Best Nikuman (Baozi)

Nikuman (Baozi) Recipe

Nikuman (肉まん), also known as Bāozi in China, are the Asian equivalent to sandwiches in the West. With a savory meat and vegetable filling wrapped in dough and steamed, they make a complete meal that can be eaten on the go without utensils.

While convenient, I’ve always been a little weary of the mystery-meat filled bun you can buy at the store. They taste good, but the bleached white dough is often too sweet, the skimpy filling a little prepubescent, and the unidentifiable meat inexplicably pink.

On a recent trip to Kyoto, I made the mistake of boarding a noon train without buying lunch. By the time the bullet train reached Kyoto station I was ready to start gnawing on the seat in front of me. It didn’t help that the guy sitting next to me had brought on a bento box and a tallboy of beer.

As I entered the station from the platform, the sweet smell of pork perfumed the air. Led by my nose like a bloodhound, I soon found myself standing in front of a stalled called Horai 551, in line with a bunch of other hungry travelers.

I don’t know if it was my hunger or Horai 551′s recipe, but it was the best nikuman I’d ever had. With a relatively thin bun and incredibly soft and juicy filling redolent of onions, I ended up back in line for a second bun.

Meat filling on dough ready to be wrapped

I’ve been trying to recreate Horai 551′s nikuman since that trip, getting closer with each batch. Today’s batch not only met my expectations, I dare say it was better than Horai’s. The filling is moist and tender with loads of umami coming from the meat, mushrooms and onions. The fluffy, mildy sweet bun is a wonderful contrast to the dense savory filling.

The trick is to use a mixture of ground pork and sliced pork belly, the extra fat ensures that your filling is juicy. The trouble is, too much juice, and your bun gets soggy. That’s where the cornstarch and egg white comes in. They not only act as a tenderizer, they also help bind the juices to the meat so they don’t absorb into the bun.

Baozi with mustard

This recipe makes 8 large meal-sized buns, but you can just divide everything into 16 segments to make appetizer sized buns that are perfect for bringing to potlucks.

They’re best straight out of the steamer, but they do take a bit of time to make, so I like to make a large batch and freeze them. Nikuman keeps for about a month in the freezer. To bring them back to life, just wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave for a few minutes.


Nikuman (Baozi)
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Rating: 4.33
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Nikuman, also known as Baozi is a Chinese sweet bun filled with a succulent meat and onion filling.
Nikuman (Baozi)
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 6
Rating: 4.33
You:
Rate this recipe!
Nikuman, also known as Baozi is a Chinese sweet bun filled with a succulent meat and onion filling.
Servings Prep Time
buns 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15minutes 70minutes
Servings Prep Time
buns 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15minutes 70minutes
Ingredients
  • 500 grams flour
  • 100 grams sugar - granulated
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 5 scallions white part only, minced
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 300 grams pork belly thinly sliced, then roughly chopped
  • 100 grams pork - ground
  • 3 dried shiitake mushrooms rehydrated, then chopped
  • 2.5 centimeters ginger - fresh grated (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 2 teaspoons sugar - granulated
  • 1/2 teaspooon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch halve is using cornstarch
  • 1 egg white
  • 8 pieces parchment paper cut into 12-centimeter pieces
Units:
Instructions
  1. Mix the flour, sugar, yeast, and baking powder together in the bowl of a stand mixer, then add the water and oil and combine. When the ingredients are combined, affix the bowl to a mixer fitted with a dough hook and knead until the dough is elastic and shiny. You can also knead the dough by hand if you don't have a mixer.
  2. Form the dough into a ball and put it in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm place and let the dough rise until its doubled in size (about 1 hour).
  3. While you're waiting for the dough to rise, make the filling. Sauté the onions and scallions with the sesame oil over medium heat until translucent, but not browned. Set them aside to cool.
  4. In a bowl, combine the pork belly, ground pork, shiitake mushrooms, ginger, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sake, sugar, black pepper, cornstarch and egg white and knead well with your hands (gloves are advisable), add the cooled onions and continue kneading until the meat is shiny and well combined.
  5. Punch down the dough and roll it into a log. Cut the log into 8 even pieces and form each piece into a ball. Space the balls apart on a baking sheet and cover with a damp towel to keep them from drying out. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Use a sharp knife to divide the meat filling into 8 pieces. Flatten a piece of dough on a parchment square until it's about the size of the piece of paper, and then scoop 1/8th of the meat filling onto the middle of the dough.
  7. Pinch one edge of the dough with your right hand and twist it up towards the center of the bun. Use your left hand to hold the flap in place. Repeat about 10 times, always bringing the flap up to your left hand and pinching together with the past flaps.
  8. Cover the finished buns with a damp towel to keep them from drying out. Fill a steamer with water and boil the water. Place a few buns into the steamer basket, being careful not to overcrowd it as the buns will expand.
  9. Lower the steamer basket into the pot of boiling water. Cover the steamer with a damp towel and cover with a lid. This prevents the steam from condensing on the lid and dripping onto the buns. Fold the dangling flaps of the towel back onto the lid to prevent the towel from burning.
  10. Steam the buns for 15 minutes. Depending on your steamer setup it may take a little more time, so split one open at 15 minutes to make sure it's cooked through. Serve the nikuman with spicy mustard, hot sauce, or vinegar.
Categories
  • http://spacedlaw.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    Amazing!

