Pan-Fried Leek Buns (Shui Jian Bao) Recipe

Taiwanese pan-fried leek buns. Pete Lee

Pan-fried buns are a common snack in Taiwan. Similar to pan-fried dumplings, they're crisped until golden on the bottom, yet steamed through so that the filling cooks along with the noodlelike dough. They're stuffed with any number of fillings, from vegetable-based ones like this classic green leek version accented with a hint of chopped dried baby shrimp, to juicy pork-based versions. Typically, this version would be made with deep-green, flat-shaped Chinese chives, also called Chinese leeks, which can be found in Asian markets. However, the delicate, springlike flavor of larger common leeks found in the States is lovely, too, even if the leeks aren't as vibrant in color. I've also incorporated clear mung bean noodles in the filling, which absorb the rest of the flavors and makes the filling slightly easier to form into neat packages.

Recipe reprinted from The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway. Copyright © 2015 by Cathy Erway. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Recipe Facts

Total: 0 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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  • For the Crust:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • For the Filling:
  • 1 tablespoon dried baby shrimp
  • 4 to 6 large leeks, white and light green parts only, or 1 large bunch whole Chinese chives or leeks
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 pound dried mung bean starch noodles (bean thread noodles)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, plus more to taste
  • To Cook:
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. For the Crust: Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the oil and enough of the water so that the dough just comes together in a ball. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until the surface is smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Cover with plastic and set aside to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

  2. For the Filling: In a small bowl, soak the dried shrimp in about [1/4] cup water for at least 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Drain and chop finely. Finely chop the leeks.

  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the soaked shrimp and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the leeks along with the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and the juices have mostly evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. You should have about 1 cup of the leek mixture.

  4. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain well. Once cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop. You should have about 1 cup chopped noodles.

  5. In a bowl, combine the cooked leek mixture and the noodles. Stir in the sesame oil and white pepper and taste for seasoning, adding extra salt and white pepper as desired.

  6. To form the buns, divide the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces. Roll out each one on a slightly floured surface to a round about 4 inches in diameter. Place about 1 tablespoon filling in the center of each round. Carefully bring the edges of the dough to the center of the bun to seal it shut over the filling. Make sure there are no gaps or holes. Place the buns sealed-side down on a lightly floured surface as each one is finished.

  7. To Cook: Heat the oil in a large skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat. Once hot, arrange as many buns as will fit in a single layer in the pan so that the bottoms retain full contact with the pan (you may need to work in batches). Cook until the bottoms are just golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the water and immediately cover the pan. Steam until the dough on the tops of the buns has turned translucent rather than opaque white, about 8 minutes. If there is still liquid remaining in the pan, uncover and continue to cook until it evaporates and buns are crisp. Serve immediately.

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