling, pour a small amount of flour water in to cover the bottom of the pan.
  • When the flour water has almost evaporated turn the heat to low and pour a small amount of vegetable oil into the crevices between the buns (preferably soybean oil, but if you cannot get it, you can use virgin olive oil).
  • Once the moisture from the flour water is all used up, and the buns are golden yellow on the bottom, they are ready.
  • Pan-Fried Pork Buns are best eaten hot, so dig in! Crispy outer and deliciously soft inside, these buns are to die for!