Char Siu Bao (Pork Buns)
20th May 2012

Char Siu Bao (Pork Buns)

By Kate Photography by Adam
 

When I was living in Japan I used to buy these buns from the seven eleven below my apartment. In true Japanese style in addition to the traditional Chinese fillings they came in all sorts of kooky flavours like pizza, cheese & curry and chicken and mayonnaise.  Along with a can of hot coffee they were a most reliable cure after a night out clubbing in Ropponggi. On a more recent trip to Sydney, my two year old daughter took great delight in watching highly skilled chefs throw hand stretched noodles around the kitchen and produce baskets of gorgeously delicious steamed buns formed intricately into the shape of little pink pigs!

“These buns are deliciously light and fluffy and can be filled with just about anything. When we ran out of the pork mixture we tried a couple with chocolate and medjool dates, they were really good too – so feel free to experiment with the fillings, the dough works well with both sweet and savoury flavours.

“We purchased the BBQ pork (char siu) from an Asian take-out place, which made the filling really quick and easy to make. Steamer baskets can be purchased cheaply from an Asian supermarket.”

Ingredients

Makes 16 Buns
  • Filling
  • 250g char siu diced
  • ½ tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • Dough
  • 290g standard white flour (we used Hong Kong flour from the Asian supermarket)
  • 110g wheat starch
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 8g instant dry yeast
  • 160ml lukewarm water
  • ½ tsp white vinegar or lemon juice
  • 30g shortening or vegetable oil
  • 10g baking powder
  • 10ml cold water

Method

  • Filling
  • Heat oil in pan, sauté onion for 2 minutes. Add in all other ingredients and gently fry for a couple of minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • Dough
  • 1. Sift together flours and icing sugar. Place sifted flour mixture in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle.
  • 2. Fill well with lukewarm water, vinegar and yeast. Use a spatula, gently stir the water to dissolve the yeast then slowly bring together flour mixture.
  • 3. Add in the oil and knead for 10-15 minutes until soft dough is formed. It should be smooth on the surface.
  • 4. Cover dough with damp cloth and let it rise for 30 minutes or until it is doubled in size. (I used my bread maker’s dough mode to prepare my dough up to this step.)
  • 5. Dissolve baking powder in cold water – make sure it is really well dissolved to prevent yellow spots on the finished buns, sprinkle over dough and knead until well combined. Divide dough into 16 equal portions and flatten with a rolling pin to make a ~12cm circle. Then place a heaped teaspoon of filling in the middle, wrap and pleat the dough to seal. Place it on a ~6cm square piece of baking paper.
  • 6. Preheat the steamer over a pot of rapidly boiling water. Spray water mist over buns, and place into the steamer basket and place the lid on for 12 minutes. Remove buns from steamer and cool on rack to prevent soggy bottom.
     

    COMMENTS

    1. Mel

      I would loves to make this at home but the only thing is the pleating of the pau.

    2. Kate

      Hi Mel,
      Give them a go! To pleat, I brought the dough up and pleated it all the way around by pinching and closed the top and pinched of a small amount of extra dough. It was a game of trial and error but even the ones that looked a little odd were still cute and delicious!

    3. Noelle

      i used to get these in Hawaii. Theyre my absolute favorite childhood food. My problem is I can’t seem to find decent char siu on the mainland! Otherwise I would be making these weekly :)

    4. Amy

      Is it possible that you convert the ingredients for the dough in milliliters?

    5. Kate

      Hi Amy,

      I usually use grams for measuring dry ingredients and mL for liquids. However when I have needed to convert things in the past I have found some really useful measurement converters on Google so would suggest you give that a try. Good Luck!

    6. Alexis

      I had char siu bao at a Chinese food restaurant, and the bread was always sponge-like and very light. Since then, I have been trying to replicate this delicious bread through various recipes. Unfortunately, my bao always turn out more like rolls and they are not a bright white. How can I achieve this white color? What would make the bao to have a lighter consistency instead of tasting like a dinner roll? If you could explain why I’ve been constantly having these problems that would be great. Thanks!

    7. Kate

      Hi Alexis,
      For the really spongey light texture that is characteristic of these buns you need to use ‘Hong Kong’ flour. Hong Kong flour is very white and soft (low in gluten) these attributes give the buns the fluffy whiteness you are after. The addition of the vinegar or lemon juice also helps with the white colour. I asked for Hong Kong flour at my local asian supermarket and the lady knew exactally what I was after so I don’t imaging you should have too muych trouble finding some! We also tried several steaming methods and the bamboo steamer produced the fluffiest bun by a long shot so I would recommend sticking to that method. Best of luck for fluffy buns on the horizon!

    8. tomibaw

      Really nice recipes with valuable information. thanks for sharing.
      dailynewfood

    9. heong

      Does it works if i use normal drinking water instead of lukewarm water for making dough & also cold water for dissolve the baking powder?
      Weight measurement cannot get the weight of 8g instant yeast, any measurement which can get from it? Hope your recipe can work.

    10. Kate

      Hi there, normal drinking water is just fine, it just needs to be lukewarm in temperature to activate the yeast (something similar to body temperature is good). We can buy little packets of instant yeast that weigh 8g which makes the measurement easy but if you can’t find those around 2 1/2 tsp would be about right. Good luck, these buns are delicious! -most definitely worth the effort.

    11. Charlotte

      what is wheat starch obviously it is not cornflour

    12. Kate

      Sorry I have completely overlooked your comment till now!
      Yes that’s right, wheat starch is different you can substitute cornstarch, but the texture of your dumplings will be a little different.

      When I bought mine it was labeled “wheaten cornflour” even though it has no corn in it! I get it in the supermarket right next to the cornflour but I have also seen it in asian grocery stores. I hope that helps:)

     

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