  • Elektra

    i am sooooo hungry right now!

  • Tina

    This looks amazing! Thank you for the very clear images and instructions. Taking the time to do step by step instructions is so helpful. I plan on trying this recipe soon. 

  • http://thenovicechefblog.com/ Jessica

    Ohhhh yum! I loovveee Meat Buns! I can’t wait to get to try it out myself at home!

  • Anonymous

    Hold on! No nira or 5 spice powder?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Not sure if you’ve ever had the ones at Horai 551, but there is no nira or 5 spice in theirs. You’re obviously welcome to add those ingredients in if you like.

  • Sahara

    Thank you for the Nikuman recipe. I too have an issue with Baozi. I like Horai’s, but yours look better. I’m going to make them asap! When I was in Japan three months ago, I missed buying Horai’s Nikuman before the flight from Osaka to Tokyo. After reading your article, I must have some!
    Did you ever have a giant Nikuman from Ichiban (not sure about the name of this old Chinese restaurant ) on Kagurazaka? It was about 20″ in diameter (may have been larger). The bun was no very fluffy and thinner than normal Nikuman, and it was packed with a large amount of filling. The filling was a mixture of pork, usual Nikuman vegetable, bamboo shoot and shiitake. It was delicious! I haven’t been to Kagurazaka in a while. I hope the restaurant and the giant Nikuman is still there.

    When I think about Nikuman, I also think about Piroshki made by a Japanese bakery (can’t remember the name). It has a filling somewhat similar to a Nikuman with chopped boiled eggs added. I need to figure out the recipe for this. Do you have a recipe for Piroshiki?

  • Sahara

    Sorry, the giant Nikuman was not 20″, but 20 cm.

  • Sahara

    Chinese restaurant on Kagurazaka is still there and very famous. The name of the restaurant is Gozyuban 五十番. They are known for buns, shaomai, etc. The giant Nikuman is called Gomoku Nikuman ごもく肉まん. Some of the ingredients in the filling are boiled quail egg, whole shrimp, white mushroom, pork, and it may have had ginko nuts. On their website photo, the giant bun looked fluffier and smaller than the bun I had at the restaurant.

  • http://twitter.com/NancyMatsumoto Nancy Matsumoto

    Thanks, Marc! I’m going to Kyoto soon, so I’ll check out Horai 551. And I’ll try your version, too!

  • http://hungryjenny.blogspot.com/ Hungryjenny

    Wow, that looks amazing! I too always fear the risk of overly sweet (and sometimes rubbery ick!) white dough and minute filling of steamed buns. I also didn’t realise how simple the recipe is (well, you make it sound easy anyway!) Sounds like a fiddly job though, but def worth it, from the look of it!

