Bao buns – soft, fluffy and pillow like Chinese bread buns. On their own they don’t taste much but with filling they’re one of the best things you can eat. Just like Chinese duck pancakes. You wouldn’t eat them on their own, but packed with duck, vegetables and hoisin sauce you can’t stop. Or at least I can’t. The beauty with bao buns is that they not only taste delicious with duck filling but with any filling you can think of. Even a sweet one. Yes, it’s true!
If you haven’t tried a bao bun yet, I really recommend that you do. And if you feel adventurous enough, you can even make your own – easy! I gave it a go the other week when visiting Aiyo in Hyde Park. Before getting stuck in, we enjoyed some Oolong tea. This is the first tea I don’t feel the need of adding any milk and perhaps the secret ingredient to making perfect bao buns.
I used to live in the LS6 area and I really wish Aiyo would have been around when I did. James from Little Bao Boy saw the need of “plant-powered” Asian eateries in Leeds and in collaboration with former Boss Burger owners, Aiyo was born. They have in fact opened up in Boss Burgers former Brudenell Grove venue.
I love Asian food. Authentic Asian food with contemporary twists is even better. Knowing that Little Bao Boy has been announced as a finalist in this year’s British Street Food Awards is a testament to their great food.
Aiyo Vegan Menu
Aiyo’s menu is is small but there’s something for everyone: meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans. Each dish include locally sourced ingredients and of course, bao buns which are freshly baked every day.
We tried their vegan menu and as much as I love meat, I didn’t feel it was missing on this occasion. To fill our own made bao buns we had a selection of Tofu – fried in rice flour, Sichuanese Aubergine – baby aubergines with Sichuan marinade and chillies and Cauliflower Satay – roasted cauliflower, coriander, spring onion, chilli, ginger and satay sauce. The aubergines are hot so if you don’t like spicy food, avoid these. Along this, we also tried Shiitake mushroom spring roll with sweet chilli sauce and salt & pepper fries with different toppings. The spring roll are one of the best I’ve had and if you look closely enough, you’ll see a pattern in the filo pastry.
This table of feast was very filling so I couldn’t fit in the dessert – a sweet bao bun. I told you it’s true thye also make sweet bao buns and look at it!!! Peanut butter bao with peanut filling, dark chocolate and hazelnut dressing. As I don’t have a microwave (I know, who even am I?) nor a steamer I had to eat this cold. I’m sure it’s not at all the same but all the flavours are still there. Yummy!
How to Make Bao Buns
I haven’t actually made bao buns from scratch. James at Aiyo was nice enough to prepare the dough for us and once shaped, also steamed them. I do however know the steps between mixing the dough and the steaming process. Those are the ones I’ve shared here. Hopefully the pictures will help demonstrating as well. We managed to make 8 bao buns in half an hour’s time. The professionals at Aiyo make 900 in three days time. It’ll be a long while, if ever that I’d match that.
The first step is perhaps the trickiest, to way in the right amount of dough. The perfect bao bun should weigh 55g but three grams more or less wither way is ok too.
Roll the bun into a ball, using your index fingers. Slightly tilt your palms inwards to each other as if scoping up something. Whilst rolling, pinch the bun with your index fingers so it almost shapes like a mushroom. Keep going until a nice shape.
Roll out the bun with a rolling pin. I’d say no bigger than palm size.
Brush with sesame oil and fold in half, sesame oil side inwards. This is to prevent the bao bun from tearing when steamed.
Place evenly in the steamer. You can use traditional bamboo vessels or a metal steamer.
Now that I have the special flour you need, I’m going to attempt the full bao bun process at home. I just need to invest in a steamer and rolling pin first. Watch this space!
Aiyo is very small, seats around 15 people but they’re on Deliveroo, or you can pop in and order out as well. If you decide to eat here, remember that it’s BYOB. I would recommend eating in as it’s such a nice place with incredible wall art by local artist Mike Winnard.
Have you been to Aiyo in Leeds? Have you attempted to make your own bao buns?
I was invited down to Aiyo to learn how to make bao buns the way the make them, in return for this blog post. Views and words are as always my own.