December 14, 2011

Char Siu Bao

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2012 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!

Dim sum is one of my favorite ways to eat out. For one thing, it's essentially a never-ending series of appetizers (always my favorite part of a meal). I love watching cart after cart roll by, ordering whatever appeals at that moment.

Of course, there are downsides too. I once spent an hour waiting for the lady with the sesame bean paste balls and finally ended up trailing her around the gigantic dining room until she noticed me.

At this point, I've got my definite favorites. In addition to those sesame bean balls, I'm a big fan of anything with seafood. My husband and son, though, are fans of Chinese pork. BBQ pork buns, in particular.

So they were thrilled with this month's Daring Cooks'Challenge -- Char Siu Bao. Char Siu Bao are steamed, spongy buns filled with a sweet/savory filling of chopped pork.

The pork filling is pretty straightforward. You marinate the pork, grill it, then chop it up and stir fry it with some additional flavorings.

The buns, on the other hand, are quite time-consuming. They require kneading, rising, rolling, filling, resting, then steaming. Honestly, even though they came out great, I don't think I'd ever go through all that effort again. Especially considering how little they charge for them at Hei La Moon.

First, the pork. Assemble the ingredients for the marinade. It's a long list, but it results in a tasty sauce.

Combine the marinade ingredients.

Marinate the pork in the marinade and leave the pork in the fridge overnight to soak up all the flavors.

Grill the pork until it's cooked through (you can also bake it if you don't have access to a grill). The recipe said it would take about 15 minutes to cook through. Mine took a lot longer, possibly because it was freezing outside the day I grilled my pork!

Let it rest, then chop it up into tiny pieces.

Heat the shallots in some oil, then add the chopped pork.

Stir in the oyster sauce, dark soy sauce and sesame oil.

Then add the cornstarch/stock mixture. At first it will look liquidy, but it will help to thicken up the mixture. Set the pork mixture aside and let it cool.

Now the buns, or bao. The buns start out with a surprising ingredient (at least, I was surprised) -- milk. You scald the milk, which basically means you heat it to just below boiling.

Then stir in sugar, oil, and salt and let it cool to lukewarm. Letting it cool to lukewarm is a critical step. Once it's lukewarm, you're going to add the yeast. If you add the yeast before the milk has cooled enough, the yeast will die and your buns won't rise. So, once the milk is lukewarm, sprinkle the yeast into the milk. At first nothing will happen.

Over the next 10 to 15 minutes, though, you'll notice some slight bubbling. Soon the surface of the milk will be frothy. This means the yeast has been activated.

Sift the flour into a bowl. Once the milk/yeast mixture is ready, add it to the flour.

Bring the dough together with your fingers.

Then knead it on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes until it's smooth and feels nice and elastic.

Place the dough in a covered bowl for an hour or two until it doubles in size.

Pull off a piece of dough, roll it into a ball in your hands, then roll it with a rolling pin into a 3-inch circle.

Place some of the pork filling into the center of the circle.

Then gather up the edges of the dough at the top.

Place each bun on a small square of parchment paper. Then cover with a damp towel and let the dough rise again for about 20 minutes.

Finally, the buns are ready to cook! Set up a steamer on your stovetop. Pinch the tops of the buns together again (they will probably have come apart a bit while they were resting). This helps the pork filling to stay nice and moist as the buns steam. Leave some room between the buns so they have room to expand.

Steam the buns for about 12 minutes, until the dough is cooked.

Enjoy your homemade dim sum!

Steamed Char Siu Bao

Char Siu (Cantonese BBQ Pork)

1 1.5-pound pork tenderloin
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 ½ Tbsp maltose (you can substitute honey)
1 ½ Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp shaoxing cooking wine (or dry sherry)
½ tsp black pepper
pinch of salt
½ tsp five spice powder
½ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp red food coloring (optional)

1.      Trim the pork loin to remove fat and tendon and slice lengthways so you have two long pieces, then cut in half. By cutting the pork in to smaller pieces to marinate you will end up with more flavorsome char siu. Place in container that you will be marinating them in.

2.      Combine all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.

3.      Cover pork well with ⅔ of the marinade mixture. Marinate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Place the reserved ⅓ portion of the marinade covered in the fridge. You will use this to baste when cooking the pork.

4.      Place marinated pork loin on the grill of your BBQ.

5.      Cook on a medium heat for 15 to 30 minutes, until cooked through, basting occasionally with the reserved marinade.

Char Siu Bao Pork Filling

3/4 pound char sui (finely diced)
2 green onions/spring onions (finely sliced)
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
¼ cup chicken stock
1 tsp cornstarch
½ Tbsp vegetable oil

1.      Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or pan.

2.      Add diced char sui to the wok/pan and stir then add spring onions, cook for 1 minute.

3.      Add hoisin, dark soy sauce and sesame oil to the pork mixture, stir fry for one minute.

4.      Mix cornstarch and stock together and then add to the pork mixture.

5.      Stir well and keep cooking until the mixture thickens, 1 or 2 minutes.

6.      Remove mixture from wok/pan and place in a bowl to cool. Set aside until ready to use.

Char Siu Bao

1 cup whole milk
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
¼ tsp salt
2½ tsp dried yeast
3 cups all purpose flour

1.      Scald milk. Stir in sugar, oil and salt, then leave to cool until it is lukewarm.

2.      Once it is the right temperature add yeast. Leave until yeast is activated and it becomes frothy, about 10 to 15 minutes.

3.      Sift flour into a large bowl.

4.      Add milk/yeast mixture to the flour. Bring the flour mixture together with your hands.

5.      Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes. The dough should be smooth and slightly elastic.

6.      Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until it is double in size. This will take from 1 to 2 hours.

7.      Punch down dough and divide in to 20 equal portions.

8.      Roll each dough portion in to a 3-inch round.

9.      Place 1 tablespoon of pork filling in the center of the round. Gather the edges together at the top and place on a 3-inch square of baking paper. Repeat until all dough has been used.

10.  Cover with a damp towel and let rise for 20 minutes.

11.  Place a few buns at a time in a steamer, leaving space between the buns.

12.  Heat water in the bottom of the steamer until it is simmering and place steamer on the pan.

13.  Place lid on top of steamer and steam for approximately 12 minutes.

Makes 24 buns.



  1. I love your step by step pictures! Great job.

  2. Great job! The pictures are great and the buns look delicious.

  3. How nice that you can get something like these as takeout!
    I haven't tried the steamed version yet - and I am curious how different they are from the baked version.

  4. Well done on the challenge, looks great and I'm sure it tasted amazing too! :)

  5. Great step-by-step pics, the finished product looks delicious!

  6. So glad you had fun with the challenge. Your steamed buns look wonderful.

  7. Haha I love what you said about having to chase the person around the restaurant to get the bun you want. I, too, have been known to sit for upwards of an hour waiting for... these, actually!

  8. Your step by step photos make wanna try the steamed version of the bao. Looks yum.


  9. Love your step by step pictures..In writing it seems like a lot but the pictures show how easy it is..
    Great job on this challenge

  10. Honey bear! I always used to want my Mum to buy our honey in bear format when I was a kid. And of course, the buns look delicious - what a tasty challenge!

  11. Your photos are lovely! Great job on both making delicious-looking dim sum and also having the patience to take pictures all the way through.


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