Of Rice and Ramen: DIY dim sum – Chinese steamed buns


I used to work in a dim sum restaurant on the weekends when I was in high school. One of my favorite dishes (despite my grandma’s protests at eating something that will fill you quickly) is Chinese BBQ pork buns (char-sew bao). I love the delicate, rich, sweet and salty filling with the soft steamed bread. I even like to eat the bread by itself, which is quite dangerous while drinking tea. It is said that one bun in the stomach turns to seven, since the bread absorbs liquid and expands. While I have not yet perfected the art of making the perfect char-sew filling, I have perfected the art of opening a can of red bean paste. I take no shame in using store-bought bean paste, since I go to the trouble to make the buns themselves from scratch (read: not from the freezer section at the Asian market). Just think of me like a Chinese Sandra Lee: semi-homemade.

Steamed Buns


  • 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp. warm water (for yeast)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 cup flour


  • Combine water, sugar and yeast and let the yeast bloom for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix it together until the dough is combined then knead it until you’re feeling confident (no more than 5 minutes). *Pseudo-scientific studies show that kneading dough relieves stress.
  • Let the dough rise in a greased bowl for 1 hour. I like to set the oven to 150 and turn it off, then let the dough rise in the oven that is warm and ideal for yeast. After the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it (stress relief parts II and III). Cut the dough into 8 equal sized pieces. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 5” round. From here you have some options: a heaping tablespoon of red bean paste, a half link of Chinese sausage, or some other prepared filling. Wrap the dough around your filling of choice and place on a piece of parchment paper to rise for another 20-30 minutes while you prepare your steamer set-up and boiling water.
  • Steam the buns for 20 minutes. Enjoy cautiously with tea.