Baozi and Gou Bu Li: Getting to Know a Chinese Delicacy
The story of Baozi, a steamed or fried bun that is often filled with delicious meats, vegetables, and seasonings, dates back to the China’s Three Kingdoms period, nearly 2,000 years ago.
The famed scholar and military strategist Zhuge Liang is credited with inventing Baozi bun. Over time, the delicacy spread throughout China, growing in popularity, inspiring new variations, some becoming synonymous with a region.
In other parts of the world, the most famous variety of Baozi is Dim Sum Dumpling, known well beyond China’s borders.
However, Goubuli Baozi, a beloved staple in the Tianjin province, has a story of its own to tell.
The Goubuli Story
Goubuli Baozi, as the story is told, was introduced to Tianjin by a man named Gao Guiyou. In his early years, Gao Guiyou was nicknamed Gou Zi, which means “baby dog”. When Gao Guiyou began selling his Baozi buns, the delicious delicacy became tremendously popular. He became so busy that he didn’t talk to his customers at all while he was working. Locals of the province gave the sought-after snack a nickname as well. They called the buns “Gou Bu Li Baozi”. Amusingly, this nickname translated to “stuffed bun that dogs are not interested in”.
The “Gou Bu Li” nickname stayed, becoming known in every household. In 1858, a food brand was founded, brandishing the moniker “Goubuli”. Today, Goubuli is among the most known food brands in Tianjin and still produces the Baozi buns.
Restaurants in China serve Xiabao, a small bun, served up to ten to a plate, beautifully arranged and garnished.
China’s street vendors and fast-service eateries serve Dabao, a big bun, which is easier to manage for meals on the go to bring home. Many simply refer to Baozi as Bao, a favorite meal for Chinese families.
Baozi’s spread throughout China due to its popularity led to a number of variations, each claiming a territory.
Shanghai’s Xiaolongbao Baozi features a thin, translucent skin and a large amount of meat filling, served with a delicious sauce.
Pan-fried Baozi is another popular variation. The Baozi is pan-fried, and crisply golden. Served with sauce and garnished with green, chopped spring onions, adding a dash of color and enhancing the flavor.
Guangdong Province brings Cha Siu Bao, or Cha Siu Baau, and also known as barbecued pork buns. This Baozi has a thicker skin, with a taste reminiscent of bread. The filling is both sweet and salty.
Goubuli Baozi, detailed earlier, is famous throughout the province. This carefully crafted Baozi has 18 wrinkles in its skin.
Sichuan province offers the unique Chengdu pork Baozi, made with deep-fried pork, Sichuan peppercorn, ginger sauce, chicken stock, and even a bit of cooking wine, adding crispness to the flavor.
Other Baozi variations can be found throughout China, in a seemingly endless variety of creative flavors.
- Soup dumplings — called Tang bao
- Smashed bean bun — Usually quite sweet
- Sugar Baozi — made with a pure sugar filling
- Tofu Baozi — a delicious vegetarian delicacy
- Minced pork with garlic and onion
- Rice and Chinese red beans
- Vegetable Baozi
- Mantou — for the less adventurous, or even just for breakfast; the Mantou is a plain, steamed Baozi bun
With so many varieties, there is a flavor of Baozi sure to please every taste. This celebrated Chinese delicacy is certain to continue pleasing palettes for many more years.