Three Diced Steamed Buns (San Ding Baozi)

Three Diced Steamed Buns

Three Diced Steamed Buns, known as “san ding baozi,” are a traditional specialty snack from Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, crafted from diced chicken, pork, and bamboo shoots—hence the name “三丁” (san ding), which means three types of diced ingredients.

The excellence of Three Diced Steamed Buns lies in the meticulous preparation of both the fermented dough and the flavorful filling. The flour used for fermentation is described as “white as snow,” producing a locally sourced dough that is soft with a hint of elasticity, ensuring a toothsome texture without being overly sticky. The choice of ingredients is crucial: chicken diced from year-old hens for a balance of tenderness and richness, pork diced from well-marbled pork belly, and fresh bamboo shoots selected seasonally. The combination of these three dices, or “三鲜” (san xian), creates a harmonious and delectable filling that satisfies morning hunger and sustains throughout the day. Legend has it that the Three Diced Steamed Buns received high praise from the Emperor of Japan, who declared them to be the finest in the world after sampling a shipment flown to Tokyo from Yangzhou.

The key to evaluating these steamed buns lies in the careful proportioning of the three main ingredients—chicken, pork, and bamboo shoots—in a 1:2:1 ratio. The diced chicken should be large, the pork medium-sized, and the bamboo shoots small, ensuring distinct and well-balanced texture. The choice of ingredients is meticulous; pork should come from the fatty belly cuts, neither too lean nor too fatty. The chicken needs to be tender, and the bamboo shoots should be fresh to impart a crisp and tender texture.

The bun’s outer layer absorbs the rich juices from the filling, resulting in a soft and flavorful bite. The filling achieves a perfect balance between soft and firm, with a savory-sweet flavor profile complemented by a hint of crispiness. Despite being rich in oil, the buns avoid any greasiness, and their aesthetically pleasing appearance makes them a representative delicacy of Yangzhou.

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