Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns)

Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns)

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)

Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns)

Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Buns)

Prep Time: 40 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes Total Time: 50 minutes

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)
  1. Mix the char siu, green onions, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, xiao hsing wine, sesame oil, Chinese five spice.
  2. Roll the dough into a log and cut it into 12 equally sized pieces.
  3. 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.
  4. Place the balls on squares of wax paper, cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
  5. Place the balls into a steamer, without touching each other, and steam for 10 minutes.

Char Siu Bao Dough

Prep Time: 4 hours Total Time: 4 hours Servings: 12

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
  1. Mix the water, flour, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar and oil.
  3. Mix while slowly pouring in the water until it just forms a dough.
  4. Knead the dough until smooth, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 3-4 hours.
  6. Sprinkle the baking powder over the dough and knead it well.


Eleanor Hoh said...

Wow, I can't believe you made your own baos, they look like the real deal! I'm not a baker and mine would probably be all goopy and doughy or hard as a rock! You must have a lot of patience but I admire you for tackling this.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love that speciality. Your Char Siu Bao look fantastic!



Fuat Gencal said...

Hayırlı sabahlar, ellerinize, emeğinize sağlık. Çok leziz ve iştah açıcı görünüyor.


The Pantry Drawer said...

i can't help but laugh at this. my dad actually tried to make some a couple weeks ago and they came out completely flat (tasted delicious even though not the prettiest haha) he was a little disappointed but i assured him they were fine. next time he has a go at it hopefully they'll look as beautiful as yours

Priya said...

Yummy buns..

jose manuel said...

Fascinatnes, esta receta me lac opio, un día quiero intentar y ver si soy capaz de hacerlo.


Joanne said...

I was SO hoping that you would make pork buns with that char siu! your buns look absolutely perfect. I will so be making them soon!

♥peachkins♥ said...

We call then Siopao here!

tomasz said...

speechless as always!!! :D

Jun said...

Your baos look so good... Mine can't even compare... Well, I'm going to try again!

jane deere said...

I have never tried to make these...they look absolutely delicious! I'll have to give them a try...I love baos!

Happy Thanksgiving, Kevin!

the blissful baker said...

delicious! any meat dish is especially spectacular when it's wrapped up with carbs! :)

Fah's dishes said...

loved it..I used to always eat it when I was in thailand..

I've just started writting some asian and western homemade recipes please visit my blog at

The Duo Dishes said...

We'll be making something like this very, very soon! Your's look perfect as always. We found a powdered mix that we'll try for the dough though. We're cheating!

Stripwis said...

I love bao but have never made them. Really excited to try yours.

Widdlesh said...

I've been following your blog for a while now and have tried a bunch of your recipes. I have to say, this is the best one yet!
I forgot to let the buns rise again at the end, but I was having trouble getting the tops of them to pinch closed, so a bunch of the filling sauce was gooping out. They still came out great!
This was such a great recipe that I'm totally gonna be trying again.
Again, I love your blog, keep being awesome! :)))

Anonymous said...

You do cook really nice Chinese dishes!! Love that one!

Ashley said...

YUMMY!!! Very impressed...

Christina of Form V Artisan said...

My husband's grandma showed me how to make them but I have yet to tackle it since she gives me some of hers every time I visit! Yours look lovely!

Anonymous said...

Made theses a million years ago obviously not your recipe but this time it will be yours!! Since i don't use pork i used veal close and i don't remember if they can be frozen or not? Thanks Aviva

Anonymous said...

You know now that i think about it the buns i made were a different shape more rounded completely closed do you think they are the same type just shaped different? Aviva

Anonymous said...

I would like to bake these rather than steam them. Are the any special instructions for baking them or do I just bake until they are golden brown? 350°?

Kevin Lynch said...

Anonymous: Yes, bake at 350F until glden brown. Enjoy!

Hillcountryman said...

I have been using this recipe for a number of years, now and it always turns out great! A belated thank you! I even make my own smoked char siu now! Am trying as we speak, a version using extra-firm tofu that I smoked with applewood for a vegan guest attomorrow's Christmas dinner...

Kevin Lynch said...

Hillcountryman: I'm glad that you like it! This is a recipe that I keep coming back to! I so need to get a smoker to try this smoked!

Kassie ODriscoll said...

Do you think these would freeze well?

Kevin Lynch said...

Kassie ODriscoll: Yes These freeze well. Just freeze them separately on a baking sheet first and then place them together in a container so that they do not freeze all stuck together.

Shanel M said...

Hi Kevin,
Per your directions:
1. Mix the water, flour, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl and let it sit for 30 minutes.
2. Add the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar and oil.

Is the first step:
Combining the 1/3 cup flour with the yeast + sugar?

Kevin Lynch said...

Shanel M: Yes, the first three ingredients are used in the first step and then next flour entries in the ingredients list are added in step 2. Enjoy!

Cindy said...

I made them and was amazed how well they came out. I made chinese pancakes the easiest way to split the dough into individual servings is to split the dough in half. Then split that piece in half. Roll the dough into a log about 6 inches long. Then portion out the log into 3 pieces. Roll the pieces into a ball. Do this the the rest if the dough so you can get all twelve pieces divided up without scales. Then put the pieces between wax paper with flour and roll it out like making pie crust until it is 6 inches wide or the width of your hand.

Barbara Jackson said...

My daughter made the char siu, I made the bao dough, and we assembled the char siu baos together. They were every bit as good as the ones we had in Chinatown in Los Angeles while she was growing up, and that's saying a lot. Our husbands, who had never had them before, liked them a lot. Both recipes are definite keepers!

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