Bringing you the most amazing asian inspired party food ever…Steamed Bao filled with all the works. These fluffy steamed Bao Buns are made snowy white and totally dairy free , stuffed with sweet pulled Hawaiian style shoyu chicken. The topping is a quick and delicious Banh Mi slaw that is colorful and fun, and we’ll finish the whole thing with a drizzle of my very own Island Sauce. They are the ultimate finger food that you will wake up craving for the morning after!
I am in the middle of creating a Hawaiian inspired feature for a food magazine. For some reason, probably due to the fact that Hawaii is choke full of incredible food, it is taking me weeks to decide on the four dishes. Come last week which was my husbands birthday, I decided to try out a recipe idea I had and serve it at the surprise party. I have been wanting to try Bao at home for a while now and did all my research. I decided on fillings with complimenting flavors, and the result was incredible- so much better than I was imagining! The little finger size sandwiches were beautiful and bursting with color, and the flavors melted together in the perfect bite. Obviously I was stoked, because this recipe was definitely going to the be the cover photo, BUT after posting photos on Instagram, I got so many requests for the recipe that I couldn’t make you wait for another 2 months to try these! That wouldn’t be fair. So here it is!
Are you scared?
A four- part recipe is probably freaking some of you out right now. I totally get it!!!! But trust me, the most time consuming part of this process is the making of the Bao itself, which you will find to be pleasantly relaxing. Give yourself a clean space to work and some me-time, and you will really enjoy this! Once the buns are made, all the components are a dump and mix situation, although it would never look that way- your friends won’t believe you made these yourself!
TIP: The Banh Mi Slaw is great as a side dish and a topping for sliders and tacos, and the Island Sauce goes well with pretty much anything- Poke Bowls, Burgers, and wontons. Plan your menu to use these on other dishes too!
A lot of Bao recipes call for water and milk, but that isn’t necessary to get that famously super fluffy bun. These are completely dairy free Bao, a little sweet- and so addictive! I used both flour and cornstarch in this recipe for the snowy-white color, and two leavening agents as well. The yeast makes the Bao dough rise and the baking powder helps the Bao stay split open at the edges while they steam, so you can fill them with ease.
- mix- first make the dough by mixing the wet ingredients together, giving the yeast time to get nice and foamy and active. at the same time whisk together the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. add the two together and knead for 4 minutes. if you don’t have a stand mixer you can do this by hand. after 4 minutes, the dough should be smooth and no longer stick to the bowl. take it out and shape it into a ball with your hands, giving it an extra knead to make sure it is smooth. the dough will be fluffy and soft. place it back into the bowl, cover it and let it sit till doubled in size, around 2 hours.
- roll- lightly flour a clean work surface. we really don’t want to add any more flour than needed here so be sparing! roll out the bao dough with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thick. using a cookie cutter or the edge of a medium size wineglass, cut out rounds. repurpose the extra dough, roll it out, and repeat until all the dough is used.
- oil– gently brush each round with oil. I keep a couple tablespoons of oil in a little dish and dip my fingers in. the oil will keep the bao from completely closing-very important. gently fold each oiled bao in half and lightly give each a roll with a rolling pin(otherwise they will just pop open). they will look like lips from the side!
- rest– place the finished bao on a parchment sheet and as many as will fit into your steamer in a single layer, not touching, fitted with a piece of parchment or a coffee filter(to prevent the buns from sticking to the steamer). let them rest for 30 minutes, until puffed up and super fluffy.
- steam– heat some water in a wok or frying pan and carefully place the steamer on top with the lid on. steam for 8 minutes. let the bao cool for a moment before transferring and doing the next batch.
- store in an airtight container once cooled, until ready to serve. freeze in an airtight bag immediately.
Pulled Shoyu Chicken
This is our favorite easy-as-a-pie chicken recipe. Shoyu means soy sauce in Japanese and this marinade is a simple sauce made from equal parts soy sauce, sugar and water. Add in fresh minced ginger and garlic, and a dash of red pepper flakes and that’s it! The chicken gets boiled in this mix until it is falling off the bone and fork-tender. It will render a beautiful brown color. In Hawaii people say shoyu chicken is somehow even better the next day, and there’s something to that! You can make this a day in advance, and shred before using.
Banh Mi Slaw
The Vietnamese version of coleslaw, this side packs serious flavor, tang, and crunch. We use a beautiful mix of red and green cabbage with red bell pepper strips, fresh cilantro, and spicy diced jalapeño. Make sure to cut the vegetables small and thin because these Bao sandwiches are mini! For the dressing, I chose a mix of the traditional rice vinegar and sugar, a dash of lemon juice, and lots of sesame oil and sesame seeds.
To make the Banh Mi Slaw simply add all the veggies to a big bowl, season, and toss to combine! This keeps for a few days in the fridge.
