Five things to know about… Baozi

A staple of a northern Chinese breakfast, the ubiquitous steamed stuffed bun is a delicious combination of savoury filling and fluffy dough. Here are five facts you might not know to digest as you tuck in to your baozi!

The history of eating steamed buns without filling can be traced back at least to the Warring States period (475-221BC).

At this time they were called zhenbing (蒸饼). 

There’s a legend that Zhuge Liang invented steamed stuffed buns.

When Zhuge Liang reached Lushui in Yunnan during his southern campaign, the army could not cross the river due to a sudden dense fog. He was told the mist was the spirits of soldiers he’d previously slain, and to get rid of the mist he had to sacrifice a number of human heads. Zhuge Liang couldn’t bring himself to do that, so instead he chopped up beef and mutton, wrapped it with dough, and made it into the shape of a human head. After offering the stuffed ‘heads’ as a sacrifice, the army managed to cross the river without incident. The stuffed bun they used as a sacrifice was called manshou (蛮首which means man’s head) and this word gradually changed into mantou (馒头) over time.

The term baozi (包子) first appeared in the Song Dynasty.

Nowadays mantou is only used for steamed buns without filling. Bao means ‘fill’ in Chinese. The two words baozi and mantou did not fully diverge until the Qing Dynasty. 

Steamed buns are made of wheat flour dough and stuffing.

The stuffing is usually a combination of meat and vegetables, but vegetarian versions can also be found, such as egg and mushroom.

Vegetarian baozi were popular in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) due to the rise of Buddhism.

The famous poet Su Dongpo is known to have enjoyed vegetarian baozi in his old age!

Are you a fan of baozi? What’s your favourite filling? Let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear your thoughts and insights on traditional Chinese culture! 

Photo Credits
Pixabay; Pixabay; Pixabay

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