Banh bao are typically served as an appetizer or snack food.
They’re also known as banh chung (or banh cho) in Vietnam, which means “steamed bread.”
These steamed breads have been around for centuries.
Banh baos have evolved over time, but they all share similar characteristics.
Here’s everything you need to know about this classic Vietnamese food.
What Is The History Of Banh Bao?
Bánh báo has its roots in China—specifically from the Tang Dynasty.
In fact, it was during the Chinese imperial court where these steamed breads became popularized.
It wasn’t until later when European traders brought them back to Europe that people started eating them again.
The Portuguese were first to bring banh bao back to their home country.
As early as 1510, Portuguese sailors began trading with Vietnam.
This trade relationship eventually led to the spread of banh bao into neighboring countries like France, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand.
What Are The Traditional Ingredients In Banh Bao?
The most basic versions of banh bao contain rice flour, water, salt, sugar, yeast, and eggs.
You may add more ingredients depending on what type of banh bao you want to create.
In addition to these main ingredients, there are several others that may be added to your banh bao dough.
Some examples include sesame seeds, peanuts, mung bean sprouts, mushrooms, carrots, cucumber slices, dried shrimp, scallions, cilantro leaves, and fish sauce.
If you choose to use any of these additional ingredients, remember that you should always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer when making your own version of banh bao.
If you don’t feel like adding anything else, you can just stick to using the standard ingredients listed above.
That said, here are some fun ideas for how to customize your banh bao.
How Do You Make Banh Bao?
There are many different styles of banh bao — from sweet to savory — depending on what kind of filling your family likes most.
You can even customize these foods by adding extra veggies, meat, herbs, or spices.
The following recipes include two types of banh bao: one version filled with ground chicken, another version stuffed with shrimp paste.
What Are Some Creative Ways To Fill Banh Bao?
Banh bao come in countless varieties.
There are different shapes, sizes, and flavors.
You can even get them stuffed with things like crab meat, chicken, shrimp, or duck!
If you want more information on how to make your own banh bao, check out our guide here.
Pork banh bao
The most typical way to serve banh bao is to stuff it full of ground pork.
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of making these yourself, there are plenty of places where you can buy pre-made banh bao.
However, if you want something unique, try filling your banh bao with sweet barbecue sauce instead of just plain old pork.
It might be hard to believe, but barbecued meats taste great when paired with banh bao.
Vegetable banh bao
In addition to ground pork, many people use veggies to flavor their banh bao.
For example, one variation includes carrots, cilantro, green onions, and bell peppers.
Another uses jalapeño slices, cabbage leaves, and basil.
You could also combine different types of vegetables together to create something new.
Try mixing broccoli florets, red onion, and mushrooms into your banh bao mix.
Shrimp banh bao
People who love seafood tend to enjoy shrimp banh bao.
One simple version pairs minced garlic with scallions, soy sauce, fish sauce, and black pepper.
Others add crushed peanuts, lime juice, and Sriracha chili sauce.
Other versions include dried shrimp, squid ink, and fresh herbs.
What Are Some Common Banh Bao Toppings?
You don’t have to be picky when it comes to filling your banh bao.
There are plenty of options available, including meatballs, barbecued chicken wings, fried shrimp, sautéed mushrooms, spring rolls, and even rice noodles!
The following list includes some of the most commonly used banh bao fillings:
Meatball Banh Bao
This classic banh bao topping uses ground beef and minced garlic.
It’s perfect if you want something simple, yet flavorful enough to impress guests.
Barbequed Chicken Wing Banh Bao
This banh bao stuffing uses barbeque sauce and crispy barbequed chicken wing pieces.
You’ll get tender chicken that stays juicy while still being slightly charred on the edges.
Shrimp Banh Bao
For those who prefer seafood, there’s another great option.
This banh bao filling uses fresh jumbo shrimp and scallions.
It’s one of our favorite banh bao recipes because it tastes like a cross between Chinese-style wonton soup and Italian pasta salad.
Spring Roll Banh Bao
Another easy way to enjoy banh bao is by making them into spring roll banh bao.
These delicious wraps use rice paper wrappers instead of steamed bread.
They come together quickly and are super healthy too.
Sautéd Mushrooms Banh Bao
If you crave more veggies in your banh bao, this mushroom stuffing is sure to satisfy.
Sautéed mushrooms give these banh bao a rich flavor without adding any extra oil or fat.
Fried Rice Noodles Banh Bao
Rice noodle banh bao may sound weird at first, but trust us—it works.
Here, the crispy rice noodles replace the steamed bun.
This recipe makes it easier than ever to prepare banh bao at home.
How Do You Eat Banh Bao?
You may be wondering how exactly banh bao are eaten.
Here’s what you should expect when you order them at your favorite restaurant.
First, take out one bun from its wrapper.
Then remove it from its plastic bag and place it on a plate.
