Nikuman (Japanese Steamed Pork Buns, a.k.a. Chinese Pork Baozi)

Print Friendly

Nikuman (a.k.a. "Pork Baozi")

As I finished steaming these buns earlier today, my husband walked into the kitchen hungry:

Here!  Try one of these,” I said.

You made Baozi?” he asked.

No, these are Nikuman,” I explained.

As he bit into one, he remarked, “No.  These are Chinese.  These are Pork Baozi.”

No they aren’t.  They are Nikuman.  It’s a Japanese bun.  This isn’t a Chinese recipe!” I explained.

Same thing,” he mumbled, his mouth full.

So there you go.  Apparently what I call “Nikuman”, he calls “Pork Baozi”… and they are (apparently) the same thing!  Whether you call it the first or the latter, they are always better fresh.  You can buy them frozen at the Asian market… but it just isn’t the same.  Why not make them yourself at home?

A few months back, I perfected my “bao” dough recipe using common American style flours that you can find at the regular supermarket.  But if you have access to an Asian grocery store and can find “Hong Kong flour” – use that instead.  Hong Kong flour is bleached and has a slightly lower protein content than your average all purpose flour and yields slightly better results.  If you can’t find it, don’t worry!  My recipe for the bao dough (using a combination of cake flour and all purpose flour) is a pretty good substitution, and you won’t be able to tell much of a difference.  Use bleached (not unbleached) all purpose flour for the best color and texture.  (Bleached flour will yield whiter buns, and has slightly lower protein content than unbleached.)

When I make these, I always end up with too much filling.  But I prefer that, because I then freeze the raw leftover filling (tightly wrapped in plastic wrap), and will defrost it to use another day.  My Zojirushi Bread Machine can only make enough dough for 10 buns – otherwise it will overflow… which is why my dough recipe is only for 10 buns.  On the other hand, my filling recipe will make enough filling for 20 buns (It’s just easier that way – I can use a full 1lb. package of ground pork, and a full 8 oz. package of mushrooms).  If you are making the dough by hand, you can double the recipe and make all 20 buns the same day.  Or, you can make one batch of dough, then make a second batch of dough immediately after using the bread machine.  Or do what I do and just save the other half of the filling in the freezer for next time (defrost in the refrigerator the day before you want to make Nikuman again).

Nikuman Dough (for 10 buns):

You can buy extra lean ground pork at the supermarket - which gives a healthier pork bun. If you want a more juicy bun, choose ground pork with a higher fat content.

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (bleached if possible)
  • 2 1/4 c. cake flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. active dry yeast
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 1 c. water

Nikuman Filling (for 20 buns):

  • ~1 lb. ground pork
  • 8 oz. mushrooms
  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • 3 green onion stalks, chopped
  • 3 large napa cabbage leaves
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 T.)
  • 1.5″ piece ginger, grated (about 1 T.)
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 4 T. soy sauce
  • 3 T. sesame oil
  • 2 T. cornstarch or potato starch
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Ajinomoto (optional)

1.  First make the dough.  I use my Zojirushi Bread machine to make things easy – Put the water, oil, sugar, and salt in the bottom of the pan.  Top with the flour & baking powder.  Make a little depression in the flour, and place the yeast in the depression.  Set the bread machine to “basic dough”, and allow it to knead & rise until the dough is ready for use.

(Note:  This dough recipe will make 10 buns, while the filling recipe will make 20 buns.  My bread machine will not make a double batch of dough – it will overflow – so I either do it in two stages, or I save the other half of the filling for another day.)

You can double the dough recipe if you want enough dough for 20 buns and don’t mind making it by hand – mix & knead, then allow to rise 1 – 1/2 hours in a warm place.

2.  While the dough is being prepared, clean and slice the mushrooms into small thin pieces.

3.  Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan, and saute the mushrooms until soft.

4.  Use a paper towel to soak up the liquid that comes out of the mushrooms and discard.  (Or just drain.)  Let the mushrooms cool.

5.  Meanwhile, using a Japanese ginger grater, grate a peeled piece of ginger until you have about 1 T.