From Tingmo To Bao: Steamed Buns From Around The World
Image Credit: Instagram/themissingdrumstick

If you’ve eaten enough dimsum or dumplings, give steamed buns a try. Cloud-like in appearance and versatile, they tend to go with different dishes that may be dry or gravy-based. Some don’t require accompaniments as they have fillings of their own. Be it Tibetan tingmo or Chinese bao, these buns form an important part of regional cuisines. They can be found easily at both restaurants and street stalls in the countries they belong to, turning the most mundane of meals into interesting spreads. Since they are steamed, they are also healthier than other fried dishes. Some of them use a bit of oil, but that is usually minimal and just to ensure that the dough doesn’t become sticky. Steamed buns range from heavier ones with fillings to plain, lighter ones that need other dishes to complement them.

Here are four types of steamed buns from around the world that you must try: 


Tingmo is Tibetan-style steamed bread. It is soft and fluffy, and without any filling. Tingmo is best enjoyed hot, served as an accompaniment to dishes like dal or meat curries, or even drier preparations like shredded, fried spinach. It is believed that the word ‘tingmo’ is an amalgamation of ‘tinga’, which means cloud in Tibetan, and ‘momo’, which means dumpling. Besides Tibet, tingmo can also be found in some parts of India like Leh and Ladakh and also at Tibetan restaurants in bigger cities like Delhi.


Well-known in Kullu, Manali, Shimla and Rohru, siddu is a steamed bun made with flour, ghee, yeast and salt. It may have savoury or sweet fillings, like legumes and spices or dry fruits and sugar. The shape of siddu varies from region to region: those from Kullu are disc-shaped, while those made in Shimla are oval. To make siddu, the batter is fermented overnight until it becomes fluffy. The dough is then rolled into circles, stuffed with filling, enclosed and steamed. The dish is considered a pahadi favourite in Himachal Pradesh. 


Bakpao is an Indonesian steamed, fluffy bun filled with minced meat. The meat used for the filling may be minced pork, or even beef, chicken and vegetables. To make bakpao, a batter of flour, baking powder, yeast, water and oil must be kneaded and left to rise. The dough is made into a loaf and cut into pieces—which are rolled and stuffed with the minced meat and cooked onions—before being steamed. Vendors across Indonesia sell these buns as a snack to hungry patrons. 


Also called baozi, bao are pillowy Chinese buns stuffed with various fillings. They are burger-like, as they hold the filling between two half-moon shaped pieces of steamed dough that are joined together at the straight edge. Warm and fluffy, bao are made with flour, milk, yeast, sugar, oil and baking powder. Pork is the most common filling used for bao, but other, more creative fillings have also begun to be used over the years. These may include beef, chicken, fish or even vegetables and pickles.