Dangerously Tasty Steamed Chinese Baozi Buns

Baozi (包子)

Chinese Baozi (包子) Buns

Comforting, filling and lip-licking-tasty.

I’m talking about Baozi (包子), the ubiquitous steamed Chinese bread buns stuffed with porky goodness and other heavenly fillings.

Growing up with a Chinese mother, we normally referred to these steamed buns as “bao” or “bau,” or by their Hawaiian nickname of “Manapua.”

When I was a kid, it was a rare (and beautiful) occasion when I got to eat these Chinese comforting breakfast buns.

So when I travled to China and realized that they were everywhere to be seen (especially for breakfast), I was pretty excited!

Baozi (包子)

Baozi (包子) Stall in Yangshuo, China

The buns are steamed on giant bamboo platters that are stacked on top of each other.

This particular man, is one of the most popular morning boazi vendors in Yangshuo. His steamed breakfast buns were being purchased like hot cakes.

People would stop their motorcycles and get a big bag of hot fresh buns to go!

Beautiful Selection of Baozi (包子)

Beautiful Selection of Baozi (包子)

While I was visiting China, I simply couldn’t resist the tempting scent of the baozi and the excitement of not having a clue as to what was inside and just pointing and choosing a random selection.

And you just never know what you might get inside!

Since I was doing a lot of hiking and biking, I allowed myself to really devour quite a lot of Chinese food (as you can see above).

Chinese food

Steamed Chinese Pork Bun

Cha siu bao (steamed buns filled with Chinese red barbecued pork), which is famous as a dim sum dumpling, is a popular type of baozi.

But I personally prefer the minced pork, garlic and onion dumpling. As the bun steams, the scrumptious porky oils coat the inside of the bun, making it wonderfully flavored.

Glutinous Rice Steamed Bun

Chinese Cinnamon Roll

Another favorite fo mine was what I started calling the Chinese cinnamon roll – a hearty piece of steamed dough wrapped full of glutinous rice and Chinese red beans.

It was deceivingly filling but excellent tasting.

Vegetable Stuffed Baozi

Vegetable Stuffed Baozi

Another favorite was the spontaneous vegetable baozi, an assortment of vegetables including cabbage, leek, and probably some pork oil.

Mantou (馒头)

Mantou (馒头)

If you aren’t so much inclined to devour a calorie boost of pork early in the morning, plain steamed baozi buns are also available.

Known as Mantou (馒头), the bread is steamed so it is fluffy, hot and often slightly sweetened.

I’d highly recommend a few pieces of mantou to go along with a morning cup of coffee.

Chinese Steamed Bread

Chinese Steamed Bread

Here’s another version of mantou, just plain steamed Chinese bread.

Crystal Baozi

Crystal Baozi

Warning: The Danger

Not knowing Chinese, I did all my ordering by the “point and eat method.”

It’s always fun to have a big bag of randomly chosen steamed buns and then having to bite into each one for a surprise.

And they were all delicious

…apart from one…known as the Crystal Baozi.

I excitedly bit into it, expecting deliciousness, but as my lips touched the crystal balls it turned into pure horror.

Yes, though I do enjoy almost all food throughout my travels, you’d have to tie me down and force me to eat another Cyrstal Baozi.

The bun was filled with pure chunks of translucent pig fat, known in Chinese as crystal balls, and I just can’t handle blatant lardy chunks of pure fat!

Apart from that single baozi, all the other baozi’s I sampled in China were outstanding, freshly steamed and dangerously tasty!

Do you like Chinese steamed baozi buns?

Do you love food and travel too?

If so, I'd love to give you my FREE street food guide, "41 Irresistible Meals You'll Travel to Eat," plus you'll receive exclusive street food updates (it's free)!


  1. says

    i grew up loving baozi (we call them siopao in the philippines) but somehow i never got to liking the authentic versions i had in china. those crystal baozi looked gnarly but i’d give it a whirl!

  2. says

    I agree, I definitely could have done without all the pork fat dishes in China. I also wasn’t always a fan of the vegetable baozi, because some of the vendors made them really salty–kind of a hit and miss really. Because of that I usually stuck with the pork which were always my favorite anyway. I love the rush of the gravy into your mouth when you first bite into one.

    • says

      Hey Daniel, yah, I guess unless you’re living somewhere for a long period of time and get to know your specific baozi vendor it always a little guessing as to the quality and taste of each bun. I agree though, just the original minced pork filling is nearly always a good choice.

  3. says

    This post has me salivating! Honestly, I know there are a lot of really good reasons to visit China, but one reason I am so excited to go is for the food! One of Tony’s favorite dishes in the world is cha siu bao, so I have a feeling he’ll be eating baozi every morning for breakfast (arguing he’s just doing what the locals do!). Can’t wait to try them all (though maybe not the crystal one!)!

  4. says

    It seems every country has a version of something doughy and stuffed with fillings. I like doughy things, so I would probably like most of the baozi. In El Salvador, their specialty is papusa. The dough is more like a smooth flatter piece, and the pork was my favorite there. I’m not sure what the US version is, because it seems our foods have been brought from all over the world.

    • says

      Hey Kathleen, you’re totally right, every country has some sort of pocket of bread with a filling – just made in different ways, and steamed or baked or fried. I’ve got a nomination for the American version… the pizza pocket! That’s a joke, but maybe??

  5. says

    mmm.. buns with lard?! How could that NOT taste good. Sounds good enough. Lol. I never knew there were so many different kinds. We grew up with the mince pork, egg and chinese sausage ones as well as the bbq pork. But these.. these look amazing – especially the chinese cinnamon roll! YUM!

  6. says

    When I firstly came to China and I was looking for something to eat for my breakfast I was told that Chinese mostly eat “Baozi” in the morning. I was like “What!? Dumplings for breakfast now way!” but I tried it and… I loved it. I’ve been away from China since May and I miss them a lot. Now I wish I could have one baozi for my breakfast. They are fat and oily though. My favourite baozi was a meat one :). Mmmmmm yummy!

  7. says

    Haha I loooove crystal baozi. In fact I didn’t like them too at first, but after a few tries I got used to the special texture and the sweetness got me.
    Maybe you’ll like them if you try some more.

  8. Nancy M says

    Any idea where I can find pork buns to buy in Bangkok? I’m trying to make a pork bun sandwich at home, a la David Chang at Momofuku. Had the delicious sandwiches at Opposite Mess Hall and want to make some for a home party. Thanks….

    • says

      Hey Nancy, honestly speaking, I’ve tried to find good baozi in Thailand, and have never really had anything worth recommending. I think you might be better off to make a recipe yourself!

  9. says

    I agree about the blatant, fatty foods here in China. Some Chinese people can stomach it, but I can’t. Skin and lard are two things I struggle with.

  10. Shanghaier says

    Pork, beef, chicken, mutton, fish, seafood…it seems there is nothing unstuffable.

    Oh and don’t forget Shaomai. In South China, Shaomai is usually stuffed with sticky rice, which tastes weird to me. But in North China, Shaomai is stuffed with meat and seafood, which makes it as perfect as Baozi to me.

    The difference is the skin of Shaomai is much thinner than that of Baozi and not fermented.

  11. Nan says

    I’m a Chinese, but I’ve never had anything like the “crystal baozi” before…Can’t believe it…It looks horrible…

  12. Seraph says

    Haha I’ve never seen such crystal baozi in Shanghai. What we call “crystal baozi” here is the type with crystal skin so you can see colorful stuffings inside usually from vegetables.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>