1 January 2021

Sticky Mushroom Bao Buns

Happy New Year and Happy Veganuary! It only felt right to kick off the year with a favourite recipe of mine, one that will soon be yours too - fluffy steamed bao buns filled with sticky and rich Asian mushrooms and spicy, crunchy kimchi, contrasted with creamy mayo and cooling cucumber.  These mushrooms are so incredible - chewy, sticky and a rich umami flavour with aniseed notes, akin to hoisin sauce; the cucumber and spring onions are such a welcome combination to the fluffy bao for this very reason.

These are oh so moreish and once you've made them you'll be wondering why you haven't been making bao this whole time - they're so much easier than you might think and absolutely worth the little bit of effort required to knead, roll and steam them!

This recipe became one of my absolute favourites during 2020. I got really into making doughs and breads during lockdown - sourdough, tortillas, pasta, flatbreads and of course bao buns. Eating them probably a little too often I was conscious of all the white flour I was consuming so I thought I'd try out 50/50 white and wholemeal and these were a firm favourite over the white flour bao. They have a slightly deeper, nuttier flavour and are still just as fluffy, a little chewy and delicious!

The kimchi adds such a wonderful tangy, spicy and fresh flavour to the bao, with a fantastic crunch too. Most supermarkets now stock vegan kimchi (watch out for fish in regular kimchi), but for gut-boosting kimchi, full of probiotics check out your local health food shop or you could make it yourself. The kimchi I used is homemade, which means you can make the flavours as you like and it's much more cost-effective to make a big batch yourself!

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Sticky Mushroom Bao Buns | Yield: 10 Bao Buns | Prep Time: 30 mins (+ 1.5 hours proofing time) | Cook Time: 20 mins 

You'll need

  • Large bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Rolling pin
  • Baking tray
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Flour for dusting  
  • Oil for brushing
  • Pastry brush
  • Frying pan
  • 3x steamer pans/baskets


Bao buns

  • 1 cup plain flour (130g)
  • 1 cup strong wholemeal flour (130g)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1.5 tsp fast-action/instant yeast
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 130g unsweetened soy milk, lukewarm (this is important to activate the yeast) 
  • 1 tbsp oil

Sticky mushrooms:

  • 1 tbsp oil 
  • 200g mixed mushrooms (I used oyster, king oyster, maitake & shiitake)
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp brown miso paste 
  • 1 tsp Chinese 5 spice 
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil

To serve:

  • 1/2 cup vegan kimchi
  • 3-4 tbsp vegan mayo
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 2 spring onions
  • Handful coriander leaves 
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds


Bao dough:
  1. To make the bao, mix the flours, sugar, yeast, baking powder and salt together. Then add the warm soy milk (ensure it's not too hot or it will kill the yeast) and tbsp of oil. Bring together in the bowl, then transfer onto the surface and knead well for 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth. 
  2. Oil the bowl and place the dough back inside, cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for 1 hour until doubled in size (in the winter I use a just warm oven that's been heated for a few minutes and then turned off).
  3. Knockback the dough by punching it down into the bowl, then turn out onto a floured surface. Divide the mixture into 10 equal-sized pieces and roll into balls with your hands. 
  4. Cut up 10 squares of grease-proof paper, around 5cm and place on a baking tray. Then take a ball of dough at a time and roll into an oval around 1cm thick with a floured rolling pin. Brush the surface with oil, gently fold the top of the oval over to meet the bottom and place on a square of greaseproof paper. Repeat with the rest of the dough and allow to proof in a warm spot for another 30 minutes.
Cooking and assembly:
  1. Bring a steamer pan of water to the boil.
  2. Heat the frying pan to medium-high, add a splash of oil, tear the mushrooms and add to the pan. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until slightly browned and the water has cooked off.
  3. Meanwhile, add the bao (with the greaseproof paper) to the steamer pan, pop the lid on and steam for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and transfer the bao to a plate.
  4. Mix together the soy sauce, rice wine, maple syrup, miso and 5 spice and add to the cooked mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes until sticky and reduced, stirring often then turn off the heat and stir through the sesame oil. Pop a lid on the pan to keep the mushrooms warm whilst you prep the serving ingredients. 
  5. Chop the kimchi into smaller pieces and slice the cucumber and spring onions into thin slices. Remove the coriander from the stem and grab the vegan mayo and sesame seeds. 
  6. To assemble the bao, peel off the greaseproof paper and gently separate the two halves, ready to fill. Start with a little mayo on both sides, then the cucumber slices, mushrooms, kimchi and finally the spring onions, coriander and a little sprinkling of sesame seeds. Repeat with the remaining bao, serve up and enjoy! 
Cassidy xx