One of my closest friends, a born-and-bred Californian, loves everything Philadelphia. She’s visited me twice in the last 3 years and if you ask her what her favorite thing about Philly is, she’ll undoubtedly say it’s the food.
The food here in Philly is really amazing. Without a doubt, the most famous food export is the Philly cheesesteak. So imagine my surprise when one day, I get a text from her exclaiming that Trader Joe’s rolled out these Philly Cheesesteak Bao Buns. My first reaction was quite skeptical, perhaps because, in traditional Chinese buns, we never put cheese in there. So the idea of a cheesesteak threw me. But my friend swore they were delicious. So I went to Trader Joe’s and bought some.
They were bad.
It’s not that they were inedible. But certainly one of the bottom-of-the-barrel products from Trader Joe’s, in my opinion. The buns, in contrast to homemade ones, don’t have the sponginess and chewiness. The meat filling is so-so. The flavor is just not the same as a cheesesteak.
So I set out to create a homemade version that I’ll gobble up. Okay, to be fair, when I say homemade, I really just made buns because I have easy access to some of the most delicious cheesesteaks out there. But if you don’t have access to some amazing cheesesteaks, here is my favorite recipe for a homemade version.
When I ordered the cheesesteak, I ordered enough to have 3 cups of meat for this recipe. I’m a firm believer of cheesesteak wit whiz, so I also had that put in prior.
Philly Cheesesteak Baos
- 3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tb active dry yeast
- 2 Tb sugar
- 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 3 cups cooked cheesesteak
- 1/2 cup finely diced onion
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup cheese of choice (optional)
- In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast, sugar, and water. Let the yeast bloom for 5 minutes. Add the flour and using the dough hook, mix on low speed for 8-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively, you can do this in a large bowl and until the dough comes together, and then transferring to a floured work surface and knead by hand. Cover the bowl with a wet towel and let it rest for 1 hour.
- Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Sauté onion until caramelized. Remove from heat. Add in cooked cheesesteak and cheese (if not already in cheesesteak). Stir to combine. Set aside.
- Once the dough has rested and risen, remove the wet towel. Punch dough down and remove from the bowl and turn it out to a floured work surface. Divide dough into 12 equal parts. Using a rolling pin, roll out each dough into a circle, approximately 6 inches in diameter. Take 1/4 cup of the cheesesteak mixture and put into the center of the dough. Slowly gather the edges into the middle, and work around the dough in a clockwise fashion, pinching the edges in as you go. Place finished buns on a lined bamboo steamer and cover. Rest for 30 minutes.
- Fill a large saucepan or wok with water. Place the bamboo steamer on top and turn on the stove. Once the water is boiling, set timer for 12 minutes. Once the buns are done. Remove from heat and let it rest for 5 minutes before opening the lid. Enjoy warm.