Eastern innovation: The story behind our new steamed buns

September 9, 2016 12:05 pm
Cafe Asia - Find out how we developed our delicious new steamed buns

Direct from the street stalls of China, we’re delighted to introduce our delicious new steamed buns in two different, succulent flavours – launching on shelves this week. Ready in 40 seconds and packed with authentic, Chinese flavour, the steamed bun (or baozi) could revitalise your work lunch or serve as a delicious snack on the go.

Our Managing Director, Amit Bhavsar, reveals the story of how he first came across baozi – and why he thinks the UK will fall in love with them.

The Idea

The baozi is typical Chinese street food, eaten for breakfast or lunch and enjoyed all across Asia. While visiting China, inspiration struck Amit on a casual canteen lunch with friends who shared their own bags of baozi. “It was almost like being in the UK and having a sandwich”, he says; fluffy dumplings served as a quick, healthy and satisfying lunch with fresh vegetables on the side.

For Amit, time was of the essence; “we thought to ourselves, ‘we have to bring it back to the UK.”

The History

To say the steamed bun has withstood the test of time would be a huge understatement. The baozi is said to be the invention of esteemed Chinese strategist Zhuge Liang, who lived and died more than 1800 years ago. Legend says that while fighting the Mongolians, Liang came across a river too swift for his army to cross safely.

Locals advised Liang that his only option was to sacrifice fifty of his men to the river god. Liang, unwilling to cause more bloodshed, wrapped lamb and beef into head-shaped buns and floated them down the river to appease the locals’ superstition. These buns, now known as baozi or mantou (which translates to barbarian’s head), became a staple delicacy in China and have since spread across Asia.

Our new duck baoziThe Innovation

After further investigation, Amit discovered that instead of steaming the buns, Chinese vendors typically microwaved them individually using small paper bags. This was the second ‘eureka’ moment in our baozi story.

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In the following months, Amit and the Cafe Asia manufacturing team developed the “micro-pouch.”  This is unique to the steamed buns and ensures they are cooked to perfection in just 40 seconds. “It was just incredible: authentic Chinese street food, but the UK consumer needed the micro-pouches. That was one of those moments where you think, ‘we’ve got a solution”, says Amit.

Our new chicken baoziThe Flavours

Trying to find a taste that would appeal to a European audience, Amit “went to quite a few restaurants, tried different products and decided to do something authentic a little bit more focused towards the western consumer.”

Having worked with the same flavour development team for 10 years, Amit brought his ideas back the UK. As with all Cafe Asia products, the next stage was to conduct a meticulous taste tasting process, where the team played around with lots of different ingredients in lots of different combinations to perfect the recipe.

“The flavours that we really liked were the chicken and the duck steamed bun. They’re both very fresh and light,” Amit notes. The final recipe has a combination of meat, vegetables, oriental spices and a marinade to keep the bun moist and flavour-intense.

The Quality

At UPB, we’ve always focussed on providing quality products and the steamed bun is no exception. “We have full traceability right through production [for] every single ingredient, including spices,” Amit explains. “As well as being produced at a BRC grade-A-crested factory, every batch is tested and eaten in-house to make sure the taste, the look and the feel meet our standards.” We can’t wait for you to try them.


Our fast and fresh steamed buns are now available in frozen food stockists across the UK. To find out more about Cafe Asia products, get in touch.


Image via Freeimages.com