    Hungry Jenny x

  • http://hungryjenny.blogspot.com/ Hungryjenny

    I didn’t mean to post a massive pic of myself in my previous comment below, I thought that option was for the little profile pic on the side of the comment box, lol!

    Hungry Jenny x

  • http://twitter.com/Cuisinivity Cuisinivity

    I love love love 551′s nikuman! I always looking for better nikuman recipe and I will definitely try this.

  • http://wokwithray.net/ Wok with Ray

    Your ingredients on steamed buns sounds flavorful and thank you for the tips on the binders. 

  • Gloriadelpilar_1994

    mmmmm! look delicious!! gloria

  • Lisa in NH

    Fabulous recipe, incredible taste, horrible steamer! Using my bamboo steamer has yet to go well for me. After 45 minutes of steaming, they still were not quite done. Any hints or suggestions on bamboo steaming…or alternate cooking methods?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Lisa, I used a regular metal steamer (pot + elevated colander). I’ve never actually used a bamboo steamer, but my guess is that it’s not retaining as much heat as using a metal steamer. Try making the buns smaller. Otherwise you might want to think about using a different steamer setup.

    • Chau

      I used the steamer basket that came with the rice cooker. It’s working great.

  • http://www.whealthyhouse.com/ Evelyn

    I really enjoy visiting your blog.  What a fantastic job you have done!  I am desperate to try this Nikumanni recipe.  Looks scrumptious!  

  • guest :)

    Hi, can I use ground pork (not chopped)? :)

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Yep, but it will effect the texture of the finished bun (it will be more like a meatball inside).

  • Chau

    I tried the recipe today, love the dough, very easy to make. Next time I will divide the dough to 12 portions to have smaller buns and add Chinese sausages and quail eggs to the filling. Thanks.

  • Nipponnin

    What a great recipe. I love the nikuman sold in China town in Yokohama. This maybe very similar to that. Thank you for sharing.

  • Lilianaw87

    My dough is waaayyy to sticky! I cant even roll it into a log :( what went wrong and how can I fix it”??

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      You should be able to firm it up by adding flour, but the dough should be on the soft side. It will be sticky at first, but as you knead it the gluten chains that form should Make the dough shiny and less sticky. As for what went wrong it’s hard to say. What kind of flour did you use? Was your kitchen scale zeroed out when you started measuring the flour?

      • Lilianaw87

        Adding some flour fixed it! The buns are a big success, thank you!! DELICIOUS!!

  • Lilianaw87

    Can I just put them in the fridge and re heat them tomorrow? Or is there a better way to store them? :)

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Yep, they’ll keep in the fridge for a few days. If you want to keep them longer, wrap them up in plastic wrap and foil and freeze them. To rehear, just unwrap them, cover with a damp paper towel and microwave.

  • shbuckie

    Is that dry yeast or live yeast?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      All yeast is alive, otherwise it would not leaven your dough. I made this using active dry yeast.

  • http://twitter.com/cherryspoon Ms. Cherryspoon

    My husband made these yesterday! So good! We steamed 3 and have 8 more waiting for us in the freezer!

  • peter353

    Great recipe. Could use a bit of seasoning though, no?

  • Annie

    i really like this receipt since that’s how we make baozi inChina, savoury(not deep sweet) and moist. 

    • Amy

      Unless, of course, you make dousha baozi!

  • Donn

    Oh my goodness… I’m salavating. I will have to give it a try.

  • yummy

    I actually made these and they were great.  Better than anything I’ve tried in restaurants.  I’m going to add more seasoning next time.  Maybe I didn’t measure the seasoning right the first time, but they were still good.

  • yummy

    I made it again.  I figured out that I didn’t underseason it the last time I made it.  Instead, I weighed the meat which I know was a lot less meat than the last time I made it.  This time, the results were so delicious.  Perfect.  This is the perfect nikuman recipe.  Thanks. 

