A Healthier Way: Steamed Foods

A Healthier Way: Steamed Foods

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The method of steaming foods goes far back to millennia ago, coming up in several places around the world, not only from East Asia. It is much healthier as it doesn’t need oil to cook and often steaming can be a faster cooking method and more efficient in energy.

There are many appliances to steam a food, but the most popular one is bamboo steamers that originated from the Han dynasty in China. But as we invent more things, we have the option to use an aluminum steamer instead!

For a bamboo steamer, you have to place it on a wok that is larger than the steamer, you also must make sure that the boiling water doesn’t reach into the bamboo steamer and touch the food. For an aluminum steamer, the bottom pot is for the water while the rest is for steaming.


Soft, fluffy, and delightful, Chinese Steamed Buns can be made easily at home! There are several kinds of Chinese steamed buns, some can look different from the outside while some are different when you split it in half. Nowadays people differentiate Mantou as a plain steamed bun without anything inside it, while Baozi is a filled steamed bun. However there are some areas that still call both as mantou.

Both have the same bun, made of all-purpose flour or bun flour, yeast, oil, and sugar. Kneaded by hand or a dough mixer until it is soft, elastic, and no longer sticky. The dough is then left to proof before it is placed on top of a parchment paper and steamed for 10-15 minutes. Be careful when you take it out immediately, it’s hot!

The plain bun is nice and has a hint of sweetness, but it’s not enough, is it?

Baozi is traditionally filled with meat, usually pork with soy sauce, oyster sauce, chopped onions, minced garlic, and a pinch of salt and sugar. The meat is cooked first before stuffing it inside a dough that has been flattened into a round circle. It is steamed too for 10-15 minutes before you can eat it.

But of course, that is the traditional way. Nowadays there are many variants of steamed buns filled with other kinds of meat like chicken or beef, or with vegetables, or with sweet fillings like melted chocolate, strawberry jam, cheese and spicy mayonnaise, and many more!

If there are any leftovers, you can eat it the way it is or resteam it for a few minutes!


Once it went viral, this soup-filled dumpling can be tricky to make yet leaves your heart with delight. Xiao Long Bao evolved from Guantangbao, a soup-filled buns but it is much bigger than xiao long bao that can be eaten in one bite. The dumpling takes some patience and a little bit of skill, but if you get the filling right, it is always worth it.

For the wrapper itself all you need is some all-purpose flour or dumpling flour and water. Simple, right? Mix both ingredients and knead it until it becomes a dough, leave it to rest before kneading it again until it is smooth, then let the dough rest for more. 

Then the ingredient that makes the soup, aspic. It is meat stock or broth that has turned into a jelly. Most people use chicken broth for the aspic, but there are some people who use beef or pork instead.

When the aspic is done, it is cut or shredded into small pieces before added into a mix of minced meat, minced ginger and green onions, shaoxing rice wine, light soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, salt, and sugar. Of course, you can experiment with the sauces to suit your taste better!

The dough is divided into many parts and shaped into a ball before it is rolled into a thin circle. The edge has to be much thinner than the center! Once that is done, add some of the seasoned mixed meat in the middle of the wrapper, then start to fold the edges until it looks like pleating. Keep folding until you reach the first fold!

Put lettuce leaves or steamer paper on the steamer and gently place the little filled doughs on top of it. Make sure that each xiao long bao has some space from one another. Steam it for 8-10 minutes then serve immediately while the dumplings are still hot, but be careful when you eat them!


A savory snack from Indonesia, Lemper is glutinous rice rolls filled with various meats like shredded chicken, the most popular one, or meat floss, and wrapped in a banana leaf before it is steamed.

Nowadays people try to invent a new way to make lemper and they have succeeded! That is by using a baking pan, usually square, and layering the rice and shredded chicken. 

The glutinous rice is soaked in water for a couple hours before it is steamed until cooked. After you move the rice to a bowl, boil coconut milk with some salt and a pandan leaf, then pour the mixture into the bowl and let the rice completely absorb the coconut milk. At this step, steam the rice again and you’ll have a savory sticky rice to eat!

For the traditional shredded chicken, you need to boil a chicken first before shredding it. Then stir-fry shallot and garlic, candlenuts, pepper, coriander, salt, and sugar until it is fragrant before you put it in a blender and make it into a smooth paste. Fry the paste again and toss in some bay leaves and lemongrass, then the shredded chicken and fry it with the spices.

At this point, the traditional way is to take some sticky rice and flatten it in your hand. Fill it with some of the seasoned chicken and wrap the chicken with the rice before you wrap it in banana leaves.

But the new way is to layer a baking dish, usually it is square, then put a layer of shredded chicken on top of it, and layer it again with the remaining rice. Don’t forget to coat the baking dish with some oil beforehand!

Coat your knife with oil or cover it with plastic when you cut it to prevent the rice from sticking onto the knife. Serve and enjoy!


Lastly, you can never go wrong with steaming seafood, may it be fish or clams or crabs and shrimps! One of the many ways to steam a fish is with ginger! That is exactly the name, Steamed Fish with Ginger. Simple, right?

It is better for you to use a white fish like cod, haddock, perch, or sea bass because they can fall apart into large flakes after it is cooked. Usually whole fish is used, but filets are okay too.

Wash your chosen fish gently and pat it dry with a paper towel, then make some slanted incisions on the fish so the sauces can be absorbed better. Then set the fish on a plate and marinate it with minced garlic, ginger, salt, and shaoxing wine.

Some people prefer to marinate it beforehand, some drizzle the sauce after the fish is steamed. It is also better for you to cut some ginger into thin strips and place it underneath the fish so it will cook better.

Put the plate in a steamer and let it steam for 8-10 minutes, but it also depends on how thick your fish is!

After the fish is finished cooking, remove it from the steamer and garnish it with some more ginger if you want, cilantro, chili pepper, and green onions. Then start heating up some oil! You may also sauté some ginger and green onions in the oil too. Carefully pour the oil on top of the garnish, and enjoy your meal with some rice!


Steaming doesn’t have to use complex recipes! You can steam any kind of vegetables and meat such as mushrooms, carrots, leafy greens, chicken or fish, anything you want using a steamer or with a steamer basket. And good news for you, it is a healthier option to steam your foods instead of frying it with oil, it can be a faster cooking method compared to boiling, and it is more energy efficient.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s start making more steamed foods!

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