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Vegan Mushroom Bao from Meera Sodha's EAST Cookbook

Vegan Mushroom Bao


There is genuine pleasure to be had in things that feel just right: the weight of a pound coin, a bath at the perfect temperature, the feel of a well-worn wooden spoon. To this list, I’d add the bao: this little bun, a staple of Taiwanese street-food stalls, is ergonomically designed for eating—it fits snugly into the nook of a hand; the pillowy dough gives like memory foam; and the semicircular shape slots cleanly into the mouth.



For the bao buns

  • 3 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour,
    plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup warm water
  • canola oil

For the pickled cucumber

  • ⅓ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ a cucumber, halved, deseeded,
    and thinly sliced

For the mushroom filling

  • ⅓ cup soy sauce 
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2½ tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • lbs oyster and shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • a handful of salted peanuts, ground or finely chopped


  1. Start by making the dough. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the water little by little and bring the dough together using your hands; you should have a sticky ball. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, until smooth and bouncy, then place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place to double in size for 1 to 1½ hours.
  2. Meanwhile, put the vinegar for the pickled cucumber into a small saucepan with 3 tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer, then pour into a bowl, add the cucumber, and leave to cool.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead for a minute to knock out the air, then divide into 10 equal pieces. Take one piece, flatten it into a ½-inch-thick disk, then brush one half with a little oil. Fold the bun into a half-moon and place on a small square of parchment paper on a tray. Repeat with the remaining dough, then loosely cover the tray with a kitchen towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes more.
  4. Now for the filling. In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, garlic, and sesame oil. Heat the canola oil in a frying pan on a high flame, then fry the mushrooms for 6 minutes, until soft and browning at the edges. Stir in the sauce to coat, then turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes, until the sauce reduces and darkens.
  5. To cook the bao, set a steamer over a pan of simmering water. Put the bao, still on their parchment-paper mats, into the steamer in batches, making sure they don’t touch. Cover and steam for 8 minutes.
  6. Once done, fill each bao with a generous tablespoon of mushrooms, 3 or 4 slices of cucumber and, for a little crunch, some peanuts.


You’ll need a steamer: the inexpensive bamboo ones are brilliant.