  • Gaijin

    do I steam them first and then freeze them or do I freeze the Nikuman’s while they are still raw (pre-steam)? 

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      They need to be steamed first otherwise they will stick together and make a mess. Just steam, cool and freeze. You can reheat in the microwave.

  • Jessica Pena

    So my dad and I are HUGE fans of baozi, and its hard to find a place that can make them “decently”.” so a few days ago I’ve been craving these and decided to look them up. Your recipe was very easy to make (though the very sticky dough had me in a panic) and it tastes amazing. My dad travels often so I rarely see him, he comes home tomorrow and he will have these amazingly delicious buns ready for him :) thank you so much!

  • Kickan

    Thank you for this wonderful and easy to understand recipe! They taste soooo good and I had so much fun cooking my own baozi. Lived a year in China two years ago and hadn’t had one since -now I can make them whenever I like :) Just had a look around your blog and feel so inspired :)

    • Samantha

      Ahh… sorry! I accidentally pressed the wrong button….. I don’t ‘dislike’ your comment btw

  • Samantha

    I’m just soooo curious now to see how this Nikuman (I call it ‘bao’) really tastes like – I will definitely try this recipe when I have free time! Thanks for sharing your recipe…. and going through the effort of re-creating your experience :)

  • Nikita Haduong

    I’ve been searching for a good baozi skin recipe, and so far, yours is the best. It was a bit too sweet for me, so I’ll have to cut sugar next time, haha. Though it was quite a bit lighter and fluffier than any other recipes I have tried, it still is not light and fluffy enough. Any ideas on how to make it even lighter and fluffier? I’ve had really good baozi at one dim sum place (I forget where…) where the dough was very white, super puffy, and super light. It also wasn’t so gluey after being chewed (a lot of recipes I tried had kind of a weird gluey texture after being chewed a few times). I don’t care about colour too much as long as the dough is nice and light! Any help you can give would be much appreciated!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Nikita, thanks for the note. I think you’re referring to the bleached white chasiubao buns found at some Chinese restaurants. I’m not sure how they do it, but I’m pretty sure they’re not using regular wheat flour. It could be rice flour or cake flour. The other thing is that they aren’t just using yeast to make their buns rise. They’re using a combination of yeast and baking powder.

  • Dano

    Great recipe! In Los Angeles those classic nikuman are hard to find. These are perfect with soy sauce and mustard. I just need to work on my bun folding skills now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Rix.Alice Mirikee Neill

    Can a sweet version of this be made?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi, I’m not sure what you mean by sweet. Do you mean filling the bun with something sweet like a custard or red bean paste? Or do you mean making the filling more sweet?

      • http://www.facebook.com/Rix.Alice Mirikee Neill

        Hi there, yes with a sweet filling

        • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

          Sure, I don’t see why not.

  • Bharati Naik

    Wow that recipe looks so nice and tasty!

  • Cam

    I love the pic where you’re pleating/pinching the bun close. The dough is gorgeous! Looks so strechy and soft… haha ok on to my question: After you’ve made up the buns, you didn’t proof them before steaming, am i correct? (Or maybe just a short proof while waiting for the water to boil?) Thanks for posting this by the way :)

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Thanks! Nope, there’s no need to let the buns proof before steaming.

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  • http://mallorylance.tumblr.com/ Mallory Lance

    I just made these and they are incredible. The bun came out perfectly and the filling is delicious. I might try experimenting with some other fillings as well. Thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/qian.wu.5891 Qian Wu

    what kind of flour is it?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      All-purpose flour

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  • http://www.facebook.com/annieaoki Annie Johnson

    I know there isn’t, but what would you use in place of oyster sauce? My husband is allergic.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Soy sauce with a but of sugar, or just Indonesian sweet soy sauce.

