Char siu bao, or Chinese barbecue pork buns, are my absolute favorite dim sum item. Biting into the soft pillowy dough to reveal the bright sticky pork filling is overwhelmingly satisfying. After an order (usually two buns) quickly disappears, I’m always tempted to get more…and more… So after making my own char siu, I knew I had to go the next step and make these buns. As you can see from the photo, mine didn’t turn out nearly as pretty as the restaurant buns (I haven’t mastered the pleating and pinching to shut the buns), but they were every bit as tasty! Plus this recipe makes a goodly amount – 24 buns. Although that does make it a bit dangerous (I will not be held responsible for any overconsumption). Combine these buns with Chinese broccoli with five-spice sauce, sticky rice, and scallion pancakes, and you can have your very own dim sum!
Char Siu Bao (adapted from Use Real Butter)
Yield: 24 buns
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 Tbsp active dry yeast*
- 6 cups flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 2 Tbsp bacon fat**
- 1/2 cup stock
- 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 Tbsp ketchup
- 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- pinch white pepper
- 2 Tbsp peanut oil
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 1/2 cups char siu, diced***
- 1 Tbsp shaoxing cooking wine
- 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
*At my house, we buy active dry yeast in bulk; a five-pound bag is a much better deal than the .75 ounce packets or even the 4 ounce jars. The yeast can be stored at room temperature and will last a year.
***When I made char siu, I immediately diced up about half of it and froze it so that I could easily pull it out of the freezer and make these buns.
- In a medium bowl, dissolve 1/4 cup sugar in 1 3/4 cup warm water, then add 1 Tbsp active dry yeast. Let stand for about ten minutes or until the mixture foams and the yeast floats to the top.
- In a large bowl, combine 6 cups flour, 1 Tbsp baking powder, 2 Tbsp bacon fat, and the yeast mixture. Mix well, and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes, adding more water if too dry or more flour if too wet. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until tripled in size, about 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup stock, 2 Tbsp oyster sauce, 2 Tbsp ketchup, 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp cornstarch, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and pinch white pepper.
- In a wok or large pan, heat 2 Tbsp peanut oil over medium heat, then add 1/2 onion, diced, and sautee until starting to brown, about 5 – 10 minutes.
- Raise the heat to high, and add 1 1/2 cups char siu, diced, and cook, stirring, for 2 – 3 minutes.
- Pour 1 Tbsp shaoxing cooking wine over the pan, and stir together.
- Lower the heat to medium, and pour the stock mixture into the center of the pan. Stir together until thickened, 2 – 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and stir in 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil. Let cool, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Now is a good time to cut 24 squares of parchment paper, approximately 2 1/2 inches on each side.
- Once the dough has fully risen, knead until smooth and elastic, adding more water or flour if needed, then cut into 24 pieces (cutting into quarters and then cutting each into 6 pieces is easiest).
- Keeping the unused dough under a damp towel or plastic wrap, flatten one piece of the dough into a disk. Pinch the outer inch of the disk thinner than the center, shape a well in the thicker center of the dough, and spoon approximately a tablespoon of the pork filling into the center.
- Pleat the edges of the dough together, gathering them upwards as you do so to form a bowl around the filling. Pinch the pleats together at the top and twist to close the bun. Place the finished bun onto a square of parchment paper.
- Repeat with the remaining dough, and let the assembled buns rest for 10 minutes.
- Place the buns in a steamer, spaced 2 inches apart (you won’t be able to fit them all and will probably need to steam in two batches), then bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a wok, and set your steamer over the wok (if you don’t have a wok, you can use any pot or pan big enough to hold your steamer, but you’ll have to throw something together to hold the steamer up off the bottom so that it’s not touching the water). Steam until cooked through, about 10 – 15 minutes.