Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ni Hao Char Siu Bao!

Two days ago I spoke of my love for Chinese BBQ pork, also known as char siu. Today I will speak of my number one love from my childhood: Char Siu Bao. When I was little, I would prioritize eating char siu bao above all else when we would go out to have dim sum. My grandparents used to tell me if I only ate char siu bao, I would end up looking like a char siu bao. That never stopped me from stuffing my face with them and asking for another order to take home.

I had mentioned in the last post that char siu simply meant "fork roasted." Bao means "bun." It is more formally a type of bun, or bread-like item (meaning it uses yeast), that is either steamed or baked and filled with either a sweet or savory filling. Char Siu Bao is a bun filled with char siu. There are two types of Char Siu Bao that are commonly found in Asian restaurants, especially at dim sum. They are either snow white, fluffy buns filled with char siu or they are baked buns with a slightly golden brown, sticky sweet glaze filled with char siu.

I chose to make the later. Not because I prefer one over the other, for there is more than enough room in my heart for both. The main driving force for my choice was the fact that, in our current house, we do not have a steamer large enough to accommodate a whole batch, or even a half batch for that matter, of char siu bao. Sure, I could have bought a bigger steamer. We do have access to quite a few Asian markets, but I wanted instant gratification. Although, the gratification was not too instant. It takes some time to make char siu bao, but believe me friends, it is well worth it.


(Makes 16 buns)

First...the BUN RECIPE:
Bao Dough
  • 1 package of dry active yeast
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (about 110-115F degrees, not too hot or it will kill the yeast)
  • 1 cup warm milk, same temperature as the water
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra if needed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 16 squares of parchment paper (approximately 4-in x 4-in)
  1. In a bowl, stir together the yeast, 1 tbsp of the sugar and the warm water. Let stand until the yeast bubbles, about 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in the warm milk, oil and egg; set aside.
  3. You could do this by hand, but I suggest a mixer with a dough hook. In the mixing bowl combine the flour, salt and the remaining 2 tbsp sugar.
  4. With the motor running, slowly pour in the yeast mixture. Mix until the dough forms a rough ball and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 15 seconds, if using a mixer.
  5. If it seems like your dough is a little too sticky, sprinkle in a tablespoon or two of flour and mix for about 30 seconds longer.
  6. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and spongy but resilient, 3-5 minutes. Or turn up the speed on your mixer with dough hook attachment to knead further.
  7. Form into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator).
While the dough is proofing let us move on to the...CHAR SIU FILLING RECIPE:
Char Siu Filling
  • 1 pound char siu, diced (you can either make your own or buy it)
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  1. In a small bowl, stir together the hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, water, cornstarch and sugar until smooth; set aside.
  2. Preheat a wok, or saute pan, over medium heat and add the vegetable oil.
  3. When the pan and oil are hot, add the onion. Cook until the onion is softened, but not browned, about 1 minute.
  4. Increase the heat to high, add the char siu. Stir the onions and char siu together quickly.
  5. Stir the sauce mixture that you had set aside quickly and add to the char siu and onion mix.
  6. Bring to a boil and stirring until thickened, about 30 seconds. Then stir in the sesame oil.
  7. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until well chilled. It will thicken slightly more as it cools.
  1. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle with the 2 tsp of baking powder and knead until incorporated, about 3 minutes.
  2. Cut the dough in half and roll each half into a rope about 8-in long. Then, cut each rope into 8 pieces. Be sure to cover unused pieces with a damp kitchen towel, otherwise they will dry out.
  3. Roll each piece into a ball. Using a rolling pin, flatten each ball into around 5-in diameter. To fill each bun, place 2 tablespoons filling in the center of a round.
  4. Pull the edges so that they come together and then pinch them together securely to enclose the filling. Shape into a smooth domed bun and place, pinched side down, on a parchment square. Set on a baking sheet.
  5. Make the remaining buns the same way and place 2-in apart on the sheet. Cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat an oven to 350F degrees. To make the glaze, in a bowl, stir together 2 tbsp honey and 1 beaten egg. Just before baking, brush the buns with the glaze. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Here you have it...Char Siu Bao.
Homemade Char Siu Bao
I might have been a little overzealous in filling my buns, I like a lot of filling. That would most likely explain the thin tops on mine. Either way, they were delicious. They make a great on-the-go meal. My son had one for breakfast this morning on the way to school.


  1. I love Bao, but have never tried making it myself. Can't wait to give it a try, thanks for sharing the recipe! ~Jodi

  2. You're welcome Jodi.

    If you do make it, please let me know how it turns out for you :)

  3. mmmm... cha siu! looks fabulous! i've gotta try this sometime!