Shengjian mantou - Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Soup Buns

shengjianbao

These classic Shanghai buns, "生煎馒头," are a cousin to xiaolongbao in terms of their pork filling mixed with a jellied stock that turns into hot soup during the cooking process. However they have a much more rugged exterior featuring a crisp bottom and a fluffy bao top.

Make Jellied Chicken Stock

Start by making chicken stock the night before. If no leftover chicken carcass available, use 3 chicken drumsticks, 1 spring onion chopped, and salt. Ingredients should be brought to boil in 2 cups water and then simmered gently for one hour and skimmed to get a very clear soup.

Ladle out 1 cup (236 ml) chicken stock. As chicken stock cools down to drinking temperature (160-180 degrees F), put 2 gelatin leaves in a bowl of cold water for 4 minutes until softened. Then stir it into stock until dissolved. Allow to cool and then place in fridge to set overnight. 

Make the Dough

  • 250g all purpose flour (or low-gluten flour)
  • 50g bread flour (or high-gluten flour)
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp superfine or caster sugar
  • 150 ml lukewarm water
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Measure flours into mixing bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook. Add sugar to lukewarm water ideally 105-110 degrees F and proof yeast. Gradually add yeast mixture to flour with mixer on low setting. Add in 1/2 tsp baking powder just as dough begins to come together. Bring up to medium setting and use dough hook to knead 15 mins. Dough should be smooth.

Place in deep bowl, cover with cling film and allow to rise in a warm place or sunny window until doubled in size. Approximately 2 hours.

Make the Stuffing

  • 200g Jellied Chicken Stock
  • 2 spring onions
  • 2 slices fresh ginger
  • 300g ground pork tenderloin
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce (you can also decrease this to 1 tbsp if you prefer a milder stuffing)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp superfine or caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vegetable or olive oil

Chop green portion of spring onion finely. Set aside. 

Coarsely chop white portion of spring onion. Add to 1/2 cup cold water with 2 slices fresh ginger. Allow to marinate.

Put ground pork in a bowl and add Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, salt, sugar, oil and chopped spring onion (green portion only). Mix well, stirring clockwise only. Gradually add 3 tblsp of the ginger spring onion water, mixing in one spoonful at a time. Chop up the jellied stock and incorporate with pork mixture. Chill in fridge until dough is ready to work with.

Shengjian mantou before final rise

Shengjian mantou before final rise

Make the Buns

After dough has fully risen, roll out into a long cylindrical log. Cut into 14 pieces about 30 g each. Cover pieces with a tea towel to avoid them drying out. Take out one piece and flatten and roll into a round disc ideally using a tapered small Chinese rolling pin. Roll so that the middle of the disc is thicker while the edges should thin out.

Place a spoonful of stuffing in the middle of your dough (approximately 25 g of pork mixture). Pinch dough into a bao shape by pleating in a circular direction and then making sure the bun is completely closed.

Place finished bun with pleat side up on parchment paper and keep buns covered with a tea towel to avoid drying them out.

If you want very uniform bao you can weigh out each one so that they are around 55 g in weight before pleating.

Repeat until dough is fully used. Leave completed buns to rise for about 20 minutes.

Prepare the Garnish

  • 2 spring onions finely chopped
  • 4 tblsp black and/or white toasted sesame seeds

Cook the Buns

Pour 3 tblsp cooking oil into a large nonstick frying pan with a flat bottom to coat it thoroughly over medium high heat. When oil is hot, take pan off heat as you add the risen buns to the pan. Fry for 2-4 minutes over medium-high heat until bottoms are golden brown. Keep moving buns and pan around to avoid hot spots.

Once buns are golden brown, slowly pour 250 ml boiling hot water into edge of pan using a spouted measuring cup. Do this carefully as the pan will sizzle. Cover and allow buns to steam over high heat for 6 minutes.

Remove lid, then drizzle 1 tsp of cooking oil around edges of pan and swirl buns around pan. At this point you can garnish the buns with chopped spring onions and toasted sesame seeds. Keep cooking until the bottom of buns are a medium to dark brown and produce a sizzling sound - around 1 minute. Bottoms should be crispy.

Serve with Chinkiang vinegar or substitute with balsamic vinegar if unavailable.

Makes approximately 14 buns

Shengjian mantou in the pan right after being fully cooked

Shengjian mantou in the pan right after being fully cooked

 

Variations:

Traditionally street vendors will fry these with the sides touching each other as they crowd the buns into a massive pan. However, at home I prefer to let them cook individually. I also prefer to keep the pleated side up as I am most concerned with keeping the soup inside, but those more confident in their bun pleating skills can also let the buns rise and cook with the pleat side down.

Suggested reading:

Lucky Peach - The World’s Most Underrated Dumpling

Land of Fish and Rice - Fuchsia Dunlop