Closely related to the dumpling, bao buns are a fluffy, sweet Chinese treat that is used similarly to bread buns. The buns are predominantly sweet, but they can be filled with a wide range of fillings that perfectly complement and balance that sweetness.
The most popular fillings are pork belly and pickled vegetables. As it is possible to microwave various other traditional Chinese foods, can bao buns also be cooked in the microwave?
To microwave bao buns, wrap bao buns in damp paper towels, then microwave at 20-second intervals until the bao buns are piping hot.
How to Microwave Bao Buns
The key to microwaving bao buns is replicating the traditional steaming methods used to cook the buns since they were invented.
There are a few ways you can create steam in a microwave. For example, by using a microwave steamer.
However, microwave steamers are not something that everybody has. So, we have put together the best, most accessible method for microwaving bao buns by creating the perfect amount of steam in your microwave:
- Dampen Some Paper Towels
Grab a thin kitchen towel or a few clean paper towels and lightly dampen them.
- Wrap The Bun
Take the damp towels and wrap them around each bao bun that you plan to cook. Leave no part of the bun uncovered.
- Grab A Plate
On a microwavable plate, arrange the bao buns so that they are evenly spaced and do not touch each other.
Set your microwave to the highest setting that it will go. Then microwave the buns in 20-second intervals.
- Unwrap The Buns
As soon as the bao buns are boiling hot to the touch, take them out and unwrap them immediately. The longer you wait to remove the damp paper towels, the harder it will be to remove them at all.
You should fill and serve the bao buns immediately as they will get cold very quickly. Serve the buns with some of these options.
How to Microwave Bao Buns Successfully
Are you not sold on using the microwave for cooking your bao buns? Or still worried about messing up your hours of preparation?
Keep these few tips in mind when following the method above, and you can be sure to microwave your bao buns successfully:
- Only Use Damp Towels – The last thing you want to do is create a dangerous amount of steam in your microwave. So only use a very slightly damp. When we say damp, we mean hardly-touched-the-water kind of damp rather than wet enough to wring out.
- Keeping The Buns Warm – If you realise that the rest of your meal will take a little longer to cook but you have already microwaved all the bao buns you need, you can simply reheat them when you are ready. Place them on a covered plate and microwave at 50% heat for 20 seconds.
Why You Should Microwave Bao Buns
Those who have spent years mastering making the perfect traditional bao bun may think you are crazy for wanting to cook your bao buns in the microwave.
But doing so offers a lot of benefits when you are leading a busy modern life.
Perfect for Small Portions
If you live alone, you don’t want to have to cook a big batch of bao buns every time you want to enjoy them. With a microwave, you can choose to cook only 1 or 2 at a time, reducing the amount of food you waste.
All of the flavours of a bao bun is already locked in the bun itself. So, you will not need to worry about your microwaved bao buns being bland or tasteless.
Sure, you may want also to prepare a dipping sauce to go alongside the buns when you eat them, but that is not a necessity to enjoy microwaved bao buns, instead, it is more of an extra feature.
Why You Shouldn’t Microwave Bao Buns
Bao buns are a complex creation to master. The best bao recipes are those taken from traditional cookbooks where a steamer is the go-to cooking method.
While you can kind of recreate the same steaming technique with a microwave, there are still notable downsides to microwaving bao buns:
Even if you follow the above method and tips to a T, it is very likely that you will end up with soggy bao buns.
A microwave is an enclosed space where steam cannot escape until the door is open and the cooking stops. That is unlike a steamer, where the steam can escape, preventing the buns from getting too wet.
Whatever you do, microwaving your bao buns will not produce the same texture as steamed bao buns.
Poor for Large Portions
Bao buns are not the most leisurely meal to make from scratch.
There are specific techniques that you must follow for the perfectly sealed bun, hence why it is traditional for bao buns to be cooked in batches.
The limited space of a microwave will only allow you to cook a few bao buns simultaneously. This is fine if that is all you need, but it makes it a time-consuming method when feeding more than a couple of people.
Microwaving Bao Buns FAQs
If you’re still unsure about the process for microwaving bao buns then these FAQs might help you out:
This depends on the filling. Most meat fillings with a sauce can be microwaved as can some vegetables. Avoid microwaving any filling that has been combined with pickled foods, however.
Yes, frozen bao buns can be cooked from frozen. Use 20-second blasts in the microwave until they are piping hot in the centre.
Acacia may be a freelance writer by day, but they are a food fanatic by night. They are always trying out new recipes or finding different ways to elevate classical dishes. But their biggest culinary aim is to educate others on the basics of the kitchen so that they too can enjoy delicious food.