Another Hawaiian inspired recipe, this Island sauce is used on Kauai to serve with Ahi Katsu(a dish that will be featured in the magazine spread), Poke Nachos, and basically anything and everything else. It’s a simple 4 ingredients– mayonnaise, mustard, soy sauce, and lemon juice- but the flavors produce something spectacular.
This Island Sauce adds the perfect kick for our Little Bao sandwiches! Just mix it in a small bowl until well combined. You can keep it in a glass jar in the fridge for at least a week or two.
I hope you guys try these amazing Island Style Bao with Shoyu Chicken and Banh Mi Slaw! It is totally worth it to buy a bamboo steamer- they are very cheap and durable, and fun to use, not to mention healthy. Find one on Amazon or at your local health food store/asian market. I will be posting more recipes using the steamer so don’t worry that you won’t use it!!! Happy Cooking loves, and please come say Hi on Insta to share your food photos <3
The Best Island Style Steamed Bao Buns with Shoyu Chicken and Banh Mi Slaw
- Bamboo Steamer
The Best Bao Buns
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 Tbs active dry yeast
- 4 Tbs sugar, divided
- 3 Tbs canola oil
- 2 1/4 cup sifted white flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
Shoyu Chicken Filling
- 3-4 chicken breast or 4 drumsticks, skin removed
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup shoyu(soy sauce)
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
Banh Mi Slaw
- 1 cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 2 cup green cabbage, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup red bell pepper, thinly sliced into strips
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 1 Tbs jalapeno pepper, diced, or 1/2 Tbs for less heat
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 tsp black sesame seeds
- 1 Tbs sugar OR honey
- 1 Tbs sesame oil
- 4 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 3 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/3 cup mayonaisse
- 1/2 Tbs mustard
- 1/2 Tbs shoyu(soy sauce)
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- In a medium bowl, combine warm water with yeast, 2 Tablspoons of the sugar, and oil. Let it sit until foamy and frothy- about 10 minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients bowl. Start the mixer on low to slowly incorporate all the ingredients and then switch to medium-high speed and knead for 4 minutes(set a timer!). The dough should be smooth and no longer stick to the mixing bowl. Take it out and shape it into a ball on the counter, giving it an extra knead with your hands if necessary so the dough is completely smooth. Place it back into the mixing bowl, cover it, and let it rise till doubled in size, about an hour and a half. I've left it for 2 1/2 hours and that was great too! When the dough is ready it will make webs as you pull it away from the bowl.
- Lightly dust your work surface with flour and roll out the bao dough to 1/4 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter or the rim of a medium sized wine glass, cut out rounds from the dough(about 3 1/2 inch each). This recipe makes about 20-24 Bao. Re-shape the extra dough with your hands and roll that out also until you have used all the dough.
- Add a couple Tablespoons of oil to a small container, dip your fingers into the oil and lightly brush the tops of each circle. This keeps the insides of the bao from sticking to each other as they steam. Working one at a time, fold the bao in half and use a rolling pin to gently press the halves together. They will look like lips from the side! Mwa! Place the bao on a parchment sheet and let rise for 30 minutes.
- TO COOK: Heat up some water in a frying pan or wok(the water cannot touch the bottom of the steamer so check it!).Place a coffee filter or piece of parchment paper in the bottom of your steamer and add in as many bao as will fit without them touching- they will expand so keep that in mind. Mine fit 5-7 at a time. Carefully place the steamer with the lid on, on top of the boiling water. Let steam for 8 minutes without removing the lid. Move the whole steamer to the side and let it cool for a minute before removing the bao and doing the next batch. Store in an airtight container until ready to fill and eat!
Shoyu Chicken Filling
- [Make the filling while the bao dough is resting. The chicken can also be made a day before but wait to shred it till the day of] Add sugar, water, shoyu, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes to a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and carefully add the skinned chicken of your choice. Cover and cook on medium-low for one hour, flipping occasionally. When the chicken is done it should be falling off the bone and the color rich brown on all sides. Shred the meat from the bones, set it aside.
Banh Mi Slaw
- Combine all ingredients for the slaw in a large bowl and toss to combine. This can be made up to a day beforehand.
- Add mayo, mustard, shoyu, and lemon juice to a small bowl and whisk with a fork until combined. Transfer some of the sauce to a ziplock bag and zip the top. When ready to use we'll snip the corner off the bag to get the perfect drizzle.
- When ready to serve lay out all the components- Bao, pulled chicken, slaw, and the baggie of sauce. Gently open each Bao, being careful not to break it into two. Fill with pulled shoyu chicken and top with Banh Mi Slaw. Arrange on the serving platter, snip the tip off the corner of the ziplock with the island sauce, and drizzle over the top of each Bao. Enjoy! *The bao can be frozen after cooked and everything can be made up to a day in advance.