Five ways to cook steam buns (bao) without a steamer

Malaysian steamed buns or (Malaysians know as “pau”) are a delicious staple at every dinner across Asia and the world. It’s easy to see why: the soft airy texture, elasticity and freshness make them not only irresistible but also suited to an endless range of cooking applications! Pau are one of the many Chinese culinary influences that were brought to Malaysia by Chinese immigrants whose contributions later formed the basis of the “Nyonya” cooking style. Whether eaten either as a snack or an accompaniment to the main meal, our frozen pau is also available filled with mouthwatering savoury and sweet fillings such as pandan coconut, curry or black sesame.

Pau is traditionally cooked using a bamboo steamer, and it’s this technique that diffuses moisture into the bun to give it that much loved puffy texture. At the same time, any excess moisture buildup is absorbed into the bamboo weaving. This avoids moisture droplets from building up and soaking through the bun. If you are away from home or in other parts of the world, sometimes a bamboo steamer might not be on hand but don’t worry, there are some inventive alternative methods you can use to cook steamed buns without a steamer! All of these cooking methods can be done successfully with our frozen bao, without the need for defrosting.

Cooking Steamed Buns in the Microwave 

Steaming bao in the microwave is a great technique because it’s fast, simple and microwaves are a common fixture in many kitchens across the world. You will need:

  • – A microwave
  • – A plate
  • – A bowl
  • – Paper towels

How to steam a bun in the microwave:

  1. 1. Take your paper towel, dampen it with water and ring out the excess
  2. 2. Wrap your bun in the damp paper town and put on a microwavable plate
  3. 3. Take a bowl and lightly wet the inside by running it under the tap before placing over the wrapped up bun on your plate
  4. 4. Microwave this for 1 minute at a time on a medium setting until suitably cooked

It’s important to microwave the bun in short intervals on a medium setting. If you microwave it for too long at a high setting, the bun will dry out and become hard. 

Steam Using a Sieve

You can replicate a steamer with very little effort by placing your buns in a common kitchen sieve or colander, then suspending it over boiling water. Creating a tower from plates and tea towels will stop the steam from escaping, causing your buns to steam cook! The equipment needed for this method couldn’t be simpler:

  • – A sieve/colander (preferably metal)
  • – A boiling pan (just large enough for the sieve to rest in)
  • – Boiling pan lid top

How to steam buns using a sieve:

  1. 1. Fill up your boiling pan with a few inches of water
  2. 2. Place your sieve in the pan and make sure the water level does not submerge the lowest point of the sieve
  3. 3. Place your buns on either sheets of cooking paper, cabbage or lettuce leaves before placing in the sieve. This will stop them from sticking to the sieve mesh
  4. 4. Place the loaded sieve into the boiling pan and place the pan lid on top of the sieve before making airtight with layers of tea towels 
  5. 5. Turn on to the highest gas mark and leave to cook for ten minutes. You’ll need a high intense heat to generate enough hot steam for the cooking process. 

Deep-Fried Steamed Buns

Using nothing more than a wok with oil, you can effectively deep fry your buns. This is will of course produce a very different finish, but the technique comes with its own unique flavour profile and texture. You will need:

  • – A large wok
  • – Oil (sesame oil works great to give the buns a nutty flavour but you can use any oil of your choice) 
  • – A stove

How to fry steamed buns:

  1. 1. Add the oil to a wok and heat until (150°C)
  2. 2. Deep fry for approx 3 minutes until golden brown.
  3. 3. Turn frequently to achieve even colour.

Cooking Steamed Buns in the Oven

You can make a quick and easy improvised steaming device using a tin foil baking dish and boiling pan! 

  • – A deep circular foil baking dish (for a pie)
  • – Boiling pan with a cover lid (with a slightly larger circumference than your foil baking dish)
  • – Baking paper

How to make your own bun steamer:

  1. 1. Cut out a circular piece of baking paper roughly the same size as your foil baking dish
  2. 2. Turn the foil baking dish upside down and put your piece of baking paper on top of it
  3. 3. Poke about 12 evenly-spaced holes through the paper and foil using a sharp knife or other pointed implement
  4. 4. Coat the paper top in a layer of oil to stop buns sticking
  5. 5. ill the boiling pan with few inches of water and put the aluminium baking tray and paper top inside, the water level should be just below the depth of the aluminium baking tray
  6. 6. Place the buns on top of the baking paper layer and cover the boiling pan with it’s lid
  7. 7. Cook over a medium high heat to produce enough steam for around 20 minutes

Steamed Buns from PA Food

The joy of mouth-watering pau steam buns is accessible to anyone anywhere in the world! As a proud Malaysian family-run business, it’s our mission to share the unique tastes of Malaysian cuisines through our range of frozen steamed buns. In fact, our founder and Mr Ding invented Malaysia’s first-ever halal steam bun, an achievement that has made PA Food Malaysia’s most revered food producers. Our range of pau now makes it easy for more and more people across the world to store and enjoy this mouthwatering delicacy. With a range of both halal and vegetarian options, everyone can now enjoy our steam buns. If you are interested in importing PA Food steam buns from Malaysia’s most authentic food producer, contact our friendly commercial team who will be happy to help! 

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