Sourdough Steamed Buns

Have you ever had a steamed bun? And if so, did you know that it’s actually a sourdough product?

Bapao, mantou, baozi: steamed buns are a standard feature in various Asian cuisines. If you’ve ever had dim sum or Indonesian rice table, chances are you’ve tried a steamed bun. But did you know that it’s actually a wheat-based sourdough product that originated in northern China?

Most people associate China with rice rather than wheat bread – but these traditional buns are actually very popular in China. Chinese bakers use sourdough rather than yeast to make steamed buns. The result is a white, sticky, fluffy, crustless delicacy. Steamed buns are a staple served at every meal, either plain or filled with meat, vegetables, or herbs and spices, often accompanied by sauces or condiments to spice up the basic flavour. A staggering 700 million of these tasty sourdough treats are sold daily: in restaurants, grocery stores, franchises, department stores, food trucks and marketplaces. Let that sink in for a moment. Steamed buns. Seven hundred million of them. Every. Single. Day.

Intrigued, Puratos sourdough expert Karl De Smedt booked a flight to China to find out all about steamed buns. He visited a traditional bakery in northern China, tried his hand at folding the elaborate shapes himself, and flew to Shanghai to meet with the country’s foremost expert on sourdough. Karl even received a sourdough sample from a woman who still makes her steamed buns entirely by hand. This very special family recipe was passed down from mother to daughter for generations. Once Karl returned with his precious cargo, we added it to our Sourdough Library in Belgium, where it will be preserved for future generations.