Chinese BBQ pork buns (char siu bao) are a very popular Chinese dim sum dish. Dim sum refers to various types of small dishes that are served with tea during the meal, yum cha (“drinking tea time”), which starts early in the morning and ends between noon and 3 pm, depending on the restaurant. (Check out the other dim sum recipes that I have posted in the Asian – Dim Sum category.)
Chinese BBQ pork buns were the first steamed buns that I ever made from scratch. I couldn’t believe how well they turned out. The buns are soft and fluffy, and just like the restaurants’. I’ve been making steamed buns ever since (check out my chicken steamed buns and pork steamed buns recipes). Note that the filling in the restaurants have red food colouring in them. You can do this at home too but I prefer not to.
For the baked BBQ pork buns that you can buy in Asian bakeries, see here.
Pictures below from top moving counter clockwise: steamed BBQ pork buns; buns before going into steamer; and buns after coming out of the steamer.
Steamed Chinese BBQ Pork Bun Recipe (char siu bao)
for the dough:
8 g instant dry yeast
160 ml lukewarm water
280 g low-protein flour (also known as hong kong flour) or substitute with cake flour
100 g wheat starch
90 g icing sugar
30 g shortening or vegetable oil
pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice (optional)
10 g baking powder dissolved in 10 ml cold water
for the filling:
250 g Chinese bbq pork (char siu), diced
Note: You can buy Chinese bbq pork or you can make it at home. I buy pork side or pork shoulder, I brush it generously with store bought char siu sauce and then I bake it in a 375 F oven until cooked through but not overcooked (approximately 15 to 25 minutes).
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 an onion, finely diced
1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp corn starch dissolved in 150 ml water
for the buns:
Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar until the yeast becomes foamy. Sift together flours and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Fill the well with the yeast in water and the vinegar and gently mix everything together. Add the shortening or oil and knead until a soft dough is formed (approximately 7 to 10 minutes). It should be smooth on the surface. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rise for 30 minutes or until it is doubled in size. Meanwhile, make the filling (see below for instructions).
Fully dissolve baking powder in the cold water, sprinkle it over the dough and knead until well combined. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, covered with a damp cloth. Divide the dough into 12 to 16 equal portions depending on what size you want your buns to be. Flatten each piece with a rolling pin to a 3” diameter circle. Then place 1/12th or 1/16th of the filling onto the middle of each dough piece. To seal the buns, pinch opposite ends of the dough together and do this all the way around until it is sealed at the top. I like my first two pinches to be perpendicular together before pinching 2 diagonal lines to finish sealing it. Place each bun onto a 2” square of parchment paper, seal side up.
Set up your steaming equipment (see my post on “how to steam cook food”) and bring the water to a boil. Adding a few drops of vinegar into the water will produce whiter buns but this is optional. Arrange the buns into the steamer (I use a stainless steel steamer basket) and leave a 2” gap between each bun. Spray water mist over the buns and steam on high heat for 12 minutes. Remove the buns from the steamer and cool on a rack to prevent soggy bottoms.
for the filling:
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion for 1 to 2 minutes. Add in all other filling ingredients except for the water and cornstarch and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the corn starch in water and stir well. Simmer until the sauce thickens. Dish out and allow to cool. Meanwhile, cut out 12 to 16 (depending on how many buns you’re making) 2″ squares out of parchment paper.