Recipe courtesy of Ching-He Huang

"Zhajiang" Bao (Spicy Shrimp and Ground Beef Buns)

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 35 min
  • Active: 15 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, whisked with 1 tablespoon cold water

Pinch ground white pepper

4 to 6 large bao buns, steamed, or soft sandwich buns

Spicy Shrimp and Ground Beef Buns:

1 ounce dried shrimp

5 or 6 small dried Chinese (shiitake) mushrooms

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1 ounce smoked bacon or pancetta, finely diced

1 shallot, smashed and finely diced

8 ounces ground beef

4 ounces shredded bamboo shoots, drained and diced

1 jalapeno, stemmed and finely diced

1 green pepper, seeded and diced

1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon Shaoshing rice wine

6 pickled cornichons, finely sliced, for serving

Chili oil, optional, for serving

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

1 tablespoon finely chopped peanuts mixed with 2 tablespoons sugar, optional, for serving


  1. For the spicy shrimp and ground beef buns: Combine the shrimp and dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour 1 cup boiling water over to cover. Let stand at least 10 minutes, and then drain, reserving the liquid, and finely chop.
  2. Heat a wok over medium-high heat and add the peanut oil. Add the shrimp, mushrooms, bacon and shallots and fry, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the ground beef, breaking the meat up with a spatula and cooking until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes. 
  3. Add the bamboo shoots, jalapenos and green peppers and toss 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle in about 1/2 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid along with the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and rice wine and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook until thickened and glossy, about 1 minute. Season with the white pepper. 
  4. To serve, spoon about 1/2 cup of the mixture (depending on the bun size) onto each bun and garnish with the cornichons, a drizzle of chili oil, if using, and the cilantro. Sprinkle the peanuts with sugar, if using, over the top of each bao and serve immediately.