  • Teemeah

    I just did this and it is a.m.a.z.i.n.g! I used half of the measurements but still got 8 giant sized baozi :DD I used a bamboo steamer and 20 minutes were enough to steam them, unfortunately my steamer is really small so only one could fit in at a time, but now that I know how great bamboo steaming is, I’m going to buy a bigger steamer for more efficiency. Thanks so much for the recipe. It was also my first time kneading, but it turned out really well. Greetings from Hungary

  • Sandra Dy Aseremo

    Hi, I am curious , usually chinese buns or dough have a tsp. of salt. This one does not, why ? Will it taste different if there is no salt in it ? I am looking for a good chinese bun, usually my buns for some odd reason, they are not as soft as I want to nor do they turn extra white. They are a bit yellowish. Can you tell me why they turn out a bit yellowish ? What did I do wrong ?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Sandra, salt usually gets added to bread to make it more flavorful. In this case, the filling is well seasoned, so I omitted it to avoid adding extra sodium. You should feel free to add salt to the dough if you want.
      As for the color and texture I think you’re talking about the char siu buns, which use a different dough from Baozi. It includes baking powder, which is added after the first rise to make them more fluffy. I’m not entirely sure about how they get it so white, but they could be using bleached wheat flour (maybe cake flour), or some other kind of flour like rice flour. Wheat flour is naturally a grayish yellow color.

      • Julie

        I thought they used mainly rice flour to make it rather than regular flour as it has a different texture from white flour. Now that is a recipe I would love. I used to buy those kid of nikuman at the Sunday Mart around the corner from me in Tokyo….and this time of year…I REALLY miss them.

        • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

          Hi Julie, the flour used in Japan (komugiko) is a little different than the flour we use in the US. This might explain the difference in texture.

          Sent from Mailbox for iPhone

  • Nay Jade

    can i use another kind of meat except from pork? like beef maybe?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Chicken or lamb would probably be a better substitute for pork as beef doesn’t have as much flavor as pork and is much more red. If you use chicken, make sure you use chicken thigh with all the fat or the filling will be dry.

  • Samantha

    I’ve tried this recipe twice in the last couple of days and I’m happy to say it was a success! The bread is just the right texture & sweetness, and the filling is juicy & flavourful. I made 12 palm-sized buns with the first batch, and 16 snack-sized ones with the second batch. The small ones will be great to serve to our guests tomorrow.

    Thanks so much for sharing your recipe Marc! I’ll definitely make this again the next time I’m wanting nikuman. :D

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  • Saya Robinson

    They were delicious! Is it ok to keep them in the fridge overnight and steam the day after?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Saya, I’m glad to hear you liked them. Yep, they’re best when they’re freshly made, but you can reheat them.

  • May

    Hi
    This recipe looks fantastic and I really want to try it out, but since I have a gluten allergy I won’t be able to use normal wheat flour for the buns. Is normal rice flour going to be ok, or should I use the sticky rice flour?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      I’ve never tried it with either. The buns will have a different texture but it should work in theory. Give it a try and let us know how it goes:-)

  • Eliza

    Love it , just made a bash it came out Great! thanks for the recipe.

  • Mica M

    I was wondering if I could leave them uncooked for 2 days. I want to serve them this Sunday as lunch but I don’t have time to make them on Saturday or Sunday morning. Could I make them later on Friday night and keep them uncooked in the refrigerator until Sunday? Seems pointless to put them in the freezer for one day. Thanks for the answer and great recipe.

  • Izzy M

    Is there any way to cook them without a steamer? I was wondering if a colander over a pan of hot water will work in this recipe.
    Thanks!

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  • Arfi

    I’m so gonna make these, Marc! Any suggestion with beef mince? I don’t ear pork.

    Arfi

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Arfi, minced chicken will work better than beef, just substitute out the pork 1 for 1 with the minced chicken.

      • Arfi

        Will do that. Thanks, Marc!

  • Bradley Campbell

    I just made these today and they turned out amazingly! I didn’t have a steam basket so I used a plate on top on a ramekin in a big pot and they still turned out great. The flavor combination is so moist and delicious, thanks for sharing an excellent recipe

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!