Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Char Siu and Char Siu Bao

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The Daring Cooks returned to China this month to make BBQ pork and then transform that luscious pork into steamed or baked pork buns.

The challenge was hosted by Sara from Belly Rumbles. She provided several recipes: one for the BBQ pork like you see in most shops with a bit of red food coloring and having maltose and another without those ingredients. She also shared a dough recipe for baked buns and another for the steamed. Read all those recipes plus plenty of detail on the making of the dishes on the DC site.

We opted for the recipe without the food coloring in order to avoid buying things that we’d probably never use again. It really was fantastic and simple. The hardest part of this challenge was not eating all the pork before getting the buns together.

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Char Siu (Cantonese BBQ Pork)

1 teaspoon (6 gm) salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon (3 gm) ground white pepper
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) sugar
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon shaoxing cooking wine
1 teaspoon (3 gm) five spice
(1 tablespoon=15 ml, 1 teaspoon=5 ml)


  1. Trim the pork loin to remove fat and tendon and slice lengthways so you have two long pieces, then cut in half. 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 a minimum of 4 hours, I find it is best left to marinate overnight. Place the reserved ⅓ portion of the marinade covered in the fridge. You will use this as a baste when cooking the pork. Haha – we didn’t read this, just marinated it in the whole lot. we then boiled down the leftover marinade once the pork was removed and used it in our buns.
  4. Pre-heat oven to moderate 180˚C/350°F/gas mark 4.
  5. Place pork in a hot frying pan or wok. Sear it quickly so it is well browned.
  6. Place on a wire rack over a baking tray and bake for about 15 minutes or until cooked through. bbq_pork_bun 007

For the pork buns, I used a recipe that I’d used successfully before. It looks quite similar to the challenge recipe, though I didn’t really stop and compare line by line. I also baked half the buns and steamed the other half, using the same dough for the whole lot. I’d never had a baked pork bun before (am quite addicted to the steamed variety) and enjoyed both tremendously. The real advantage to making your own is that you know what’s gone in to the mix and there are no big disgusting fatty or gristly bits lurking inside.

The recipe for the dough is from The Cooking of Joy and is quite excellent. I have used both rice flour and all-purpose flour for the buns. I do prefer the more delicate taste of the rice flour, though the AP version is fine.

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Char Siu Bao

makes 16 buns

For the dough:
1/2 packet yeast (a little more than 1 teaspoon)
3 cups flour
1 cup milk, warmed
3/8 cups sugar
1/4 cups vegetable oil

For the filling:
1 lb. char siu pork, either homemade or from a store, diced
2 tablespoons char siu sauce

For baked buns:
egg wash or milk to glaze
sesame seeds (optional)

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Mix in the rest of the ingredients for the dough and knead. Cover with a moist cloth or seal tightly and let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour.bbq_pork_bun 012
  2. Toss the diced pork with the char siu sauce, adding a teaspoon or two of warm water if necessary.
  3. Divide the dough into 16 equal parts. Take one piece, roll it into a ball, and flatten with your hands. Stretch the circle out so that it is about the size of your palm. (You could use a rolling pin to do this, but there's no need.)
  4. Add about 1 tablespoon of filling to the middle of the dough. Cup your hand so that the dough comes up around the filling. Using the hand not holding the dough, pinch a bit of the edge, pull it up and away from you. Then grab another piece further away from you and continue around the dough, rotating as you go. Once you have gone all the way around, twist what you have left between your fingers and seal.
  5. Place the bun sealed side down on a square of parchment paper. Proof for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Add water to your steamer and heat on high. Once the water is boiling, place the buns in your steamer and steam for 13-15 minutes.
  7. For the baked buns, brush the tops with glaze. Optionally roll the buns in sesame seeds to coat.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 min or until golden brown.

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  1. Your BBQ pork bao look delicious, baked and steamed, but I really want to know more about the accompanying vegetables in your last photo - delicious!

  2. Such a simple thing to add the sesame seeds, but makes the buns look so beautiful!

  3. Brilliant job, I adjusted the flour as well, using part whole wheat spelt and the rest AP. Like the sesame seeds too.

  4. Your buns look beautiful! I love that you used a recipe you liked, and what I noticed first is the milk in the dough, which is key to that really soft texture in Asian buns, and was not in the challenge dough. Love the addition of rice flour too, need to try that!

  5. It all looks fantastic! I love the texture of the steamed buns too, so that's what I made, but I will have to try them with rice flour next time. I couldn't stop eating the pork either--I was trying to save it for fried rice, but no luck!