Next, tear off the top part of the bun.
Remove any remaining wrappers and discard them.
Finally, open up the bun by gently pulling apart the sides until it opens like a book.
Place the contents inside the bun.
The next step is to add whatever topping(s) you want.
You can choose between meat, seafood, veggies, sauce, soup, etc.
Once you’ve added the desired filling, close the bun back up and enjoy!
There are many different types of banh bao fillings available.
Some people prefer the more simple versions while others go wild with creative combinations.
When ordering banh bao online or elsewhere, most restaurants will offer standard options like beef tendon, chicken breast, tripe, pork belly, fish ball, shrimp paste, eggplant, mushroom, bean sprouts, cabbage, cucumber, scallion, coriander leaves, mint leaves, garlic, chili pepper, cilantro, lemon grass, ginger, sugar, salt, rice wine, and black vinegar.
Some places might even include unusual fillings such as crabmeat, squid, tofu, and fried eggs.
If you don’t see anything listed here, ask your server for suggestions!
If you’d rather not get fancy, there are plenty of easy-to-make recipes available online.
Just search for “banh bao recipe” and you’ll be good to go.
What Are Some Popular Banh Bao Variations?
Vietnam has a wide range of banh bao varieties.
You’ll find them at almost any fast-food restaurant in the country.
You won’t be able to walk into a grocery store without seeing a few different types of banh bao on display.
But these aren’t just random products—they’ve got their own specialties!
Here are just a few of the most popular ones:
Spring roll banh bao
If spring rolls are your favorite type of banh bao, then you should definitely give this one a try.
It’s actually pretty simple to make.
Just take a large baguette loaf and cut it lengthwise down the middle.
Then split each half horizontally.
Next, add two thin sheets of rice paper, then place some filling inside.
Fold both sides up towards the center, leaving the bottom open.
Shrimp banh bao
The shrimp banh bao may look like something from a fast-food chain, but you’d never guess it was created by a restaurant.
To prepare this tasty treat, start out by preparing a dipping sauce.
Combine 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, ½ cup water, and ¼ cup lime juice.
Next, you’ll want to get your hands on some fresh jumbo shrimp.
Peel off the shells and devein the shrimp.
Slice the head off of the shrimp and remove the tail meat.
Chop the rest of the shell and discard.
Now, heat oil in a wok or sauté pan.
Once hot enough, fry the chopped shrimp until golden brown.
Remove from heat and set aside.
To assemble the shrimp banh bao, first slice the dough crosswise into 4 equal pieces.
Each piece must be approximately 3 inches long and 1 inch thick.
Now, use tongs to pick up each piece of dough and lay it flat in front of you.
Take the sliced shrimp and spread three slices across the top of the bun.
Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top.
Finally, fold the top edge of the bun down, then wrap the ends of the bun around the filling.
Roll the bun tightly to close it completely.
Repeat steps above to complete the remaining buns.
Serve immediately, while still warm.
Pork banh bao
This banh bao is best enjoyed when prepared with ground pork.
Start out by cutting the dough into four equal parts.
Cut each part diagonally into quarters, making 16 triangles per portion.
For the filling, mix together the pork, scallions, green onion, cilantro leaves, garlic, ginger, egg yolk, salt, and sesame seeds.
Place ⅓ cup of the mixture onto each triangle and seal the edges together.
Repeat steps above to create the remaining banh baos.
Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Vegetable banh bao
When you order your vegetable banh bao, ask for it to be wrapped in lettuce leaves instead of plastic wrap.
That way you can enjoy the crunchy texture of the greens along with your meal.
Start out by slicing 8 ounces of carrots into bite-sized cubes.
Add 5 cups of shredded cabbage and cook in boiling salted water for 20 minutes or until tender.
Drain and let cool slightly.
Once cooled, chop the carrot and cabbage roughly.
Heat 6 tablespoons of coconut oil in a frying pan.
When hot, toss in half of the chopped veggies and stir well to coat in oil.
Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until crispy.
Take the cooked veggies out of the pan and repeat step above with another batch of veggies.
In a separate bowl, combine the ground beef, eggs, soy sauce, oyster sauce, cornstarch, rice wine, and black pepper.
Mix thoroughly using your fingers.
Using a pair of scissors, cut 12-inch lengths of bamboo skewers.
Preheat a grill pan or stovetop griddle over medium-high heat.
Soak each skewer in cold water for five minutes.
Thread the meat mixture evenly onto the skewers.
Grill until cooked through, about 7 to 9 minutes per side.
Remove from heat and serve immediately, garnished with cucumber, cilantro, and extra soy sauce if desired.
Where Can You Find Banh Bao?
You can buy fresh banh bao at any Asian grocery store or restaurant.
You may even see them sold on the street!
But if you want to try making your own banh bao from scratch, here’s how it works.
