Sesame buns

Sesame buns

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

Shao bing are sesame cakes or buns, found in many parts of China but particularly throughout the north, where wheat flour is a staple. They’re often eaten as a morning snack, with the option of a salty or sweet version. This recipe is for savoury buns, which make a great accompaniment to gutsy northern-style lamb or beef dishes. To make a sweet version, just sprinkle each smear of sesame paste with a teaspoon or so of sugar as you roll them.


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon caster sugar
3 teaspoons instant dried yeast
600g plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons chinese sesame paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra for cooking
100g sesame seeds


  1. Combine 125 ml lukewarm water and a large pinch of the sugar in a bowl, then sprinkle over the yeast. Set aside in a draught-free place for 5–6 minutes, or until foamy. Add another 310 ml lukewarm water to the mixture.
  2. Combine the flour, remaining sugar and 2 teaspoons of the salt in a large bowl, then add the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to just bring the dough together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8–10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic (alternatively, knead using an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment). Form the dough into a ball, then place in a large, lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a draught-free place for about 1½ hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  3. Combine the sesame paste, oil and remaining salt in a small bowl. Knock back the dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a log about 40 cm long. Cut the log into 12 even pieces, then roll each piece into a ball. Working with one ball at a time and using a rolling pin, roll the dough ball into a 16 cm circle. Using the back of a teaspoon, smear about 1 teaspoon of sesame paste mixture over the circle. Roll up tightly to form a log, then form the log into a tight spiral, pinching the end to seal. Use your hand to flatten the spiral into a 9 cm round. Repeat with the remaining dough balls and sesame paste mixture.
  4. Put the sesame seeds on a plate. Lightly brush the buns on each side with water, then dip into the sesame seeds on both sides to coat. Lightly brush the base of a large, heavy-based frying pan with oil, then heat over a medium–low heat. Add the buns in batches, then cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes on each side, reducing the heat if the buns brown too quickly and rotating them in the pan to ensure even cooking if necessary. Serve as a light snack or accompaniment.
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