I recently had the pleasure of attending The James Beard Experience put on by Chef Chris Mills of Joey Restaurants as a trial run for the meal that they would be entering the James Beard contest with. The evening was filled with great food, lots of wine and I got the chance to meet some new and interesting people. It was the hazelnut crusted Korean duck roll at this meal that started my cravings for some char siu bao. Although the version served at the dinner was completely different, it had all of the basics, including the warm and tender spicy meat filling with a hint of Chinese five spice to the soft and light steamed bun wrapping. It was one tasty steamed bun and it reminded me that I had not had a steamed bun in a long time which started me down the path to making my own. (If you are interested in seeing my photos of the event they can be found hear: The James Beard Experience by Chef Chris Mills Flickr Gallery )
Now that I had my char siu or Chinese bbq pork made, all that was left was to make the dough for the buns, stuff them and steam them. The dough for the steamed buns is particularly interesting in that it uses two leavening agents in the form of both yeast and baking powder. The dough takes a bit of time to make as you have to wait for it to rise but it is pretty straight forward. Once the dough is ready the fun part begins; filling the buns with the char siu mixture and then sealing them. This certainly takes a bit of practice to get the hang of it but you basically want to pinch the four corners closed and then pull those pinches up over the filling and twist them together to seal it in. I don't know what it is about steamed bread but the smooth and sticky texture of the surface combined with the light and fluffy inside is wondrously addictive and these buns tend to get inhaled rather than eaten. To tie back into the inspiration of the cha siu baau, I added a bit of gochujang to the filling of half of my batch and it added a really nice touch of both heat and creaminess to the filling.
Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns)
Light and airy steamed buns filled with tasty BBQ pork.
- 1 cup char siu, chopped finely
- 1 green onion, sliced finely
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon xiao hsing wine
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/8 teaspoon Chinese five spice
- 1 batch dough (see below)
- Mix the char siu, green onions, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, xiao hsing wine, sesame oil, Chinese five spice.
- Roll the dough into a log and cut it into 12 equally sized pieces.
- Roll each piece into a ball, flatten and place a tablespoon of filling into the center. Pinch the dough on both sides then pinch the dough on the top and bottom. Pull the four pinches up to the center and given them a little twist.
- Place the balls on squares of wax paper, cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Place the balls into a steamer, without touching each other, and steam for 10 minutes.
Char Siu Bao Dough
A dough to make light and airy buns whether steamed or baked.
- 1/3 cup water, lukewarm
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 3/4 cup cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon oil
- ~1/2 cup water (lukewarm)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Mix the water, flour, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Add the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar and oil.
- Mix while slowly pouring in the water until it just forms a dough.
- Knead the dough until smooth, about 3-5 minutes.
- Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 3-4 hours.
- Sprinkle the baking powder over the dough and knead it well.