Char Siu Bao (barbecued pork buns)

char siu bao

Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my mother making dim sum, those yummy Chinese “small plate” dishes that they serve off carts for brunch in Chinese restaurants.  Because we ate dinner late (around 8:00) we often ate dim sum as an after school snack to tide us over till dinner time.  Char siu bao (barbecue pork buns) were a favorite.  We always steamed ours, but baked ones are extremely popular and more appealing to Western eyes because the bread is a golden brown.  This recipe is not difficult, though it stretches over a long period of time.  Most of the time, however, the dough is simply rising or the filling chilling.

 Dough (this recipe uses a bread/dough maker)

  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 7 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 2/3 cup bread flour
  • ½ cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tsp active dry yeast

Put ingredients in the bread maker in the order indicated in the machine directions.  Set to dough setting.

 Filling 

  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup Chinese roast pork (see my blog entry for October 20 for an easy recipe or buy it from a Chinese grocery or take out restaurant), cut up into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 tsp sherry
  • 4 tsp Chinese oyster sauce
  • 1 ½ tsp dark soy sauce
  • 4 tsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Freshly grated pepper
  • 6 tbsp chicken broth
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

 Heat up the oil in a wok over high heat, add onions and saute a few minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and turn heat down to medium high.  Stir mixture constantly until it is thick and not at all runny.  Transfer contents to a bowl. Allow the mixture to cool and then chill in the refrigerator until ready to fill.

When the bread machine goes off (on my machine that was after 1 1/2 hours), spray a large cooking bowl with non-stick spray.  Remove the dough from the machine.  Roll the dough in the bowl to coat it.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and place it in a warm spot (like a sunny window) for about another hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

 Dampen a cookie sheet with water and then place a sheet of parchment paper on the cookie sheet.  On a lightly-floured cutting board, cut the dough in half and then cut each half into eight pieces.  You will have a total of 16 pieces.  Return all but one to the bowl and recover the bowl with the towel.  Form the dough on the cutting bowl into a ball and then, using a lightly-floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 6-inch circle.  The edge of the circle should be thin and the center thick.  Holding the circle in one hand, use the other hand to put 1 tbsp of filing in the middle.  Fold up two sides of the circle to the middle and pinch closed.  Turn the circle ¼ rotation and fold up the other two sides of the circle and pinch closed.  Pinch the open corners closed and bring them to the center forming a round bun.  Be careful not to stretch the center underneath the filling or it will break and the filling will ooze out.  Put the bun seam side down on the cookie sheet.  Repeat with the remaining 15 pieces of dough, spacing the buns at least 1 ½ inch apart (note, in the photo mine are too close and as you can see they grew into each other).

 Let the buns rise uncovered in a warm spot.  If the sun has gone down and there is no “warm spot” in your house, put a large baking dish in the bottom shelf of a cold oven and fill it halfway with boiling water.  Put the cookie sheet on the top shelf, close the oven door and let the buns rise for about 1 hour.

 Remove the cookie sheet and baking dish from the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Brush the tops of the buns with beaten egg.  Follow this with a brush of sugar syrup on top of each bun (mix two teaspoons of sugar with just enough water to dissolve the sugar).

 Bake buns in the oven for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.  Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through the process to ensure even baking.

 Remove the buns from the oven and place the tray on a rack to allow air to circulate underneath.  Makes 16 char-siu bao.  These are heavenly out of the oven.

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One Response to “Char Siu Bao (barbecued pork buns)”

  1. julian si Says:

    Incredible detail, you have a true gift 😉

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