Sheng Jian Bao: Pan-fried pork buns (生煎包)

Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

Like many modern cities, Shanghai is full of wonderful choices when it comes to food. I had numerous scrumptious meals during my trips there. The diversity and creativity of this giant city’s culinary profile was quite impressive. However, the most memorable meal I had there was at a humble, busy breakfast stall which served the local speciality: Sheng Jian Bao (生煎包), pan-fried pork buns.

Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

Sheng Jian Bao (aka Sheng Jian Mantou, 生煎馒头) is a type of Chinese bun which is fried then steamed in a flat pan. The wrapper is made from yeast dough and the filling contains minced pork, spring onion and various seasonings. It’s quite small in size, similar to a golf ball or even smaller.

Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

In Shanghai, pan-fried pork buns are traditionally served as breakfast at little cafes and street stalls. They are often cooked in a large pan in front of the queueing customers. Truly fresh and super tasty, those buns are simply irresistible! The wrapper has a lovely soft texture with a golden, crispy base . The filling is very flavoursome and moist.

Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

A few years ago, I got a chance to learn the technique of making pan-fried pork buns from a Shanghainese friend. I found it rather simple as it was very similar to how we cook Shui Jian Bao (水煎包, means water-fried buns literally, often vegetarian) in the North-west of China where I grew up. There are five steps to follow:

1. Make the dough. It’s a type of simple yeast dough used in many Chinese dishes, like the one I shared earlier: Spring onion flatbread.

Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

2. Mix the filling. The minced pork is seasoned with spring onion, ginger, light soy sauce, rice wine, Sichuan pepper and sesame oil, etc. In order to make the cooked filling soft and moist, you need to gradually add quite a bit of water (or even better, chicken stock) to the mixture. Stir constantly until no more liquid can be seen.

Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

3. Shape the buns. In this part, you might find it a bit intimidating to seal the buns. It is  time consuming if you are not familiar with the folding technique. But I’m sure you’ll soon get the hang of it (please refer to the images above for instructions).

4. Fry the buns. Firstly, crisp the bottom part of the buns in hot oil. Then pour water into the pan and cover with a lid. The steam will help to cook through pretty quickly. A tip: You can either put the folded side facing up or down (As shown in the photos below, I cooked a panful in two ways). Just remember to securely seal the top if you prefer the latter to avoid any juice leaking from the filling.

Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

5. Sprinkle the garnish. I particular like this final touch. Sprinkle finely chopped spring onion and toasted sesame seeds onto the buns at the very last stage of cooking. The remaining steam in the pan helps these sprinkles to stick onto the wrappers. Not only does it looks pretty, it also adds extra flavour to the buns.

Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

I often make Shanghai pan-fried pork buns for parties. It’s a perfect finger food that’s loved by young and old. If you wish, prepare some dipping sauce on the side. For example, you can use the dressing recipes for Chinese cold dishes, such as cucumber salad, pork rind jelly, etc.. Don’t forget to add a dash of homemade chilli oil if you fancy spicing up the buns.

Sheng Jian Bao: Pan-fried pork buns (生煎包)
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Prep Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Yield: make 20 buns

Sheng Jian Bao: Pan-fried pork buns (生煎包)

Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

Ingredients

    For the wrappers
  • 250g / 2 cups all purpose flour (see note 1)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried instant yeast (see note 2)
  • 140ml / 9 tablespoons water, lukewarm
  • For the filling
  • 250g / 9oz minced pork
  • 2 stalks spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch ground Sichuan pepper (or Chinese five-spice powder)
  • 5 tablespoons water (or chicken stock)
  • For frying
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 240ml / 1 cup water
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Spring onion, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Prepare the dough: In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast and sugar. Pour in water little by little while stirring with a pair of chopsticks (or a fork). Then knead with your hand until a smooth, elastic dough forms (see note 3). Cover the bowl with a wet kitchen towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until double in size. It will take between 40 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on the room temperature.
  2. Mix the filling: Put all the ingredients for the filling (except for water / stock) into a large bowl. Swirl constantly in the same direction while gradually adding water / stock spoon by spoon into the mixture.
  3. Shape the buns: Knead the dough on a floured work surface until it goes back to its original size. Divide it into 20 equal portions. Roll each piece into a disk-like wrapper. Hold the wrapper in the palm of one hand. Place some filling in the middle. Use the other hand to fold the edge anticlockwise by pinching with thumb and index finger until the bun is completely sealed (pleas refer to the images above). Leave to rest for 15 minutes before frying.
  4. Fry the buns: Heat up oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Place in the buns. When the bottom part becomes golden brown, pour in water then cover with a lid. Uncover when the water evaporates completely. Sprinkle sesame seed and spring onion over (see note 4 & 5).

Notes

1. The ideal flour water ratio may vary slightly depending on the brand of the flour and how you measure it (Measuring flour with cups is less accurate).

2. I use dried instant yeast (this is sometimes called “quick”, “fast action” or “easy blend” yeast) which doesn’t need to be frothed before using. You may use other types of yeast following the recommended quantity and mixing method.

3. You may use a stand mixer with a fitted dough hook. Put all the ingredients into the mixing bowl. Knead for 5 minutes or so on lowest speed. Alternatively, a bread maker with a dough cycle can help you to finish step 1 with ease.

4. I use a 28cm / 11inch frying pan in which I can fit 20 buns at once. You may use a smaller pan and fry twice. Adjust the volume of oil and water accordingly.

5. When frying, you can either put the folded side facing up or down. If you prefer the latter, make sure to securely seal the buns to avoid any juice leaking from the filling.

https://redhousespice.com/pan-fried-pork-buns/

Did my pork buns make you drool? If so, give my recipe a try! Tell me how you like them by leaving a comment below or connect me on Pinterest, Facebook or Instagram.

Have a lovely day!

An enthusiastic cook with a Chinese palate and a global mindset.

Pouring chilli oil onto freshly cooked Sheng Jian Bao, the popular Shanghai pan-fried pork buns.

Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

Tasty, moist pork wrapped with half-soft, half-crispy dough, Shanghai pan-fried pork buns, traditionally served as breakfast, make a great party food.

More classic dishes with delectable fillings:

Chinese chive pockets (韭菜盒子)

Spiced beef flatbread (香酥牛肉饼)

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2 thoughts

  1. Hi Wei. I’m attempting to make your Sheng Jian Bao recipe today. I really miss these after eating lots of them in Shanghai the other year!!

    Just one quick question, roughly how much water do you add to the pan when steaming? Is it just enough to cover the bottom of the pan?

    Thanks Cath

    1. Hi Cath! As shown in the list of ingredients (the group “for frying”), I use 1 cup of water (240ml) to fry 20 buns in a 28cm frying pan. You don’t need to be that precise. But my measurement gives you a good idea of the usage. Hope this helps and happy cooking!!

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