The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

These steamed breads are a staple all over northern China, where wheaten foods are analogous to the rice of the south. The basic formula comes in various guises, from small, pillowy mouthfuls to fist-sized buns with a chewy firmness. There are also numerous spin-off variations, such as the couple here: the distinctive flower-shaped roll cooked with a sprinkling of spring onion inside, and our all-time favourite, small deep-fried ones you eat dipped in condensed milk, straight from the tin.


Quantity Ingredient
2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
500g strong plain flour
1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking powder


  1. Sprinkle the yeast over 340 ml lukewarm water in a large bowl, then set aside in a draught-free place for 5–6 minutes, or until foamy. Add the flour, sugar, salt and oil and stir with a wooden spoon to just bring the dough together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8–10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic (alternatively, knead using an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment).
  2. Form the dough into a ball, then place in a large, lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a draught-free place for 45–60 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. Knock back the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, then sprinkle with the baking powder and knead well to distribute the baking powder through the dough (or return the dough to the mixer to do this). Rest the dough for 20 minutes, loosely covered with a damp tea towel.
  3. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a long rectangle, about 70 cm long and 25 cm wide. Fold one-third of the dough back over onto itself, then fold the remaining third over the top, to form a triple-folded piece of dough that now measures about 23 cm in length. Roll out the dough until it is about 55 cm long, then brush liberally with water. Turn the dough so a long side is facing you. Starting from a long side, roll the dough up into a log. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 12 even pieces. Place each roll on a square of baking paper, placing the rolls so a smooth side is facing up (with the cut sides on the side).
  4. Working in two batches, if necessary, put the rolls in a large steamer and place over a wok or saucepan of boiling water, then cover and steam for 12–15 minutes, or until cooked through.
Real Food of China
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