Chinese Breads - Baos & Bings
If you’ve ever had Peking duck or a pork bun, then you’re familiar with the soft, spongy vehicle that was meant for enveloping the delectable meat filling. But there are a much larger variety of breads in Chinese cuisine to explore.
Although their ingredients don’t differ much from their American counterparts, made with flour and water, and in some cases yeast and even lard, Chinese breads do stand apart when it comes to texture and flavor as they are fluffier, lighter, and a bit sweeter. Many are even steamed or fried, or even a combination of the two, as opposed to baked.
Baking bread in Chinese cuisine did not come along until late 1200 AD when wheat and rice flour were introduced and Silk Road traders introduced flour milling. Breads around that time were more like flatbreads, or pitas, similar to Indian naan.
Eaten at breakfast, at dim sum, or even as a mid-day snack, there are a plethora of different kinds whether they be biscuits or buns, rolled, or filled with red bean paste or even hot dog. Walk into any Chinese bakery and you might be overwhelmed by the variations in fillings and toppings.
Mantou, one of the more basic in the wheat-based family and popular in northern parts of China, is a leavened bun made of flour, milk or water, and yeast, and is steamed. Plainer in taste, they are similar to American rolls in that they are meant for accompanying stronger flavored dishes.
A Bing from AA Bakery
Another bun ubiquitous in most regions is the bao, which is yeasted. Usually they are steamed, but in some cases baked. A most basic example is the unfilled, folded over, steamed bao that accompanies Peking duck. Offered at any and all dim sum restaurants, the char siu bao, holds a rich, savory, sweet pork filling. Other savory fillings might include lamb, ham and cheese, or bacon. Some of the more popular toppings for the sweet tooth include pineapple, coconut, or lotus seeds.
Bing translates to biscuit and also begins with a wheat base, but are unleavened. These are flat and shaped like a disc, typically seasoned with scallion oil and dotted with sesame seeds. It serves a purpose similar to sandwich bread. One of the most popular is the pan-fried cong you bing, or scallion pancake, made with scallions and oil. Another favorite is the niu rou xian bing, or Chinese meat pie, filled with beef and scallion, also pan-fried.
Check out the many different types of baos and bings at these Chinese bakeries:
1068 Stockton St. (at Jackson St.)
Golden Gate Bakery
1029 Grant Ave. (b/w Pacific Ave. and Jackson St.)
Napoleon Super Bakery
1049 Stockton St. (at Jackson St.)
Good Mong Kok
1039 Stockton St. (at Jackson St.)
1410 9th Ave. (b/w Kirkham St. and Judah St.)