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Recipe  •  16 November 2023


Cumin Lamb Steamed Baos

My stepdad is from the city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province, central China. Home to a large Muslim community, halal influences shape the cooking there, so dishes using lamb and mutton are a common sight in street-food markets.

One of my stepdad’s favourite things to eat is a lamb skewer, which is typically seasoned with cumin and chilli (chile), then grilled over a flame. The aroma is fantastic, and it’s almost impossible not to buy a few for a delicious road-side snack.

With this in mind, I’ve experimented with the delicious combination of tender lamb and spices as filling for a beloved bao. The first time I made these buns, biting into the juicy, fragrant filling inside the fluffy steamed bao was so good, I immediately went for a second, then a third, so I hope you’ll enjoy them too.

Prep: 1 hour

Cook: 40 minutes *plus proving

Makes: 20 (serves 4)


  • 1 large handful of finely chopped spring onions (green onions), optional
  • 2 tsp black sesame seeds, optional
  • The Ultimate Dumpling Sauce (see p.26), to serve

For the dough

  • 250g (scant 2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp instant dried yeast
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 150ml (2/3 cup) lukewarm water

For the lamb filling

  • 250g (9oz) minced (ground) lamb, preferably 20% fat
  • 50g (1 ¾ oz) leek, finely chopped
  • 50g (1 ¾ oz) carrot, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp Chinese cooking wine
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 red chilli (chile), finely chopped
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp MSG, optional


Making the dough, filling and shaping the wrappers

  1. Prepare the dough, make the lamb filling, then roll out and shape the dough wrappers ready for filling, following the instructions for the Pork & Leek Sheng Jian Baos on page 190.

Filling and pleating

  1. Place the rolled-out wrapper in the middle of the palm of your non-dominant hand, spoon 1 tablespoon of the filling into the middle. If a beginner, leave a 2.5cm (1in) border around the edge of the dough to allow for pleating. (More experienced dumpling makers can leave a narrower border!)
  2. To pleat the baos, follow the instructions for the Pork & Leek Sheng Jian Baos on page 191. If you prefer to skip the pleating completely, just pinch the edges of the dough together to ensure there are no holes. Flip the baos upside down so the smooth side is on top and you’re good to go. Cover and leave to prove for another 15-20 minutes.


  1. Prepare a large pan and a bamboo steamer basked lined with steamer paper. You could use baking (parchment) paper with 7-8 holes cut out to let steam through. Place a small heatproof bowl upside down in the pan, pour in enough water to come halfway up the sides of the bowl and bring to the boil. Place the steamer basket on top of the bowl in the pan and steam the baos in batches for 15 minutes. Switch off the heat and leave the baos in the steamer with the lid on for a further 5 minutes.
  2. Remove and cook the rest of the baos in batches, replenishing the water when needed. (You may want to enjoy the fresh batch as you wait for the second batch to cook as they are best when eaten piping hot.)
  3. Enjoy with the dumpling sauce by the side. If liked, scatter the spring onions and sesame seeds over the baos before serving.

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