Step 1: Making the dough
This part is easy.
Just mix up some flour with salt and sugar using a blender or whisk until combined well.
Then add water slowly while mixing until the mixture forms into a ball.
Let the dough rest for 15 minutes before proceeding.
Step 2: Rolling out the dough
Now comes the best part: rolling out the dough.
Use a floured board to roll out the dough.
It should be thin enough to fit into a bun pan without tearing too much when you fold it over onto itself.
If the dough starts to tear easily, don’t worry—just patch it back together with your fingers.
Use a round cookie cutter to cut out circles.
These circular shapes allow more room inside each bun.
Step 3: Filling the buns
For the filling, use whatever meat, vegetable, or herbs you like.
Some people prefer vegetarian options because they think animal protein makes the bun tastier.
Other folks enjoy adding cheese, eggs, shrimp paste, or mushrooms to their banh bao.
But if you want to try something new, there are plenty of different combinations available.
Step 4: Cooking the buns
Once you’ve gathered all your materials and tools, follow these simple steps to finish cooking your buns.
First, heat a pan with oil over medium-high heat.
Once the oil is hot, put one hand in the cold water bowl and dip your hands in the warm water for a few seconds.
Take your wet hands out of the water bowl and place them on top of the dough circle.
Gently push down on the center of the circle to flatten it out slightly, then lift up and rotate it 180 degrees.
Repeat this process three times to form the shape of a half moon.
Place the flattened dough inside the preheated pan, seam side down, and cook for two minutes.
Next, flip the dough over and cook for another two minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes before removing the buns from the pan.
Why Is Banh Bao So Popular?
In modern-day Vietnam, banh bao are often eaten at weddings, birthdays, holidays, graduations, funerals, and even on New Year’s Eve.
The tradition of eating these steaming rolls dates back hundreds of years ago when it was brought by Chinese immigrants who settled in Vietnam during the 19th century.
Today, many Vietnamese people are still very fond of banh bao, especially those living outside of Vietnam.
In fact, there are now several restaurants throughout North America and Europe that serve different types of banh bao.
If you visit Hanoi, you might be able to sample one of their famous street foods called banh tieu.
These dishes are usually sold from small carts along busy streets like Le Thanh Ton.
You should definitely try them if you ever go to Hanoi!
How Long Will Banh Bao Keep?
The best way to prevent your banh bao from going bad is by wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap and placing them in the refrigerator.
If you forget to refrigerate your banh bao, just pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds—it won’t affect their texture.
You can also freeze banh bao if you want to save space in your freezer.
Just wrap them well in either aluminum foil or parchment paper before freezing them.
Once frozen, transfer your banh bao to resealable bags or containers.
- Banh Bao Mix
- Bamboo Steamer
- Wooden Rolling Pin
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 1 package instant yeast
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ lb ground pork
- 3 tbsp wood ear mushrooms minced
- ¼ yellow onions minced
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 2 Chinese sausages thinly sliced
- 4 eggs boiled cut into 4
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
- Prepare the pieces of parchment paper. 16 55 inch pieces of parchment paper should be cut out. Place aside.
- creating the dough Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl. Place aside
- The milk should be warmed up (100-110 degrees F). yeast, then stir. Until it foams, give the mixture 10 minutes to settle. Stir in the sugar and vegetable oil until well-combined.
- The dry ingredients from step 1 should now be combined with the wet ingredients in a sizable mixing bowl. With your hands, combine. The dough should be poured onto a floured surface and kneaded for ten minutes after all the ingredients have been combined. If the dough seems too wet, add extra flour. When you poke the dough and it slowly springs back at you, the dough has been sufficiently kneaded. Once finished, place it in an oiled dish and wrap it with a cloth. Give it an hour to rise in a warm location.
- Prepare the additional ingredients while the dough is rising. Your eggs should be boiled before being cut into four pieces. Chinese sausages should be sliced. Place aside.
- Create the pork stuffing. You’ll need ground pork, wood ear mushrooms, yellow onion chopped, fish sauce, oyster sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar to prepare your pork filling. Just combine after combining. 16 equal, spherical pieces of the pork filling should be divided up and placed aside.
- Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces once the proving is complete. Each piece should be rolled out into a thin circle with a diameter of 4–4.5 inches. The center should be thicker than the outer margins. A thin center should be avoided.
- Fill the center of the filling with 1 piece of pork filling, 1 piece of Chinese sausage, and 1 piece of egg. Use the dough’s outer borders to enclose the filling.
- The dough should be folded and crimped until it completely encases the filling. Images up above provide examples. Put a piece of parchment paper between each bao.
- Get your steamer pot ready. Add a dab of rice wine vinegar and simmer the water. Throughout this procedure, be sure to maintain a simmer.
- Banh baos should be steamed for 15–17 minutes. As each bao will expand, make sure there is at least 1 inch between each one.