These sticky Korean chicken steamed buns are frankly, irresistible. An unreal sweet, spicy JUICY gochujang chicken filling is stuffed into super soft, fluffy dough for an absolute explosion of flavour. They’re the perfect bite of deliciousness and are much easier to make than you’d think.
We need to talk about these buns. I actually first made these with some leftover roast chicken, mixed with leftover sticky gochujang sauce. And I loved them so much I had to work out what I did and make them again. And now I really think I’ve perfected them. The filling is juicy, sweet and spicy and the dough is wonderfully soft and fluffy. It’s truly hard to stop eating these..!
The bun dough is actually the same recipe as my steamed bao buns. It’s great because it uses baking powder AND yeast, meaning you can form your buns right after mixing the dough. No need to wait for it to rise, so it cuts prep time right down. It’s also a very easy dough to work with. I’ll often make it by hand, but I’ve included instructions on how to make it using a stand mixer too.
Plus, once you know the technique for these, you really can make them your own. Take inspiration from my original idea and stuff them with leftover roast meat (pulled pork is great too) or roasted veggies, or I have even used leftover curry (butter chicken and chicken saag are particularly delicious!) They also freeze really well – I like to make a big batch using up leftovers and then freeze them for easy meals. You can steam them straight from frozen in just 10 minutes.
The majority of the ingredients you need for the buns are actually cupboard staples – with gochujang paste the only one that might be tricky to find, so I’ve outlined some alternatives below.
- For the buns: Make sure you’re using instant yeast, rather than active yeast here. You can absolutely use active yeast, but you’ll need to mix it with the water and let it sit for 10 minutes before using it, to activate it. If you try to mix active yeast straight into the dough you’ll find it won’t dissolve properly and you’ll end up with strange little granules all throughout your dough.
- For the Korean chicken filling: Chicken thighs are best to use here (they keep everything nice and juicy), but you can use breasts if you like. Use garlic and ginger paste rather than fresh, and to make the filling spicier, use 1 tablespoon of sweet chilli jam in place of 1 tablespoon of honey. Gochujang paste is a Korean fermented chilli paste which delivers an amazing, deep savoury flavour to the filling. You can find it in larger stores, in the International aisle, in Asian supermarkets or on Amazon. If you can’t find it, use sriracha or sambal oelek.
How to make it
Get your chicken thighs in a mixing bowl along with a little olive oil, sesame oil and salt. Transfer to an ovenproof dish or a baking paper lined oven tray, and cook at 210C/410F fan for 15 minutes. If you’re worried about whether they’re ready or not, cut into a thick part of the thigh and check. You want it to look white inside, and the juices that run out of the chicken should be clear. Set it aside and roughly shred it with 2 forks, or chop it up. Make the gochujang sauce, then mix the shredded chicken through and pop it in the fridge while you make the bun dough.
Add flour, instant yeast, salt and water to a large bowl and mix to combine into a rough dough. You can either do this by hand or using a stand mixer. It’s not a tricky dough to work with so I often do it by hand!
Turn your mixed dough out onto a flat, clean surface. With the heel of your hand, press down on the dough and push it away from you. Fold it back over itself, then repeat the process. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat again. Continue like this for about 7 minutes. You’ll start to feel the dough change – it’ll go from rough and floury to soft, supple and smooth. Give it a firm poke with your finger – if the indentation slowly springs back into place, it’s ready. If it stays, it needs more kneading. When it’s ready, form the dough into a long log, about 45cm/17″.
PRO TIP: If you’re nervous about kneading dough, I’ve written a guide all about how to knead dough that walks you through it and will answer all your questions!
Because this dough uses baking powder as well as yeast, we don’t have to wait for it to rise before forming the buns. Cut the log of dough into 12 equal pieces (use a scale if you want to get really precise) and form them into little balls. Working with one at a time – covering the ones you’re not using with a clean tea towel to keep them from drying out – lightly flatten the ball into a circle. Use a rolling pin to roll the circle out to around 10cm/4″ in diameter.
PRO TIP: Try to roll the edges thinner than the middle to make sure the wet filling doesn’t seep through the bottom (this can happen if the dough is rolled too thinly).
Spoon a heaped teaspoon of the chicken mix into the middle of the dough circle. Now it’s time to pleat and close them. I promise this is easier than it looks and like anything, will get easier the more you practice. Start with the side furthest away from you. Pick up the edge of the dough and fold a small piece back on itself. The dough will stick to itself and make this easier for you. Repeat this action, rotating the bun all the way around as you do. As you complete the circle, press the dough together at the top to seal the bun, then give it a little twist. You’re done!
You’ll see that some of mine below are opening a little bit, especially after rising. This is normal! A classic char siu bao bun is actually served in this way – the top cracks so you can see that glorious sauce. So don’t worry if yours opens a bit.
Arrange the buns inside a lined steamer basket, leaving a little space in between each one so they have room to rise up as they steam. Let the buns rest in the steamer for 30 minutes.
PRO TIP: To make a perfect liner for your steamer basket, cut out a piece of baking paper that will fit inside. Fold it in half, in half again and in half one more time. Then make 4 cuts with scissors down the folded edge. Unfold it, and you’ll have a liner with holes for the steam to get through and cook your buns!
After 30 minutes, the buns will be looking a little puffier and will be ready to cook. Pour a little water into a large pot (I’ll normally just boil the kettle and pour it inside for ease). Pop the steamer basket on top of the pot, turn the heat on to medium and let steam for 10 minutes. Drizzle with chilli oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds and scatter over coriander (cilantro) and scallions and serve.
Got a question?
Gochujang definitely has a kick of heat to it, but you can temper that by adding more honey to your sauce. Just keep tasting, and reduce the amount of gochujang to 1 tablespoon if you’re really worried.
Yes! These freeze incredibly well and I’ll actually often make a double batch so I can stock the freezer. Just put on a lined tray after steaming and pop in the freezer until solid, then transfer into zip lock bags to store. You can then steam them straight from frozen whenever you like!
You can just use an ordinary metal steaming pan, or you can make do with some foil, a pot and a plate! For that, make a few big balls of foil – they need to be big enough for the plate to sit on top of them inside a large pot with a lid. Then pop your plate on top, making sure it’s one with a little space around the edges so steam can circulate properly and cook the buns. Then just add a little water, get simmering, line the plate with baking paper and get the buns on there. Cover with a lid and you’ve made yourself a steamer!
Like this recipe? Here are some others you might enjoy
If you make this recipe let me know in the comments below! I’d love to know what you think.Print