Three open bao with a pork filling
What Is Bao?
Bao is a soft, steamed bun filled with various delicacies. This versatile Asian dish can be served for breakfast, eaten as a street snack, or offered as a party finger food.
Bao, also known as steamed buns, baozi, or humbow, is a doughy closed bun wrapped around filling and pinched at the top, but in Taiwan, "gua boa" refers to an open-faced version.
Bao is steamed — never boiled or fried — and the dough contains yeast, which gives it a bread-like texture. It's large and holds more filling than other Asian dumpling varieties.
To offset the soft, sweet dough, bao fillings are typically savory and include pork, especially barbecue-style, and soup-filled tangbaozi, which is slurped or sucked with a straw.
Vegetarian bao varieties include doushabao, filled with a bean paste made from navy, soy, mung, or adzuki beans. Bao can also be sweet, with fillings like custard and coconut jam.
Making bao involves considerable artistry, as the dough must be pulled, pleated, and pinched around the filling before steaming, so it's perhaps best left to the professionals.
In the U.S., you can sample xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung restaurants. The chefs making the bao can be seen through the windows, putting on a show for customers in the long line.