Making dumplings

History of Bao Buns

What are Bao Buns?

Bao buns are a delicacy throughout many parts of Asia. Bao is traditionally a white dough stuffed with a filling of choice and steamed to perfection. These buns can range in size and filling based on the region. Typical fillings include a mix of tender pork, beef, chicken, and vegetables. You can now find bao buns throughout the world slightly altered to fit the culture of the location. Let’s dive into the history of these delectable morsels. 

Origin of Bao Buns

Bao originated in Northern China and dated back to the Three Kingdoms period in the third century. Some argue that evidence of these buns can be traced back as far as 400 BC. There is a more extensive story about how Zhuge Liang created bao as a military strategy. 

The original bao bun was a fist-sized ball created using flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder, milk, and oil. The buns were pinched together on top and steamed to form a soft, sweet dough ball filled with meat. 

Bao Throughout Asia

This delicacy spread quickly throughout Asia, changing slightly from region to region. 

  • Hong Kong: These bao buns were changed from wheat to rice flour. The climate difference in this area created a more suitable environment for growing rice. The common filling for the buns found in Hong Kong was sweet barbeque pork. 
  • Taiwan: Taiwanese bao became a popular fast food item for a quick meal on the go. This version of bao was larger than traditional Chinese bao and typically filled with crab, beef, or sweet potato. 
  • Shanghai: The hugely popular soup dumplings we see throughout the US today were created in Shanghai. These dough balls are carefully crafted with a gelatine filling that turns into a delicious soup when steamed. The traditional way to enjoy these is to tear the dough, drink the soup, and then finish the dumpling. 

Bao in America 

Today, you can find versions of bao buns throughout the entire world. Bao made a massive splash in the United States, and restaurants dedicated to this Chinese delicacy became popular. 

The Dumpling School, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, provides an opportunity for groups to come together and learn the art of bao buns. Explore the multiple classes we offer that will teach you how to create a variety of dumplings. Sign up for a private dumpling class today! Give us a call at (617) 901-5159 for more information about booking a class for your event. 

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