Many years ago, one of my favorite dim sum dishes was the Chinese steamed BBQ pork buns (char sui bao). However, over the years, the steamed buns seem to have gotten whiter and more refined. Lately, the buns that I've tasted are so refined that the dough seems to stick to the palate of your mouth. I hate that!
I used to make my own Chinese steamed BBQ pork buns (char sui bao) with the ready-made flour that is found in the Asian grocery stores. On a trip to Nantucket, my daughter introduced me to an amazing cook who showed me how to make Pilipino style steamed buns. My daughter is a very picky foodie who usually doesn't like eating bread so when she said that I needed to try these buns, I was curious.
These steamed buns are different. The texture is pillowy-soft and fluffy, and the dough doesn't stick to the palate. I decided to go home and experiment making them into BBQ Pork buns that would not be labor intensive. These buns can be made in 2 hours and they are truly delicious.
Tips for making Chinese Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Char sui bao)
If pressed for time, Char sui can be bought at a Chinese restaurant or deli. Otherwise, make your own BBQ Pork which does not contain the red food coloring. Making your own BBQ pork will take extra time since the pork requires overnight marinating.
Additional ingredients for filling.
Although the main ingredient is the BBQ pork, adding diced jicama or water chestnuts adds a wonderful crunch to the filling. Chinese sausage also adds a different dimension, although this is completely optional.
This is a yeast dough. Instant yeast allows the dough to rise quickly, shortening the resting period. Even though it is an instant yeast that can be added directly to the flour, dissolving the yeast in the warm milk-water mixture quickens the reaction and speeds up the fermentation. Using milk ensures a richer and "whiter" dough. Plant-based milk can also be used if dairy is not in your diet.
The instant yeast allows the dough to rise quickly. After cutting the dough into 1/4" in height circles with a 2 1/16" (78mm) cookie cutter, the dough will rise by the time all the circles are cut.
The leavened circles will have sufficient height to roll again. Roll the circles again starting from the edge of the circle and ending just before the center, allowing the center to be thicker than the edge. By having the edges be thinner than the center, this allows the top of the bun to have the right amount of dough when the dough is crimped and sealed. Otherwise there is way too much dough at the top!
When steaming the buns, use a bamboo steamer to avoid the steam from dripping onto the buns. If you don't have a bamboo steamer, secure a dish towel to the lid of the metal steamer with the help of binder clips.
Storing Chinese BBQ Pork Buns.
Once steamed, the BBQ pork buns can be frozen. Re-steam when needed for about 10-12 minutes until the center is heated.
CHINESE BBQ PORK STEAMED BUNS
BBQ Pork Filling
- 400 grams cake flour or all purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp instant dry yeast
- 120 ml warm water 105-115 ℉ (40-46 ℃)
- 120 ml warm milk 105-115 ℉ (40-46 ℃)
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil.
- 1 Tbsp sugar
BBQ Pork filling
- Dice the BBQ pork into ½" pieces.300 g Cha Siu / BBQ pork
- Dice jicama into ¼" pieces.100 g chopped jicama
- Dice the Chinese sausage into ½" pieces.2 sticks Chinese sausage
- In a container, make a cornstarch slurry by combining the water, cornstarch, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar and scallions2 Tbsp cornstarch, 4 Tbsp water, 2 tsp oyster sauce, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp light soy sauce, 1 Tbsp chopped scallions
- In a measuring cup, combine the water and bouillon powder or use chicken stock.250 ml water, 1 tsp chicken or mushroom bouillon
- Place the water-bouillon mixture into a saucepan over medium heat.
- When stock comes to a boil, at the chopped BBQ pork, jicama and Chinese sausage.300 g Cha Siu / BBQ pork, 100 g chopped jicama, 2 sticks Chinese sausage
- Stir until boiling.
- Stir the cornstarch slurry to ensure that the cornstarch is well incorporated. Add the slurry to the meat mixture.
- Immediately stir the meat mixture until the slurry thickens into a thick paste. Cook for a few minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool while making the dough.
- Combine the warm water, milk, and sugar in a container.120 ml warm water, 120 ml warm milk, 2 Tbsp sugar
- Add the dry yeast and stir to combine.1 Tbsp instant dry yeast
- Rest for 20 minutes until bubbly.
- Add the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer.400 grams cake flour or all purpose flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt, 1 Tbsp sugar
- Add oil.2 Tbsp cooking oil.
- Add the liquid yeast mixture into the flour mixture.
- Using a dough hook, knead the dough until well combined, soft and pliable. (10 mins)
- On a floured surface, briefly knead the dough into a ball and allow to rest for 1 hour or until double in size.
- Knead the dough again and roll the dough into a rectangle ¼" (.64 cm) in height.
- Using a 3 1/16" (78mm) cookie dough cutter, cut the dough into circles.
- Collect the dough scraps, knead the excess dough, roll and cut dough circles until all the dough is used up.
- Roll the smaller circles to about 4" (10cm), making the edges thinner than the center.
- Heap a large tablespoon of cooled filling into the center of the dough.
- Pleat the edges in the center until completely sealed. See video.
- Place sealed bun on a piece of parchment paper to avoid sticking to the steamer.
- Allow to rest until the dough rises a little (15 minutes).
- Steam for 8-10 minutes. If not using a bamboo steamer, make sure that the steam doesn't drip back onto the buns in the steamer by covering the lid of the steamer with a dish-towel, securing the towel ends onto the lid (or with binder clips.) This will allow the steam to be absorbed into the dish towel.
- Remove buns from steamer and serve immediately!